This might seem like a strange time for us to be writing a book that makes the case for progressives to go on offense in the fight over public policy. Voters are more polarized than ever, politics is as nasty as it’s ever been, and all of it has put conservatives in control of government at almost every level and in most states. Strange times indeed.
But these factors are precisely why we would like to appeal to you to go on offense—now. Voters, whether or not you like the way they voted, have been signaling that they don’t want politics as usual, that they want politicians who are not only willing, but will, fight for them. Many thought they were getting that with Donald Trump. When they realize he’s not the solution, they will look for the next bold leader because, in the words of former civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer, they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
For progressives and resistors, if that’s your preferred term nowadays, that presents a real opportunity—the opportunity to move some of the players on our team into offensive positions, to doggedly pursue, debate and democratize bold progressive policy reforms that people can clearly see will improve their lives.
It’s time to stop talking the talk and do the walk. We need to press for ideas that show stark contrast between progressive policies designed to expand the rights, opportunities and well-being of people, and the regressive, anti-government policies designed to dismantle the very programs, economies and institutions people require. We need to lay the groundwork to make bigger and bolder progressive reforms possible in the future—even if they are not doable now. In this moment, the only way to build capital for progressive change is to press for revolutionary ideas for regular folks.
People ask all the time, “but how do we do that when conservatives control so much, when we don’t have the votes?” To which we reply, “you just do.” You are policy leaders. You are out there fighting anyway, so you might as well fight for things you believe in, things that inspire and invigorate you and your supporters. With this book, we hope to show you how to use proactive policy campaigns to:
Mostly, we want you to feel empowered again to carry out your work for social, racial and economic justice. We want you to help build our movement.
There’s only one catch: you can’t just introduce a bill, or a resolution, or make a regulatory change. You must plan, and run an advocacy campaign, and engage other leaders—elected and non-elected. You must use different muscles than you have been using, with broader strategies and deeper policies. You must tie the work together so what you’re doing is clear to people whose job is not politics or advocacy.
This is what the time requires of you. This is why we wrote this book. And we’re here to help if you need us.