This might seem like a strange time for us to make 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 urge you to you to go on offense—now. Voters, whether you like the way they voted or not, 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 the players on our team into offensive positions, to pursue, publicize and politicize 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 big bold ideas that show stark contrast between progressive policies designed to expand rights, opportunity and the well-being of people, and the regressive, anti-government policies designed to dismantle the very programs, economies and institutions people need. Right now, the only way to build political capital is to press for big ideas for regular folks. We need to lay the groundwork to make bigger and bolder progressive reforms possible in the future.
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.
Lawmakers and advocates, together, need to launch proactive policy campaigns to:
Build the movement.
There’s only one catch: you can’t just introduce a bill, or a resolution, or make a regulatory change. You must plan, run an advocacy campaign, and engage other leaders—elected and non-elected. Broaden your strategies and deepen your policies.
That’s what the time requires of you. And that’s why we wrote a new handbook on advocacy entitled Preparing to Win: A guide for successful advocacy, that we’ll be offering to you very soon.