In every jurisdiction, progressive lawmakers and advocates should thoughtfully develop a package of about five to ten bills to introduce and promote in their 2024 sessions, with the idea of helping shape the debate throughout the year into the election season.
This package should illustrate progressive values, answer the question “what do you (and other progressives) stand for,” and demonstrate the sharp distinction between us and our conservative or right-wing opponents.
The reason for an agenda of proactive bills, rather than a list of areas where we’re fighting awful right-wing legislation, is that it presents us (accurately) as agents of change, not defenders of the status quo. If we’ve learned anything from recent elections, it is that Americans want change.
Each jurisdiction is different, but here are a few policies (with hyperlinks) that might fit into a progressive platform anywhere:
Holding down prescription drug costs. Everyone thinks Rx prices are too high and that drug companies are to blame. A Maryland price gouging law was upheld in court. A law stopping PBMs from preventing pharmacists from telling customers about cheaper options was passed in Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine and North Dakota.
Equal pay. This always polls well. While most states have equal pay laws, almost all could strengthen them.
Control debt collectors. Nobody likes debt collectors, and in recent years, they have employed tactics that are grossly unfair.
Fair Share tax reform. Americans believe that the rich are not paying their fair share in taxes. Policymakers should find an existing outrageous tax giveaway for the rich and introduce a bill to end it.
Stop over-testing in schools. Americans overwhelmingly believe there is too much standardized testing in schools. Maryland enacted broad corrective legislation and there is also a narrower Too Young To Test Act.
Climate change. There are several types of bills, including simple climate change impact study commissions, that can force conservatives to show their anti-science stripes.
What if you like a given piece of progressive legislation but think passing it is unrealistic?
Political advocates and activists live in a different world from the Americans we are trying to persuade. We are alone in worrying about whether a bill can pass. Most average residents are in a fairly desperate day-to-day struggle with problems like housing debt, credit card debt, student debt, lack of decent-paying jobs or affordable health care, underfunded schools and social services, drug addiction and domestic violence. They don’t perceive these as political issues, they see them all together as life.
Your agenda should deal with policies that address voters’ real problems. You should use policy to illustrate a bigger and more important matter—the thing that Americans are actually looking for: which leader is on their side and will not just talk, but fight, for them? Progressives need to lay out a vision, with legislative examples, to break through all the apathy, cynicism and ignorance.