9. Build and use your coalition

Progressive advocacy groups are not likely to win a major battle all by themselves. Nor are they likely to do so by joining with “the usual suspects,” the group’s known circle of friends. In every case, progressives must broaden the coalition, seek out groups that are not often asked for help, and incorporate some unexpected partners. For example, to make a major impact, health organizations ought to form alliances with faith and business groups; environmentalists ought to form coalitions with business and labor organizations.

The resolution strategy, discussed in Chapter 8, offers the perfect opportunity to recruit the largest possible coalition. But whether or not you use that strategy, advocates must seek out support from individuals and groups that probably do not agree with you on all issues, but have reason to embrace one particular policy.

Reach out in all of these directions:

  • Groups that promote equality: pro-women, civil rights (racial and ethnic), LGBTQ, other identity organizations.
  • Groups that work in a specific policy area: about the environment, economics, gun violence, abortion rights, etc.
  • Labor unions and pro-worker nonprofits: especially teachers, who are more trusted by the public than almost any other profession.
  • Faith groups: Our movement usually does a poor job of outreach to the faith community, which is a shame. Faith leaders tend to be excellent speakers and compelling spokespeople with moral authority and a built-in network. Faith groups truly represent the “grassroots” and bring real diversity—racial, ethnic, economic, religious, political—to your cause.
  • Professional associations: doctors, lawyers, psychologists—whatever is relevant to your policy—and especially nurses who, polls consistently show, are the most trusted professionals.
  • Business associations and individual businesses.
  • State and local coalitions, such as your 501(c)(3) table, donor table, and issue-specific coalitions.

Ultimately, you want other groups and their members to persuade policymakers to support your issue from a different point of view than yours. They bring a different type of credibility to the debate.

For example, the most powerful allies for gun violence prevention advocates, generally, are law enforcement authorities. The most persuasive allies for green power advocates, generally, are businesses that build, operate or use green power facilities. The most important allies for teachers, when they’re explaining the negative impacts of “education reform” gimmicks on children, are usually child psychologists and the parents of children who are adversely affected.

Look at the Drug Price Affordability Statewide Coalition displayed below. It includes health advocates, unions, professional associations, the faith community, educators, civic groups, consumer groups and business organizations. In 2017, they overcame a dozen PhRMA lobbyists to enact first-in-the-nation legislation that empowers the State Attorney General to file suit against prescription drug companies for price gouging. Copy that success!