What Progressive Populists are Looking For

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What Progressive Populists are Looking For

. of : "Politicians see the light when they feel the heat." Bring the heat! Sunday, April 19, 2015)

On Wednesday, a reporter asked me what progressive populists want from a Democratic candidate. Hillary Clinton, he noted, appeared to be pretty solid on a number of progressive issues from gay rights to raising the minimum wage. But noticeably missing from his list were issues that require a commitment to fundamentally restructuring the imbalanced relationship corporate America has with the American people.

It is Elizabeth Warren’s laser-like clarity on this point that has inspired the “Draft Warren” movement.  People get that the game is rigged against them. They want someone who will stand in their corner.

This weekend, 750 activists from a growing alliance which includes National People’s Action will unveil a progressive populist agenda at Populism2015. Our agenda will serve as a compass for grassroots organizers working to ensure that the ideas everyday Americans care about are debated by candidates running for elected office from the presidency on down to city council in 2016.  Candidates that support the ideas in this agenda can separate themselves from the corporate class and demonstrate their loyalty to low-income and middle class voters.

Here are some of the ideas at the center of what progressive populists are looking for leadership on:

Level the playing field.

We need tax reform that makes sure corporations and the wealthy play by the same rules as the rest of us. We must close corporate tax loopholes and offshore tax havens and support a Wall Street speculation tax that leads to investments in infrastructure, green jobs, schools, and a 21st Century safety net. 

Shut down the Wall Street casino.

We must reinstate Glass-Steagal, the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking. The Federal Reserve reports that between 1990 and 2009, 29 banks consolidated into just four institutions. Regional banks are merging right now and more mergers are likely in the coming years, endangering our economy again by recreating the conditions that led to the Great Recession.

Jump-start the transition to a green economy.

We cannot ignore the fact that our planet’s ability to support life is in jeopardy.

We need political leadership on climate to expand renewables, increase energy efficiency, and shut down dirty energy production to ensure a just transition for workers as they move to a new and green energy economy. 

Advance a global strategy that works for everyone.

Right now, the Obama administration and its allies in Congress are working hard for Fast Track Authority to push through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This trade deal would hurt working people here and abroad. Instead of fast-tracking the race to the bottom, we need leaders who will fight for global agreements that raise labor, food safety, and environmental standards.

Right now progressive populists do not have a candidate that drives these issues into the national spotlight.  We may be “Ready for Warren,” but we will not wait.  We can’t afford to. 

At Populism2015 – we will train people to bring these issues into townhall meetings, stump appearances, local and social media.   Those 750 activists will head home to Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and more to press candidates to put the people and the planet over profits and power.

This work is especially powerful against the backdrop of a political movement that has begun to take shape in cities and states.  From New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to Pittsburgh’s Bill Peduto and Minneapolis Mayor and former organizer Betsy Hodges, major cities have begun to incubate a populist renaissance. Progressive populists know we must significantly reduce the outsized influence of big corporations on our economy and democracy and are building from the local level on up.

While the national figures for the 2016 may still be in limbo, progressive populists are working to define the issues that will drive this election. We will seek candidates at all levels of government who will fight for everyday people and level the playing field with corporate America.  Anything less means this election will only lead to further consolidation of power in the hands of the few at the expense of the rest of us.   

George Goehl

George Goehl

George Goehl is co-executive director of People's Action and People's Action Institute, a national organization of a million people in 30 states fighting for economic, environmental, racial, and gender justice.

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