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The Leaders and Ideas to Run the Country

Bill Moyer

Believe it or not, progressives are not satisfied perpetually organizing protests, holding down the negative pole of the dialectic, happily defined in opposition to the status quo. We long for more and our country and planet deserve more. Truth is, we have the leaders and ideas to run this country. Better yet, some of those leaders are coming together to strategize at the first Progressive Cabinet Summit at the Carter Center in Atlanta this Tuesday in preparation to do so.The Progressive Cabinet Summit, a unique gathering of over forty-five progressive policy, movement, and media leaders will take place at the Carter Center in Atlanta next Tuesday, June 26. It is being co-convened by the Backbone Campaign and the Institute for Policy Studies. Scheduled to compliment and prepare for the first ever US Social Forum, its purpose is to be a strategy session for advancing the message that progressives belong to a propositional movement with the leaders and ideas to run the country.

Beginning with a video welcome from Professor Howard Zinn (view), and facilitated by Adrienne Maree Brown, (E.D. of the Ruckus Society and co-founder of the League of Pissed Off Voters), the Progressive Cabinet Summit will build on work of the Backbone Campaign its partner project Progressive Government over the past four years:

* In 2003 the then Progressive Government Institute created an extensive map of the federal executive branch. * In 2004 Backbone Campaign, Progressive Government Institute and a small coalition created an interactive Cabinet Roster and nomination process. * In 2005-present the organizations merged to produce a series of podcast/webcast conference calls (61 so far) called Conversations with the Cabinet. That interview series drew from the roster to feature some of Americas most effective progressive policy and movement leaders.

Summit attendees will explore the formal creation of a Progressive Cabinet and its potential as both a communications and movement-building tool. They will begin the design process for evolving the work Backbone Campaign and Progressive Government began. They will discuss the design of the Cabinet, exploring how it might be structured to balance local and national expertise, and how to maximize participation and capture the attentions of progressive leaning citizens throughout the country through creative use of the media.

Similar to "shadow cabinets" in Europe and elsewhere, this cabinet would "shadow" current policy makers, offering critique, but also articulating progressive alternatives. The Progressive Cabinet would be designed to demonstrate that progressives are not content perpetually organizing protests, but are prepared to run the country.

Unlike the infamous Cheney "shadow government," operating in an "undisclosed location," the purpose of a Progressive Cabinet would be to create greater visibility, accountability, and grassroots influence over policy priorities. As we have seen in the past six years, the cabinet is important. The fox is far too often put in charge of the hen house, and by the time there is any accountability all the chickens are dead. The Progressive Cabinet offers an alternative to the political appointments that have cost our nation so dearly.

Equally problematic to the current administration's criminal abuse of appointments is that many Democratic leaders, including the major candidates for President are failing to represent the progressive aspirations of the American people on a range of issues from dismantling empire to a national health program to publicly financing campaigns. DLC and DCCC type Democrats like Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, Hilary Clinton, and Maria Cantwell are all too eager to assume the mantle of "progressive," but run to K Street for marching orders and campaign dollars. "Progressive" will mean nothing if we allow these professional politicians whose hunger for campaign contributions impedes their independence, innovation, and ability to propose bold solutions to solve current crisis. We must not allow them to corrupt an increasingly popular term that reflects the uncorrupted hopes and hard work of dedicated advocates for human dignity, ecological sanity, and international cooperation.

The Backbone Campaign and our allies feel that a Progressive Cabinet can both set the bar for candidates and help citizens overcome their sense that the current madness is inevitable. We hope that the Summit will propel the Progressive Cabinet project as a vehicle for communicating our innovative capacity, aspirational vision and the brilliance of our leaders. Americans deserve to have confidence that progressives have the leaders and ideas to run the country. We must build a movement that fills them with that confidence.


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In preparation for the Summit a number of progressive policy leaders have prepared "First 100 Days" statements as nominees for Secretaries of:

* Commerce - Hunter Lovins, co-author with Paul Hawkins of Natural Capitalism * Energy - Prof. Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley's Renewable & Appropriate Energy Lab * Education - Eric Cooper of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (listen) * State- Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies * Interior - Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network * Dept. of Justice - Jakada Imani of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights * US Trade Rep. - Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch * Immigration - Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee * Among others.

Bush and Cheney are leaving in eighteen months, hopefully sooner. Now is the time for progressive leaders and citizens to take control of how progressives are perceived and how we think of ourselves. We must demonstrate that people who are aligned with us belong to a unified, propositional movement, that transcends party affiliation with the leaders and ideas to run the country. Creating a Progressive Cabinet is a great next step in communicating and preparing for that reality.

As Stephen Zunes, Professor of Political Science at the University of San Francisco and a Cabinet nominee says "The Progressive Cabinet is an essential project at a critical time." Trust yourself, listen to each other and March forth with the courage and confidence future generations depend on us to have.

Bill Moyer is the Executive Director and co-founded the Backbone Campaign in 2003. Bill has had a duel and intersecting path as both an activist and artist. Bill's involvement with social change work stretches back to the 80's, when as a student he was deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movement and the anti-interventionist movement, lived at Big Mountain to assist Dineh elders refusing to relocate off their traditional land, and then attended the Institute for Social Ecology.

Note*: Bill Moyer, the author of this article and progressive activist, should not be confused with Bill Moyers, the journalist many of us know and respect.

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