Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

We are entering a time when the US American people as a whole are going to be hearing about and talking about progressive approaches to the issues much more than they have been for the last couple of years. (Photo: Shutterstock)

We are entering a time when the US American people as a whole are going to be hearing about and talking about progressive approaches to the issues much more than they have been for the last couple of years. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Elections and Movement-Building Through 2020 and Beyond

Let’s resolve in this first month of the new year to make the next 22 months the decisive period in history that they absolutely need to be

Ted Glick

From my vantage point, one “positive” effect of the election of Mafioso Don is the marginalization of the position taken by some on the political left that elections in the US are a sham, and the correct approach to them is to non-participate.

Elections do have consequences, potentially very big, very negative consequences, like a neo-fascist government.

Young people in general are most likely to view elections as a sham, for understandable reasons. Young people tend to be more idealistic so that they are turned off by the often-cynical and dishonest political maneuvering from both Republicans and Democrats.

That’s why the 2015-16 Bernie Sanders campaign generated so much active support from young people. Here was someone who spoke truth to power, who didn’t accept Super PAC money or mega-donations from rich people, who articulated a strong, positive program consistent with positions he had been taking for literally decades, who had a history of winning elections and using his elected office positively, and who consciously reached out to young people and working-class people.

Articulating the truth about what is needed and taking strategic risks in support of that program, as she did in Nancy Pelosi’s office in November in support of a Green New Deal, is exactly what is needed to inspire and mobilize the tens of millions of potential voters who don’t vote because they correctly think the system is rigged.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young person herself, was elected and has become a political star since for similar reasons. Articulating the truth about what is needed and taking strategic risks in support of that program, as she did in Nancy Pelosi’s office in November in support of a Green New Deal, is exactly what is needed to inspire and mobilize the tens of millions of potential voters who don’t vote because they correctly think the system is rigged.

However, it’s essential that progressive candidates and elected progressives are pushed, if necessary, by their supporters to take steps to ensure that they are continually in contact with the people they are representing and with organizations rooted among progressive-oriented constituencies. This is particularly essential in this time when corporate money is so much a factor in elections.

Even without the influence of corporate money, there’s something about running for office, becoming THE dominant person in a campaign organization, always being in the public eye, getting media coverage, that often leads progressives elected to office down the egotistical and I’m-the-man (or –woman) road. It leads many to opportunist compromises in order to curry favor with monied or powerful interests whose support they want.

There is a long, long history in the US of genuine progressives elected to office becoming someone very different after they were elected.

There is a long, long history in the US of genuine progressives elected to office becoming someone very different after they were elected.

This is another reason why so many people are turned off from voting. If voting in someone who says they care about the issues important to you only leads to disappointment when they half-step it or worse, that’s not going to encourage you to vote next time.

And that’s where organizing and movement-building are so critical.

To keep progressives elected to office consistently speaking, voting and acting the way they should, accountability is key. And to have accountability there need to be broadly-based organizations at a community level which are actively organizing on behalf of the needs and issues important to local working-class and progressive people, especially low-income people, people of color, women, lgbtq+ people and youth. Part of that work of community organizing is to maintain contact with elected officials who are supposed to be representing local people. When they’re not doing so, actions of various kinds need to be taken, from call-in days and petitions, to demonstrations outside of and sit-ins inside their offices.

Here’s a good example: the Sunrise movement taking direct action a week after last November’s election to hold Nancy Pelosi accountable when it comes to using her power in the House to ensure there is strong legislation on the climate crisis, wealth inequality and environmental justice.

It’s a time when movement-building across issue and constituency lines, the building of a stronger, multi-cultural, nationwide alliance, can make major advances.

In 2019 there are a lot more progressives in Congress, and people who realize they need to advocate for a progressive platform, than there have been for a while. Some of them have announced their intention to run for President, and more are coming. We are entering a time when the US American people as a whole are going to be hearing about and talking about progressive approaches to the issues much more than they have been for the last couple of years. It’s a time when movement-building across issue and constituency lines, the building of a stronger, multi-cultural, nationwide alliance, can make major advances.

In 2016 the Sanders campaign played this role. The political success of that campaign had a lot to do with the coming forward from the very first day Trump took office of a mass resistance movement against him. That campaign and the Our Revolution organization emerging out of it also helped both to take control of the House away from Republicans and to strengthen the progressive movement inside and outside the Democratic Party.

Let’s resolve in this first month of the new year to make the next 22 months the decisive period in history that they absolutely need to be. Let’s keep hearing the voices of our still-unborn, great, great grandchildren calling on us to step it up right now.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Conquest': Native Americans Condemn SCOTUS Tribal Sovereignty Ruling

"Every few paragraphs of the majority opinion has another line that dismissively and casually cuts apart tribal independence that Native ancestors gave their lives for," observed one Indigenous law professor.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo