Grassroots progressive groups playing bigger roll in primaries | Arkansas Blog

Friday, January 12, 2018

Grassroots progressive groups playing bigger roll in primaries

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 11:47 AM

The Brookings Institution has a new report out about the influence of independent activist groups on political primaries as the old party gatekeepers weaken. They predict this will tend to lead to more unconventional or inexperienced candidates and less moderation, but also more organization in regions where party organizations are unlikely to invest, more outlets for volunteering and activism, and the ability to identify new talent from new networks.

The outsourcing of the so-called "invisible primary" to independent activist groups is more pronounced on the Republican side, the report finds, but progressive groups are catching up on the Democratic side:

Since the shock of the 2016 election, independent and grassroots groups have sprung up in large numbers and with dizzying speed. An only partial list includes All of Us, Brand New Congress, the Collective PAC, Emerge America, Flippable, Forward Majority, Indivisible, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, Run for Something, Sister District, Swing Left, and We Will Replace You. Their business models vary all over the map. Some, such as Emerge America and Run for Something, focus on recruiting and training candidates. Some, such as Sister District and Swing Left, identify key races and mobilize resources and volunteers to tip them. Some, such as Justice Democrats, We Will Replace You, and Our Revolution, seek to push the Democratic party to the left and seem eager to challenge incumbents. Yet other groups, such as Indivisible, delegate strategy to their grassroots members. Some specialize in federal races, some in state and local races, and some do both. ...

Progressive Democrats energized by Trump’s win are recruiting, training, and organizing like I’ve never seen before,” one consultant told our survey. “Women in particular are leading these efforts. Sanders supporters are prominent as well. They’re pushing local Democratic org[anization]s to the left or offering primary challenges at state and local levels.” The liberal groups are ideologically adversarial to the Tea Party, but they draw inspiration from its tactics and structure—explicitly so, in the case of Indivisible, the most prominent of the new groups.
The report focuses particularly on Indivisible, the group with several chapters in Arkansas that has been in the news for activism protesting the actions of Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Boozman, and others. Indivisible aims to use the tactics of groups like the Tea Party for progressive ends:

Indivisible provides a revealing window into how the invisible primary may become, so to speak, the Indivisible primary. Shortly after the presidential election last year, two Democratic former congressional staff members published a hastily written manual for progressives seeking to organize against President Trump and the Republican Congress. The “Indivisible Guide,” as it was called, went viral and its authors, Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin, capitalized on the energy they had tapped by founding the Indivisible organization. Using as their template the Tea Party Patriots’ original decentralized, grassroots-driven structure, Indivisible activists have created local affiliates with startling speed: as of mid-August, well over 6,000 of them—an average of 14 affiliates in each congressional district. The national organization provides support and coordination but does not impose a strategy or policy agenda. Levin said, “When the rubber hits the road, it’s the groups making the decisions. The theory is that from having this movement of locally led Indivisible groups, everything else flows. From that you get your programs and policies and candidates.”

Indivisible groups were instrumental in pressuring members of Congress not to end Obamacare, again taking a leaf from the Tea Party by showing up, well briefed and vocal, at members’ town hall meetings. Beyond that, as befits such a decentralized movement, tactics vary widely. In the South Carolina district of conservative Republican Rep. Joe Wilson (famous for shouting “You lie!” when President Obama addressed Congress in 2009), local Indivisible activists—many of them new to politics and all of them volunteers—work the local media to publicize and excoriate Wilson’s record, protest and shadow him in the district, and build a network of activists. “We are unapologetically progressive in our views,” said Samantha Edwards, a 26-year-old graphic designer who, together with her sister Julie Edwards, is leading the anti-Wilson effort. “That was missing for me in the Democratic Party—not knowing what I’m fighting for and why. I’m just picking the party that’s not the Republican Party?”
Read the whole thing here.

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