***Building PDA at the Precinct, City and National Level
PDA would like to have chapters in all congressional districts.
Michael Hersch.com – (coordinator for MD) says that everyone has unique skills and we need all of them. Also said that everyone wants their issue at the head of the list but we need to work together so we don’t fall into disorganization (right wing counts on us being disorganized) and to make sure that we are driving the agenda, not being driven by someone else’s agenda. He also says we need to connect with those people who are sitting at home disconnected.
Marcy Winegrad (head of Los Angeles Chapter) lobbied Democratic congressional reps who still vote to fund war. She stressed being connected to other groups, she helped get anti-war resolution passed in LA, and had teach in on Downing Street Memos. They fight the governor via coalition. They have website, listserve, steering committee. Also working on DU issues and having soldiers tested.
Mervis Reissig – a pissed off grandmother from CA. She recommends precinct walking and she works through Democratic party. She says to wear PDA stickers at Democratic meetings and hand out flyers at these events. Pay attention to those who seem particularly interested and go back and ask them to get involved on precinct level. Many people are reluctant to knock on strangers doors – so only send them to Democratic doors and think of it as a way to build contact and community. Says you can get list of who is registered absentee voter and then find out if they voted or not. Registrar can give you lists of voters and party affiliation.
Laura Bonham (UT) spoke about spokespersons on PDA board and has an interim body working on PDA bylaws. Right now, about 20 states without spokespersons on council at this time. Goal: will have elected representatives from all regions and states, for the grassroots and by the grassroots.
Daneil Lewkowicz (national coordinator of campus PDAs) says goal is to unite students under progressive banner. He came to realize that diversity was common to his childhood, but not his university life. He talked about 9/11 and the effects on our nation and how it affected him – he went from wanting to be a doctor to wanting to “heal the world” and became a student activist. Said he had a poster in school that said WAKE UP AMERICA that talked about neo-con agenda. He said what passes as youth culture is really mass marketing to make youths consumers, which makes them complacent and docile. He said that we are more disconnected from our own culture than from any culture before now. We pledge allegiance to logos rather than to self. Said we cannot buy culture, we create culture. The National Organization of Progressive College Students is sister organization to PDA, they lobby for students and for change in America. I think this young man was one of the most impressive speakers.
Gerry Straatemeir (AZ) said that progressives went outside the Democratic Party and the Democrats shifted to center and right. They called their groups COUNCILS instead of caucus and aligned with many groups that were a single-issue group, and they were then able to put these issues before the legislative. He stressed getting involved on a precinct, county, district, and state levels in the Democratic Party and we must become part of them and change them.
Patrick Carano (OH) says PDA made connection to grassroots like no one else has – would like to see 5 sustainers (to PDA) in each chapter. PDA led the fight to have Ohio election results reviewed and documented.
***Building the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party
Joel Segal: now seeing action via organizational skills of PDA, which was not happening two years ago. He talked about taking power: where you don’t have to be a white millionaire male to run for office.
Steve Cobble (senior PDA Political Advisor) says we need to take street heat into suite heat. He listed PDA influence:
Downing Street Memos
Stood with Cindy Sheehan before she was popular
Anti war momentum
Worked on “Homeward Bound” legislation
Ohio vote recount
He says we need to get anti-war candidates in primaries and get secretary of states elected who are progressives.
Kevin Spidel (PDA Political Director) – Peloski (minority leader) put forth bill saying no funding for Iraq war until there is a ‘success’ strategy, meaning that troops come home. Stressed need to do partisan work and endorsement of candidates, and that we need to make sure PDA knows what grassroots wants. Who is a PDA candidate? Has to be endorsed by local PDA. What is a progressive candidate? Opponent of CAFTA, believes in fair trade and peace candidate. He made list of Democrats who voted for Bush agenda regularly. Believes we need to bring up “allies” who have trainings for candidates.
Bill Goold – director of Congressional Progressive Caucus for last three months (first director). He says grassroots will transform party, and that PDA has been invaluable in Progressive Caucus program and that we need a super majority to have a really progressive congress.
Greg Moore – from Rainbow/PUSH said that too many people he helped get into power became career politicians. The lines in New Orleans reminded him of the lines in Ohio elections and lines back in 1963 and 1965. He said these folks were not served by their government. He said we have to create a desire (mission) for those people to vote for us. He felt budget would be next big issue for US congress and that every African American and African American minister or church leader is looking at the problem of poverty in this country since Katrina.
Joel Segal (moderator) talked about unity and raising funds to fight right wing machine. He felt we needed one mass-based progressive organization.
Jay Winter said he is a member of the human family and he is also a Native American. He talked about the Houma tribe, which is 15,000 strong, but 7,000 are missing since Katrina. No one knows where they are now. He said information is at www.UnitedHoumaNation.org about their loss. Some of his points were:
· Must promote world peace
· Must accept no monies from corporate or special interests
· Verified voting
· Accountability and transparency of public and private sectors
· Right for every person to clean air, food, water, clothing, shelter, education and health care
He said the nation is dying and we have fools in office who only think of personal gain. There are two candidates he supports: Joe LaMonte (OK) and Chuck Vienesa (PA). He said that if we don’t learn to live together as men then we shall all perish as fools.
***Building PDA Media Response
Anne Singer, Moderator, says not so easy to pigeon hole media, they are complex and we should be prepared to be surprised.
· Jeff Cohen – says media are STRICT corporate entities. The top is overpaid and they don’t offend anyone in political or corporate power. They are paranoid and afraid of being the only one asking a certain question. There is the fear of being labeled “liberal” and they are very political over what they can say and do. He says there are three strands to media: Opening up (good guy/bad guy), Spreading suspicion, and Spreading alternative media.
· Suzanna Sunovich – press secretary for Woolsley. She follows local and national news cycle to get Woolsley inserted in stories and to get her message out.
· Wm. Rivers Pitt (truthout.org) writes PDA blog and some stories on blogs bubble up into the mainstream. Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and Williampitt@truthout.org. He wants every PDA caucus to be “point person” for the blog to update them about what they are doing, where they need help, issues that need action, and candidates you can support.
· David Swanson has made many websites for progressives (afterdowningstreet.org, Kucinich, AFL-CIO, ACORN) and has many ideas for websites. PDA has done press releases and has materials and posters. Make sure no one goes to rally without PDA shirt, and says to negotiate with reporters to make them commit to naming PDA ahead of time. He says it is virtually impossible to get coverage in the mainstream media, and recommends holding media coverage accountable. Creating own media is important too. Some PDA chapters have websites of variable quality (www.mayfirst.org and www.cindy.org are websites for progressive groups). He says never lie or exaggerate, make yourself available, never worry about pleasing reporter or caring about them. Never work with a reporter who already has planned what he or she wants you to say. More suggestions on www.afterdowningstreet.org.
· Some discussion on public access TV, and how to get programs into the community. Some suggestions are to get activists on your show, contact local TV writer to cover show, work on marketing and tell guests to let people know about show. Telecommunications act puts public access TV in jeopoardy.
· PDA media action and reform. They will develop part of website to address pending and possible legislation on the media.
· Someone brought up the fact that you can lease TV time for little money.
· Deep Dish TV does shows on regular basis that can be downloaded on Link TV.
· Suzanne talked about ways to get TV message out.
· Finally, someone reported on her efforts to get train delay in NYC and efforts to get to Saturday’s rally in the NYT and WaPo. Persistence paid off in this example.
A call for sustainers – and PDA endorsed two candidates Tony ??? and Steve Young. PDA passed resolution about Katrina:
· Respect for the culture in the area and region and evacuees must fully participate in reconstruction
· Current labor laws, environmental laws and civil rights laws must be respected
· Native Americans must participate also
There was some discussion of tomorrow’s lobby events. Then they closed with saying that Cindy is birthing her son’s spirit into the world now.
John Boniface talked about the Ohio recount and the Downing Street Memo. He says democracy is worth fighting for, but there still is no meaningful recount in Ohio.
It was a long day, but well worth going to PDA conferences to see and hear what is going on.