In 2006, the progressive community must and can work to elect a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, while continuing to put pressure on the state parties and the Democratic National Committee on the issues of peace, universal healthcare, voting integrity, fair trade, environmental sustainability, and social and economic justice.
The Democratic left is in a position to make this effort because it is not only alive and well, but thriving and growing in cities, suburbs, towns and rural areas all across America. Progressive Democrats of America is a rapidly growing, two-year-old, 80,000-strong, 135-chapter organization operating in over 30 states. PDA's Board of Advisors is a diverse group of committed progressive elected officials and activists.
Since it's founding in Roxbury, MA, in July 2004, PDA has aggressively worked an "inside, networking progressive Democratic elected officials inside the beltway with grassroots Democrats and progressive movement activists across the country. PDA was the driving force in the passage of resolutions opposing the war in Iraq by eight state Democratic Party meetings. The organization also was instrumental in the passage of resolutions in 10 states calling for the impeachment of President Bush. PDA is often referred to by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Executive Director Bill Goold as the CPC's field operation, because PDA has built relationships with members of Congress by delivering grassroots support for their initiatives -" from Rep. John Conyers' investigation of the 2004 Ohio voting fraud, to Rep. Jim McGovern's bill HR 4232 to cut off funding for the war in Iraq, a current priority effort.
While still only a progressive "pup" compared with big liberal dogs like MoveOn, PDA-backed candidates have taken some big bites out of conventional wisdom and centrist Democratic complacency. In Los Angeles, local PDA leader Marcy Winograd won 37% of the primary vote against entrenched pro-war Democrat Rep. Jane Harman with only two months of lead time. In Maryland, the dynamic Donna Edwards appears to have come up only a few hundred votes short of toppling the multi-term Rep. Al Wynn in her first bid for public office, and she is seen as well-positioned to prevail in 2008. And in Illinois, with strong PDA support, Christine Cegelis, though outspent 8 to 1 nearly beat the candidate of the inside-the-beltway Party leadership and Illinois party machine, Tammy Duckworth, to vie for the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde.
This fall, in the House, PDA is focusing attention and effort on several strong progressives worthy of note and support in hopes of flipping several seats from red to blue. In California, Jerry McNerney is running a strong race against an incumbent Republican. In Michigan, Tony Trupiano, with one of the nation's strongest grassroots efforts, has his sights in a Republican-leaning district. And in New York, anti-nuclear activist John Hall has won the Democratic nomination to challenge a four-term incumbent Republican. In Arizona, while the local PDA primary candidate Jeff Latas did not prevail, PDA will now enthusiastically join forces with PDA Board Member Rep. Raul Grijalva and support the nominee, the equally progressive Gabby Giffords, as well as PDA-backed Herb Paine who won a razor thin primary victory in a neighboring district.
Among the Senate races, in New York, PDA backed Jonathan Tasini in his primary bid to take some steam out of Sen. Hillary Clinton's centrist bandwagon, and while Clinton won, Tasini succeeded in uniting many progressives statewide who PDA hopes to organize into dozens of new local chapters for the long work ahead. In Ohio, PDA will continue to support its endorsed candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown, in his Senate bid. In Connecticut, the organization will work hard to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman a second time and elect Ned Lamont. November wins by Brown, Lamont and Vermont's Bernie Sanders could herald formation of a Senate Progressive Caucus.
Given the importance of election integrity, PDA also has devoted time and effort to secretary of state races around the nation, backing Deborah Bowen in California, Mark Ritchie in Minnesota, and PDA Board Member John Bonifaz in Massachusetts.
Finally, while PDA certainly understands the difference between a progressive Democrat and a DLC or centrist Democrat, the group urges vigorous work on behalf of all Democratic House candidates in November. This is because currently elected progressives and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are mostly in safe districts and so have held their seats for several terms, building seniority. Thus, election of a Democratic House majority this year would have huge ramifications for the progressive community when it comes to controlling committees: at least nine Congressional Progressive Caucus members would become committee chairs and an additional 35 CPC members would become subcommittee chairs!
The following CPC members are currently in line to become committee chairs if Democrats gain a majority:
- George Miller, Education and Workforce
- Barney Frank, Financial Services
- Henry Waxman, Government Reform
- Bennie Thompson, Homeland Security
- Tom Lantos, International Relations
- John Conyers, Judiciary
- Louise Slaughter, Rules
- Nydia Velazquez, Small Business
- Charles Rangel, Ways and Means
The following CPC members would become subcommittee chairs:
- Appropriations: Rosa DeLauro, Marcy Kaptur, John Olver, Jose Serrano, and Ed Pastor
- Armed Services: Neil Abercrombie
- Education and Workforce: Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Kucinich
- Energy and Commerce: Ed Markey, Jan Schakowsky and Hilda Solis
- Financial Services: Maxine Waters and Luis Gutierrez
- Government Reform: Diane Watson, Dennis Kucinich, Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis of
Illinois, and William "Lacy" Clay
- International Relations: Donald Payne
Judiciary: Sheila Jackson-Lee, Jerry Nadler and Melvin Watt
- Interior: Raul Grijalva, Tom Udall and Donna Christensen
- Rules: Jim McGovern
- Small Business: Madeleine Bordallo
- Transportation and Infrastructure: DeFazio, Filner, Holmes-Norton, and C. Brown
- Ways and Means: Pete Stark, Jim McDermott, and John Lewis of Georgia
Read those names and committee assignments carefully. Imagine the investigative work that could be done on the Downing Street Memos and the Ohio voting irregularities and the steps that could and would be taken toward the censure of President Bush with these members managing the committees.
For this reason, PDA is urging its members and all progressives to donate, organize and vote Democratic in November. It may involve some holding of noses in some districts, but the stakes are high and the road ahead is long. Progressives must support all the Democratic nominees --including Harman, Wynn and Duckworth as well as centrist Democrats who faced no progressive primary challenge -- so we can demand and expect the support of centrist Democrats when our candidates win future primaries.
So the first step in moving the country toward a progressive consensus is restoring Democratic control of the House this year. The ground can be gained for progressives. PDA was founded to do just that. Join us and the growing movement to take back our Party and our country!
Tim Carpenter is the National Director of Progressive Democrats of America