14 November 2008

Progressives Gain through Grassroots Efforts

A week ago regional and local community organizers and officials with the Alliance for Retired Americans held a conference call to review their efforts during the election. Especially important was the day-by-day, and in some instances hour-by-hour, efforts to educate, organize and mobilize Older Americans to vote for "progressive" candidates in states such as North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Colorado and New Mexico; states which previously had been solidly behind George W. Bush.

For the first time in many election cycles, seniors began shifting their votes from Republican to Democratic. This was a seismic shift, and one reflecting a return to established American values and a repudiation of Reaganomics and the neo-conservative policies of hate, division, and rancor.

Mirroring this grassroots approach were other progressive groups targeting young voters, Hispanics, African-Americans, women and religious voters. Obama and the democratic party err if they believe this shift was merely to the Democratic party name plate. The shift was toward a more progressive agenda for governance, and while the Democrats captured that "change" this cycle, they very well could lose it if they attempt a Clintonian centrist approach.

Many wondered if the "young voters" would turn out. They accounted for 60% of the increase in overall voters in this cycle. More over, this broad demographic of "young voters" shifted their allegiance, with two-thirds of voters under thirty voting for Obama. Again, progressive grassroots organizations such as MoveOn.Org and People for the American Way (PFAW) with campus, community, street, and online outreach were instrumental in educating, organizing and mobilizing young people. Expectations were raised.

While there was no comparable surge in Hispanic votes nationally, it did surge dramatically in the aforementioned western states which "flipped" from Red to Blue this election cycle. And, once again, we see a two-thirds preference for Obama and progressive policies in the final vote count.

Social and cultural issues have cost the Democrats with religious voters for several decades. This cycle, "regular worshipers" shifted to the Democrats by 8% over the number voting for John Kerry in 2004, and by 11% did those identified as "occasional worshipers". Astoundingly, evangelicals, while overall strongly supportive of John McCain, showed a major shift in the Midwest, where 33% voted for Obama. Those new progressives come with expectations.

The challenge for Obama and Democrats will be to hold on to this growth of progressive voters for coming years and elections. Promises must be fulfilled and expectation met. A so-called center-right policy will not achieve that.

A strong progressive agenda and restructuring of government and economic policies in favor of the people rather than corporations and Wall Street will.

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