Since 2005, the DA has worked to advance progressive values by building community and collaboration within the movement. A decade later, we launched a new investment plan by asking: we have helped to build a much stronger progressive infrastructure, but for what purposes and to what ends? The answer, we believe, is to overcome the key structural challenges that impede the building of sustainable progressive power by aligning our investments around three central and connected goals. Click to learn more about each goal:
We address these three issues together because they are deeply connected. Climate disruption is a serious threat to prosperity, and we cannot act together to confront our economic and our climate challenges without a healthy democracy. At the same time, radical economic inequality eats at the foundations of a democratic society, just as it erodes the sources of economic growth and innovation necessary to reversing climate change. The issues we seek to address are not merely issue advocacy battles – they are game-changers, critical not only to advancing sound policy outcomes but to making our government, economy, and planet more fair, democratic, and sustainable, while simultaneously building progressive power for the long term.
The DA aims to make significant progress toward these three goals by 2020. To do so will require a united movement that invests in three key areas:
- Progressive power that produces electoral and policy victories.
- Sustained support for the kind of core infrastructure that the DA has helped to build.
- New investments in places and people – namely, state-based infrastructure and the key constituencies that have comprised the Rising American Electorate (voters of color, young people, and single women), with greater attention to other communities (e.g., working class whites, LGBTQ Americans) that share progressive values. In effect, we aspire to solidify a New American Majority that will stretch progressive reach, extend the electoral map, and become a sustainable source of progressive power.
The policy development, campaign strategies, framing, and other programmatic work entailed by this “2020 Vision” will be led by the organizations we support. We want to think together with our movement allies about how to maneuver and win, but the DA’s role in this division of labor is to summon the range of our resources – money, convening power, influence, relationships, etc. – in service of our shared objectives. In short, we have policy goals and, ultimately, recommended investments, but it is the groups we support who will chart the path towards meeting them.
Toward a Restored Democracy
The ratios of political access and power are dangerously out of balance. Since Citizens United especially, wealthy elites and corporations have gained significantly more control over and influence in government and policy, and everyone else – especially the young, communities of color, women, and low-income citizens – have seen their voice and access dramatically eroded.
When polled, voters agree by a substantial margin that large private donations corrupt the system, that every eligible voter should be allowed to participate, that a judge should not receive campaign contributions from people or businesses that might come before her/his court, that district lines should be drawn in a nonpartisan way that doesn’t unfairly disadvantage and disenfranchise its constituents, etc. And yet, despite this overwhelming consensus, democracy reform has been difficult and rare – a situation made increasingly worse by the Roberts Court.
To rectify these imbalances, we need:
- A modernized election system that makes voting more efficient, convenient, and accessible to all; a restoration of minority voting rights; and the enactment of proactive voting reforms and modernizations that expand access and participation in a number of states.
- A reduction of the role of big money in politics, campaign finance reform in several states, and closer partnerships between campaign finance activists with other movements and communities supported by the DA.
- A more robust pipeline of federal judges, fewer judicial vacancies, and fewer partisan state judicial electoral campaigns.
- A strengthened leadership development pipeline that helps increase the number of progressive women, people of color, and LGBTQ elected leaders.
- A fair 2020 Census and favorable redistricting process leading to a more representative democracy and stronger progressive governance.
Comprehensive democracy reform is an enormous undertaking, and achieving all of the goals outlined above will require a level of resources that far exceed what the DA can currently leverage – and more time than our current five-year horizon. But we have a strategy to move the needle substantially by 2020:
- Build the state level capacity needed to overturn restrictive voting laws and enact proactive voting reforms by investing in litigation and grassroots organizing, especially among those communities most directly affected by voter suppression laws.
- Support the development of state policy infrastructure that would equip progressive state legislators to beat back restrictive legislation and enact progressive reforms.
- Continue to invest in the legal infrastructure that is working to appoint highly qualified judges who will respect the rule of law and present a viable and widely adopted alternative to constitutional originalism.
- Support collaborative funding efforts that serve as centers of gravity in fields such as money in politics, and that are working to knit together approaches that will produce impact and success – state and federal policy reform, jurisprudential work, communications and messaging, etc.
- Invest in candidate recruitment and political leadership development programs.
- Establish a hub for tracking nonpartisan and partisan Census and redistricting activities and ensure that adequate resources are committed to the necessary components of a favorable redistricting process: a fair and complete Census, strong citizen initiatives that work to establish independent commissions, where beneficial, and the election of progressive executives and state and federal representatives, who will be in charge of drawing district lines that result in fair apportionment.
- Explore and support other game-changing reforms that would strengthen citizens’ voices and power.
Building an Economy that Works for All
Market capitalism has yielded massive increases in human prosperity. Yet, despite its historic accomplishments, the American economy is not generating growth and prosperity as it did in the middle of the 20th century. For decades our economy has produced falling incomes and growing economic insecurity for most Americans. Women, working class Americans, and communities of color have been hardest hit, facing structural barriers to gains in wealth and income.
Our agenda must be focused on maximizing innovation and entrepreneurship in our economy by including as many people as possible, from every possible background. Market forces alone will not create the conditions nor provide the incentives that are necessary to maximize economic participation, sustain growth, create broadly based prosperity and ultimately, reduce income and wealth inequality. Consequently, we aim toward structural changes that will promote inclusion, such as:
- Increased wages and worker protections. We aim in particular to see advances in the economic status of working class Americans, women, and people of color. We must close the wage gap and increase support for child development and family and care-taking responsibilities. Building on and protecting the landmark progressive victory of affordable health insurance, policy solutions include reform of wage laws, including the overtime pay threshold, wage theft, paid sick days, and pay equity, and providing quality childcare options.
- Financial, regulatory, and other structural reforms that ensure the financial system invests in the people and businesses that will drive the economy of the 21st
- Increased bargaining power of workers. To have lasting effect, public policy fights must be linked to efforts that build stable structures of worker power. Workers must have an effective voice in the workplace to win.
- Progressive taxation to fund the investments that serve and grow our economy. Wealthy individuals and corporations must contribute fairly to the shared assets of our economy. The corporate tax system in the U.S. is largely failing and needs to be fundamentally improved and restructured so that all corporations pay their fair share.
- Access to high quality public education from preschool through college and beyond.
The strategy proposed here seeks to build organizational capacity among civil society groups to move more seamlessly and strategically between issue organizing and electoral work. The goal here is to advance an economic agenda that unites the middle class and working class, addresses broad economic insecurity, lifts up the needs of women and people of color, and provides a framework that places individual issues in a broader frame. The strategy focuses on state and local campaigns, but also seeks to engage more vigorously in regulatory fights that can have real and lasting impact. Building up organizations led by women and people of color is essential to the success of this strategy.
The recommended investment strategy has four interconnected lines of work:
- Promote an inclusive economic agenda.
- Focus resources on national, state, and local campaigns on both wages and financial reform.
- Invest in and develop sustainable organizations that can build workers’ bargaining power, challenge financial institutions, and generate grassroots political power. There are a number of national organizing networks that are well positioned to significantly scale up community and grassroots mobilization.
- Use DA’s convening power to build support among state and federal elected officials for a progressive economic agenda.
Addressing Climate Change
The issue of climate change has become inextricably linked to issues of economic growth and democracy. Economic activity has exacerbated environmental degradation, providing perverse incentives for pollution, while climate change has exacerbated inequality. Poor urban communities are often hit the hardest from extreme weather phenomena such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, while poor rural communities suffer when their lives and water and land are destroyed by fracking and mountaintop removal. We must ensure that our strategies and solutions don’t just bring further challenges, such as higher energy costs or reduced job opportunities, but provide new opportunities such as good jobs and improved health.
During the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, climate advocates started to go toe-to-toe with the fossil fuel industry, and candidates, voters and the political class are beginning to recognize the influence of climate donors and the issue. Organizing efforts blocked approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and millions were mobilized in support of the first-ever carbon emissions standards for power plants. Thanks to the work of many leading organizations and donors, climate denial is becoming a political liability for more and more elected officials. And the face of the movement is changing, as a new generation steps up.
This transformation of the climate movement, while nascent, has created needed political space for policy progress. Though the Right is working to systematically undermine the great strides made on climate and clean energy policy in recent years, new opportunities are emerging to advance pro-climate policies in states.
Progress on climate policy must be accelerated to meet the dramatic change demanded by the science. The important progress made in the last four years serves as a foundation to grow an effective movement, deploy ever more powerful electoral and accountability tools, defend and advance policy progress, and expand alliances across the progressive movement.
The DA’s climate agenda will seek to build the political power of the climate movement so that by 2020:
- The President and Congress are positioned to advance a national carbon pricing policy that achieves dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while, at the same time, addressing economic inequality.
- The U.S. is playing a global leadership role on climate change.
- States adopt ambitious new climate and clean energy policies, and defeat attacks on existing laws.
- The fossil fuel industry’s influence on elections and policy is diminished.
Moving a strong climate agenda is fundamentally a political – not a policy – problem. Broad consensus exists on the need to secure a national price on carbon, but the real challenge is overcoming the fierce opposition of the fossil fuel industry and its allies on the Right. Building the political will to achieve this agenda will require a more diverse, powerful and inclusive movement – one that unites impacted communities, workers, young people and environmentalists, and promotes the economic opportunities of a clean energy future.
The DA’s recommended investment approach has three interconnected lines of work:
- Engaging in elections and accountability. The DA can play a critical role in helping to level the electoral playing field that for too long has been dominated by the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry. Electing state and federal climate champions, defeating deniers, and holding elected officials accountable are powerful tools for change.
- Supporting campaigns to advance state/regional climate policies. This could include a wide range of issues, such as renewables and efficiency, carbon pricing, divest/invest campaigns, EPA regulation implementation, and transitioning communities to clean economy.
- Using the DA’s unique convening power to bring key stakeholders together on a number of important issues and to help build relationships, problem solve, and identify future opportunities for collaboration, leverage, and action.