As I travel around the state talking with small groups of dedicated but depressed progressives, the most common question I hear is, “What can we do?” Here’s my answer.
1) Stop the bickering. If I read one more Facebook post on how bad Bernie is or how bad Hillary is and how reprehensible their respective followers are, I’m going to die! It’s over. Move on.
2) The old guard needs to go. I greatly admire the progressive elected officials who’ve served for decades in Wisconsin. We all owe them a big debt of gratitude. But now they need to give other people a chance.
3) Ally with progressive Republicans. There are good, decent Republican officials out there. Progressive Democratic officials should ally with them when possible, and progressive activists should salute them when they do the right thing.
4) Be authentic. People are sick and tired of politics as usual and politicians as usual. They want someone who is real.
5) Advocate for big reforms that really help people. First and foremost, universal health care. Other issues are important, too: establishing a living wage; providing free college education and student debt forgiveness; bolstering our public schools; legalizing marijuana; launching a Green Jobs Initiative; and curbing the role of money in politics.
6) Fight for racial justice. Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of several scales when it comes to racial justice. This is not only embarrassing, it’s appalling. As progressives, we need to make the fight against institutional racism an integral part of all our work.
7) Debunk the corporatist ideology. Every day, the Koch Brothers and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce tell us that everything private is good, and everything public is bad. In this warped view, there is no place for the common good, no sense of community, no belief that we, as fellow citizens of a democracy, have any obligation whatsoever to each other, and no concession that good government programs can help us fulfill that obligation.
8) Confront the fascist threat. Donald Trump is the closest thing we’ve ever had to a fascist in the White House because he traffics in bigotry and ultra-nationalism, and he has no respect for our democratic institutions. If there’s another attack on the United States—and it doesn’t have to be anywhere near the scale of 9/11—Trump could take our democracy down!
9) Register and motivate progressive voters. We need to get progressive voters registered and we need to motivate them to go to the polls to vote for progressive politicians from whatever party. That’s basic.
10) Talk to people who don’t agree with us. Also basic is the need to get out of our cocoons, and go do the work of listening to our fellow Wisconsinites who aren’t yet on our side (most of them are not flying Confederate flags!). We need to talk with them respectfully, and engage them in a conversation about the kind of society we’d all want to live in.
Let’s go to it!