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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Bigger Movement, Bigger Wins: SWOT Sunday

Updated: Dec 31



Here is a summary of a related pair of Strengths and Opportunities.


STRENGTH

Mass-based, national, organizing-driven progressive organizations including Indivisible, Sunrise Movement, Our Revolution and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), as well as other groups and networks on a local/regional level.


OPPORTUNITY

The general public now is more open to progressive ideas than even a few years ago, for example, support for labor unions and socialism is at new highs.


These groups have a good start on building a mass base, as well as coordinating with other groups on issue and electoral campaigns. How can they use the upcoming 2024 election cycle to bring in new members, foster more collaboration, and gain the power to win bigger battles in the future?

Where we stand now


  • All four groups have made public statements recently, in one way or another, that the Democratic Party must embrace bolder progressive policies.

  • To help enact a bold agenda, progressives have to replace more of the Democrats and Republicans standing in the way, and gain enough power to make moderates feel they need progressive support to win more races. Currently, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has 102 members out of 263 Democrats (39%) and 435 total members (23%). The Squad, no more than ten members, is a small part of the CPC.


  • Only Indivisible, the most mainstream of the four, has so far endorsed President Biden in 2024. The others, especially Sunrise, have challenged Biden to earn their endorsement. Sunrise has not so far unveiled any national electoral priorities for 2024.


  • Only Our Revolution is working on building progressive power within the Democratic Party organization. As part of this ongoing effort, they are working on making sure progressives are represented among the delegates to the Democratic Presidential Convention. This matters especially in terms of what policies are included in the platform.


  • DSA is supporting several ballot initiatives around the country, including Q1 as well as November. They are supporting two municipal candidates this spring in CA.


Note, I don't have any personal insight into what these groups are doing. My information comes from public sources. They may well be doing all of it already, which would be marvelous.



Three strategies


· First, set goals for the election cycle.

· Second, coordinate more on electoral and ballot initiative activity.

· Third, engage in deeper strategic coordination and joint activities.


Electoral and ballot initiative campaigns don’t belong to any one group, but are the main way that all groups contest for power to enact the policies they want. A Presidential election is a great opportunity to get out and talk to people, because the President will be on everyone's ballot.


I personally hope these groups embrace Biden's reelection and use the opportunity to further their own goals, from growing their membership to electing local candidates and winning ballot measures. It's only with a stronger national movement that we can ever have a viable progressive candidate for President.


PHASE 1: Goal setting.


As management guru Peter Drucker said, “You can't manage what you don’t measure.”

Organizations can benefit in many ways from electoral and ballot measure campaigns, even if they don't win. Also, when multiple groups map out goals, they will probably find that at least some of them are aligned, and that can drive coordination.


Examples of goals beyond winning: Take your winning percentage of endorsed candidates from 25% to 40%. Grow your mailing list, volunteers and/or donors by 20%. Define a geographic or demographic area where you want to grow your reach, or skills you want to build. Could certain candidates or ballot measures be a good vehicle for bringing attention to your key issues?


Afterward, do a solid debrief – what worked, what didn’t, why, and what to do differently next time. This is how you get better at what you do.


PHASE 2: Strategic coordination of electoral and ballot-initiative activity.


The groups each have their own policy and organizing priorities, but may support some of the same candidates or ballot initiatives. In close elections, progressives may be able to extract both promises and action in exchange for their support, especially if they go in together.


Also, the time-limited nature of campaigns reins in the left’s tendency to focus too much on process rather than results.


Some ideas for strategic electoral coordination:


- NETWORKING. Local chapters as well as higher levels should have a cross-group network, so they can consider cross-endorsements, sharing social media, supporting each other’s events, and the like. They could work together on voter education and registration and split up turf. It doesn't have to take a lot of time.


- MESSAGING. Come up with common progressive messaging that works, based in organizing, and use it consistently, perhaps pooling money for materials and advertising. This could enhance awareness and support for the movement as a whole.


- RAPID RESPONSE. If some great opportunity suddenly comes up, or a last-minute push could mean victory, build capacity to come together quickly.


PHASE 3: DEEPER COORDINATION.


Building relationships and trust first through working together would help make this successful. Deeper coordination should ultimately include:


- SHARING BEST PRACTICES and stories, and providing some kind of safe space for people to talk about problems and solutions.


- CREATING A NETWORK to develop long-term common goals and strategies.


- Developing the IDEOLOGICAL BLUEPRINT that the movement so desperately needs. This must focus on where the groups are aligned, with each free to pursue other priorities and ideas separately.


- Developing and executing a COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY around the blueprint.


- CREATING OUR OWN ALEC to develop policy and a plan for how to get it enacted.


Ideas for initial strategic coordination


Here are some states where some or all of the four groups I mentioned will be active in 2024, based on their public statements and press. Most haven’t yet announced candidate endorsements, but likely will soon. Progressives are reportedly looking to support some of their House people in Senate runs.


Ballot initiatives were key in 2023 and will be in 2024 as well. Engaging all those voters in local organizations and 2024 elections is critical to win elections and to grow organizations over time.


Key States


“The 18” – There are 18 seats with GOP House members from districts that Biden won in 2020 and are seen as winnable. 6 are in NY and 5 in CA.


Senate Races – Democrats are defending 23 Senate seats and can’t afford to lose more than one. Several are in key swing states.


Swing States – There are perhaps six to ten “purple” states that could go either way in the Presidential race, and they are absolutely critical for Biden.


Here are three key states where several groups are already active on various 2024 activities, with a lot of opportunity for coordination and growth.




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