fresh voices from the front lines of change







Here's something that can't be dismissed with a dismissive Donald Trump tweet: An electoral wave is building that seriously threatens the stranglehold that Republicans have on electoral power around the country.

It showed itself this week when an unknown, young documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer nearly won a Georgia congressional special election as a Democrat in a district that had been deeply Republican for decades.

It will be amplified on Monday when, according to People's Action co-director George Goehl, 50 grassroots organizers and activists pledge during the organization's inaugural convention in Washington to run for political office in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Goehl made that announcement during a briefing with progressive media writers and producers on Thursday. It's what he called "electorializing the resistance" – turning the protests of the past 90-plus days of the Trump administration into an audacious bid to reclaim power on every political level, from municipal governments to Congress.

"This trend of local people coming out of the woodwork to run for elected office is something that we're trying to both drive and to be a part of," he said.

Joining the 50 or so prospective electoral candidates on stage will be Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent whose presidential bid last year as a Democrat remains a key inspiration and model for many of the people who will pledge to run.

The theme of the conference is "Rise Up: From Protest to Power," and about 1,000 people from People's Action-affiliated organizations are arriving for three days of events that will include political training sessions, a Monday morning White House protest against Trump administration budget proposals, and a Tuesday town hall meeting on health care meant to highlight opposition to GOP health care proposals in suburban and rural areas.

Attendees will include people who are "coming from small towns and Republican districts around the country," said People's Action co-director LeeAnn Hall. "One example is a group with Unite Oregon [a People's Action affiliate]. They had over 500 people attending both of (Oregon Republican) Rep. Greg Walden's town halls last week, raising issues from health care to immigration to cuts in the budget. ... It's that kind of crowd we have coming that is really motivated to share the impact of whatever that budget cut is on their families, on their communities, on the small business infrastructure."

People's Action affiliates have staged hundreds of protest actions around the country since Trump took office, including 81 during the February congressional recess as the House was considering its ultimately disastrous attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. A whopping 75 percent of those actions were in Republican districts, Goehl pointed out.

But Goehl and Hall both point out that resistance is not enough. That's why the conference will feature the unveiling of a "protest to power" platform. It will contain four broad principles – on "racial equity"; "economic systems built for people, not profit"; "gender equity" and "true democracy" – and a set of six general policy statements on jobs, mass incarceration, health care, climate, education and immigration.

Goehl calls it "a people-and-planet-first agenda that is aspirational and will aim high and inspire people to join us and come out to vote."

It is, in other words, the stagesetter for dozens of races in which a new political vanguard successfully upsets the political establishment in both parties – not with empty Trumpian braggadocio but with a plan that fulfills the promise of a democracy that serve the interests of the people.

Follow "Rise Up: From Protest to Power" on the People's Action Facebook page and on Twitter using the hashtag #RiseUp2017.

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