Progressive Democrats of America

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Progressive Democrats of America operates as an activist network inside the Democratic Party.

It has been described as the political arm of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and works closely with that body. PDA uses an Inside-Outside strategy enabling non Democratic Party members to influence party policy.

Mission

According to PDA's website[1];

Progressive Democrats of America was founded in 2004 to transform the Democratic Party and our country. We seek to build a party and government controlled by citizens, not corporate elites --with policies that serve the broad public interest, not just private interests. As a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, and outside in movements for peace and justice, PDA played a key role in the stunning electoral victory of November 2006. Our inside/outside strategy is guided by the belief that a lasting majority will require a revitalized Democratic Party built on firm progressive principles.
For over two decades, the party declined as its leadership listened more to the voices of Wall Street than those of Main Street. PDA strives to rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up – from every Congressional District to statewide party structures to the corridors of power in Washington, where we work arm in arm with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In just a couple of years, PDA and its allies have shaken up the political status quo – on issues from the Iraq war to voter rights to economic justice.

An article by PDA Executive Director Tim Carpenter[2]in Democratic Left Fall 2006 (official publication of Democratic Socialists of America) profiled the organization;

Progressive Democrats of America is a rapidly growing, two-year-old, 80,000-strong, 135-chapter organization operating in over 30 states. PDA’s board of advisers is a diverse group of committed progressive elected officials and activists.
Since its founding in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in July 2004, PDA has aggressively worked an “inside/outside” strategy, networking progressive Democratic elected officials inside the Beltway with grassroots Democrats and progressive movement activists across the country.

Strategy

From the PDA website;[3]

We will reach our goal by working inside the Democratic Party to return it to its roots as the party that represents the workers and the less fortunate, and by building coalitions outside the Democratic Party on shared issues.
By establishing chapters in all 435 congressional districts, we are creating an information and action conduit that allows us to effectively organize in response to or in support of congressional actions.
We work with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to support and bring forward progressive legislation on the core issues identified by our PDA chapters.

Claimed successes

Tim Carpenter claimed that Progressive Democrats of America had chalked up several achievements in its short life, successfully promoting initiatives by PDA board members John Conyers and James McGovern.

PDA was the driving force in the passage of resolutions opposing the war in Iraq by eight state Democratic Party meetings. The organization also was instrumental in the passage of resolutions in 10 states calling for the impeachment of President Bush.
PDA is often referred to by Congressional Progressive Caucus Executive Director Bill Goold as the CPC’s field operation, because PDA has built relationships with members of Congress by delivering grassroots support for their initiatives – from Rep. John Conyers’ investigation of the 2004 Ohio voting fraud to Rep. Jim McGovern’s bill to cut off funding for the war in Iraq, a current priority effort.

The organization worked hard for Marcy Winograd against Jane Harman and for other "progressive " Democrats including Donna Edwards, Christine Cegelis, Jerry McNerney, Tony Trupiano, John Hall, Jeff Latas, Gabby Giffords and Herb Paine.

While PDA is still only a progressive “pup” compared with big liberal dogs like MoveOn, PDA-backed candidates have taken some big bites out of conventional wisdom and centrist Democratic complacency. In Los Angeles, local PDA leader Marcy Winograd won 37 percent of the primary vote against entrenched pro-war Democrat Rep. Jane Harman with only two months of lead time. In Maryland, the dynamic Donna Edwards appears to have come only a few hundred votes short of toppling the multi-term Rep. Al Wynn in her first bid for public office, and she is seen as well-positioned to prevail in 2008. And in Illinois, with strong PDA support, Christine Cegelis, though outspent 8 to 1, nearly beat the candidate of the inside-the- Beltway Party leadership and Illinois party machine, Tammy Duckworth, to vie for the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde.
This fall, in the House, PDA is focusing attention and effort on several strong progressives worthy of note and support in hopes of flipping several seats from red to blue. In California, Jerry McNerny is running a strong race against an incumbent Republican. In Michigan, Tony Trupiano, with one of the nation’s strongest grassroots efforts, has his sights on an open seat in a Republican-leaning district. And in New York, anti-nuclear activist John Hall has won the Democratic nomination to challenge a four-term incumbent Republican. In Arizona, while the local PDA primary candidate, Jeff Latas, did not prevail, PDA will now enthusiastically join forces with PDA Board Member Rep. Raul Grijalva and support the nominee, the equally progressive Gabby Gifford, as well as PDA-backed Herb Paine, who won a razor-thin primary victory in a neighboring district.[4]

In the United States Senate primary races PDA unsuccessfully backed Jonathan Tasini against Hillary Clinton in New York, In Ohio, PDA backed successful candidate Sherrod Brown. In Connecticut, PDA campaigned to replace pro Iraq War Senator Joe Lieberman with Ned Lamont.

November wins by Brown, Lamont and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders could herald formation of a Senate Progressive Caucus.

Altering Congress/progressive strategy

Tim Carpenter went on to write that a Democratic victory would give "progressive " Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus control of many important Congressional positions.;

Finally, while PDA certainly understands the difference between a progressive Democrat and a DLC or centrist Democrat, the group urges vigorous work on behalf of all Democratic House candidates in November (2006).

This is because currently elected progressives and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are mostly in safe districts and so have held their seats for several terms, building seniority. Thus, election of a Democratic House majority this year would have absolutely huge ramifications for the progressive community when it comes to controlling committees: At least nine Congressional Progressive Caucus members would become committee chairs and an additional 35 CPC members would become subcommittee chairs! D

Carpenter went on to list those "progressives" he thought would secure chairmanships through a Democratic victory.

And subcommittee chairs:

Appropriations: Rosa DeLauro, Marcy Kaptur, John Olver, Jose Serrano and Ed Pastor

Armed Services: Neil Abercrombie

Education and Workforce: Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Kucinich

Energy and Commerce: Ed Markey, Jan Schakowsky, and Hilda Solis

Financial Services: Maxine Waters and Luis Gutierrez

Government Reform: Diane Watson, Dennis Kucinich, Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis and William Lacy Clay, Jr.

International Relations: Donald Payne

Judiciary: Sheila Jackson-Lee, Jerrold Nadler, and Mel Watt

Interior: Raul Grijalva, Tom Udall and Donna Christensen

Rules: James McGovern

Small Business: Madeleine Bordallo

Transportation and Infrastructure: Peter DeFazio, Bob Filner, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Corrine Brown

Ways and Means: Pete Stark, Jim McDermott and John Lewis

Carpenter finished by saying;

Read those names and committee assignments carefully. Imagine the investigative work that could be done on the Downing Street Memos and the Ohio voting irregularities andthe steps that could and would be taken toward the censure of President Bush with these members managing the committees.

For this reason, PDA is urging its members and all progressives to donate, organize, and vote Democratic in November. It may involve some holding of noses in some districts, but the stakes are high and the road ahead is long.
So the first step in moving the country toward a progressive consensus is restoring Democratic control of the House this year. The ground can be gained for progressives. PDA was founded to do just that. Join PDA and the growing movement to take back our party and our country!

Secretary of State races

PDA also worked to elect several "progressive" secretaries of state in 2006-a strategy identified by other groups such as the Secretary of State Project as a means of helping to ensure that elections were not 'stolen" from "progressive" candidates. Deborah Bowen, Mark Ritchie and John Bonifaz all received strong PDA backing.[5]

Given the importance of election integrity, PDA also has worked on secretary of state races around the nation, backing Deborah Bowen in California, Mark Ritchie in Minnesota, and PDA Board Member John Bonifaz in Massachusetts.

Support for Conyers Jobs Bill

In May 2010, Rep John Conyers introduced a bill entitled "The 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act." The bill was "little noticed at the time but, today, after another 7 months of dismal jobs reports -- we have actually lost ground during 2010, creating fewer jobs than the growth of the labor force -- there was renewed interest in this legislation by a range of progressive groups". The Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee made mobilization around the Act a national priority; Progressive Democrats of America "is developing a similar effort, as are both the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and the (DSA controlled) National Jobs for All Coalition".[6]

2012 election cycle, and beyond

Progressive Democrats of America , the self-described “grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, and outside in movements for peace and justice” held its third Progressive Central, a one-day gathering of politicians from the left wing of the Democratic Party and prominent activists from the labor, anti-war and environmental movements.

The “Progressive Central: The Peoples' Inauguration” in Washington, D.C., scheduled for January 19, two days in advance of Barack Obama's more prominent inauguration, a few miles across town on Capitol Hill, was intended to kick off PDA’s lobbying and organizing efforts for the next four years. In a national political context dominated by talk of austerity, PDA is aiming to keep popular progressive demands on the agenda in Congress—issues like universal single-payer healthcare, ending the wars while slashing the defense budget, and implementing a financial transactions tax. Emblematic of the group’s “inside-outside mission” of translating the demands of existing social movements into action from sympathetic members of Congress. The event featured a mix of Democratic representatives and leaders.

“When we say inside-outside, if it’s the peace issue, we’re working inside the Democratic Party to support Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) [who sponsored a bill last session calling for the swift removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan]. The outside piece would be working with folks like Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies and Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK,” Tim Carpenter, PDA’s executive director, told In These Times. “We’ve got to organize demonstrations, we’ve got to put together candlelight vigils, civil disobedience, the street heat, that’s the outside piece. What PDA is trying to do is be that bridge. Every great social movement starts outside the halls of Congress, but if it’s successful at the end of the day, it’s going to pass legislation.”

Carpenter stressed that Saturday’s event will launch the group’s work for the next four years. That plan, he said, will include monthly letter drops to members of Congress, urging them to support legislation that PDA allies in Congress plan to introduce, such as bills for single-payer universal healthcare or a financial transactions tax. PDA will also organize monthly discussions in Washington with its allies in Congress and the public interest community about the state of progressive legislation, in order to better co-ordinate support for those legislative efforts from PDA’s supporters and allies on the local level.

The organization, which does not have a dues-paying structure, has a mailing list of roughly 78,000 people who are concentrated in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and Wisconsin, according to Carpenter. Meanwhile, in the halls of Congress, PDA can count on a small handful of allies, most of whom hail from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The organization was coming off a moderately successful election cycle, with all of its incumbent allies—Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Barbara Lee—holding on to their seats.

PDA also benefited from some sympathetic newcomers in the 113th Congress. Out of the eight non-incumbent Democratic candidates the group endorsed in the 2012 election cycle, three picked up seats. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) won the election to fill incoming Senator Tammy Baldwin’s former congressional seat in Wisconsin. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), the vocal anti-war critic and champion of financial reform hailing from Central Florida, is making his return to Congress after being swept away in the 2010 Tea Party wave. And arguably the most prominent of PDA-supported candidates, Elizabeth Warren, would represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.

The remaining five PDA-endorsed candidates fell short in their efforts. Norman Solomon, a longtime environmental activist and the co-founder of the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, lost a close primary race in a very liberal district in northern California. Rob Zerban lost by more than 10 points to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). PDA-backed candidates also lost in Illinois, Georgia and Virginia.

“We’re realistic,” says Carpenter, who suggests that recent fiscal policy debates present an opportunity to push for cuts in military spending and a financial transactions tax. “We’re going to be playing a lot of defense, but we need to be playing defense with an eye toward moving these questions [forward] and taking the offensive again.”[7]

Progressive Round Table

On April 18, 2013, Progressive Democrats of America held a Progressive Round Table in D.C. with staffers Joseph Wender from Rep Ed Markey's office, Jenny Perrino from Rep. John Conyers' office, and Jamie Long from Rep. Keith Ellison's office who reported on key legislation and joined us discussing austerity pressure, budget priorities and more.

We also welcomed Ethan Rosenkranz from the Project on Defense Alternatives, Stephen Miles from Win Without War, Miriam Pemberton from the Institute for Policy Studies, Joan Stallard from CODEPINK, and Michael Lighty as well as several NNU nurses who were holding their lobby day on the Hill. [8]

Advisory Board

2012

PDA Advisory Board members, 2012:[9]

2009

PDA Advisory Board members, 2009:

PDA Emeritus Board

The following Emeritus Board members were active members of the PDA Advisory Board who served either during or from 2005-2009.[10]

References

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