Progressive Challenge

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Template:TOCnestleft Progressive Challenge is a joint project of over 100 citizen groups in conjunction with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Institute for Policy Studies is one of the member groups.[1]

The Progressive Challenge

According to Democratic Socialists of America, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is a key component of the Progressive Challenge;

Our challenge for the 21st century is to provide economic security for all, reverse entrenched discrimination, achieve a sustainable use of both human and environmental resources, and build a society that values and embraces all its members. Toward this end, dozens of progressive organizations have joined forces with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to launch a series of dialogues and working groups entitled The Progressive Challenge. A centerpiece of this effort has been the drafting of the following 8-point Fairness Agenda for America. The Fairness Agenda (the full text is also available) is based on seven principles:
  1. Dignified Work
  2. Environmental Justice
  3. Economic Redistribution
  4. Democratic Participation
  5. Community Empowerment
  6. Global Non-Violence
  7. Social Justice

In 1998, the Progressive Challenge "plans to work with the Progressive Caucus to invite this new members and other returning members to join to caucus. Work continues, as well, on mobilizing grass roots Progressive Challenge forums.[2]

"The Progressive Challenge: Capitol Hill Forum"

On January 9, 1997, over 600 people attended "The Progressive Challenge: Capitol Hill Forum" sponsored by the House Progressive Caucus, Democratic Socialists of America, and a host of other progressive organizations.

The primary goal of this day-long "kick-off" forum was to "identify the unifying values shared by progressives at this point in US history, to help define core elements of a forward-looking progressive agenda, and to pinpoint ways to connect that agenda with the concerns of millions of disillusioned people who lack voices in present politics and policy-making."

After a welcome by Representative Bernie Sanders, an impressive array of legislators, activists, and thinkers offered their insights. Senator Paul Wellstone, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Patricia Ireland of NOW, Richard Trumka of theAFL-CIO, Noam Chomsky, William Greider of Rolling Stone, and DSA Honorary Chair Barbara Ehrenreich were among the many who spoke.

Some emphasized the importance of the conventional, if difficult, process of progressive candidates building grassroots campaigns that treat voters with intelligence and challenge prevailing wisdom regarding what values and issues motivate ordinary Americans struggling to make ends meet-as opposed to using polls and focus groups to concoct "designer" campaigns to appeal to upscale "soccer moms." Other speakers reminded those present that great changes are made by people acting outside of the corridors of power to define justice and "political reality," and the electoral and legislative processes are not the only arenas worthy of activists' attention.[3]

What virtually all participants acknowledged (thanks in no small part to DSA's role in helping to organize this event and in focusing the activities of the Working Group on Economic Insecurity) was that the centerpiece of a progressive agenda involves addressing the question of the economy and the disruptions, suffering, powerlessness and fear created by the mobility and power of corporations-without glossing over the racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other injustices exacerbated by economic uncertainty.
The next step at the policy level is a series of briefings for Congressional staff and members on specific issues related to economic justice (global economy, corporate responsibility, and welfare reform are among the topics to be covered). These briefings are planned for January and February, and out of the briefing sessions working groups on the issues will be formed. The working groups will include Congressional staff and progressive organizations who will help draft legislation. The coalition of activist groups is working on plans to bring the issues to the grassroots through a round of town meetings this spring and through the development of a network of progressive elected officials. The town meetings will be modeled on DSA's Public Hearings on Economic Insecurity and the AFL-CIO town meetings of 1996, and will bring Progressive Caucus members together with local activists.

Fairness Agenda

The eight steps of the Fairness Agenda are[4];

1. Enact a Fairness Budget for America

America's abundant resources must be used to build a decent society. We propose cutting military spending and corporate giveaways and reinstating progressive taxation, while reducing revenues to invest in human resources, such as schools and health clinics, and in infrastructure, such as mass transit.

2. Ensure Jobs, Living Wages, Benefits & Worker Rights for All

Our nation depends on a vigorous, creative, and innovative workforce that is assured basic rights. We propose government job creation in areas of high unemployment, laws requiring profitable companies to compensate workers and communities affected by job cuts, elimination of tax breaks for companies that provide excessive executive compensation, and stronger protections against labor rights violations and all forms of discrimination.

3. Fight for Equality for All

Despite recent progress, widespread discrimination, wage gaps by sex and race, and de facto segregation still exist. Two means of addressing these problems include sufficient funding for agencies that administer anti-discrimination laws and reinforcing affirmative action, while exploring the integration of class-based criteria into such programs.

4. Promote a Just and Sustainable Global Economy

Free trade agreements and World Bank/IMF structural adjustment programs (SAPs) have increased inequalities at home and abroad. We propose an international dialogue to develop a an alternative trade and development initiative that encompasses the protection of worker and women's rights, enviromental standards, and food security, and tackles the immigration and the need to reduce inequalities.

5. Support Demilitarization, Human Rights & a New Internationalism

We propose: cutting the defense budget; negotiating with Russia to eliminate nuclear weapons; shifting R&D priorities toward pressing domestic needs; stopping NATO expansion; ending subsidies for arms exporters; banning covert operations; shifting from unilateral military, aid, and peacekeeping missions abroad to multilateral responses; and promoting real human rights abroad, which include economic, social, and cultural rights.

6. Guarantee Sustainable Communities & Environmental Justice

The Federal government has given states and localities more responsibilities without more power or money. We propose: distribution of more no-strings Federal funds, especially to poor communities; revisions in trade agreements to allow communities to enact strong environmental and labor laws; and retargetting Federal insurance, subsidies, and loans for community development. On environmental justice, we propose: promoting the right to a clean environment and replacing subsidies for polluters with subsidies for ecologically sound products and services.

7. Provide Adequate Social Investment

We propose: preserving social security and protecting it from privatization; remaking economic security structures to address the needs of the poor; expanding Medicare eligibility to people of all ages and income; creating a bill of rights to protect health care consumers; increasing funds for low-income housing assistance; and providing adequate funds for quality public education.

8. Get Private Money out of Politics

Public outrage is increasing over the abuse of loopholes, systematic influence peddling, and political favors granted to special interests. We support initiatives to limit campaign spending, prohibit private campaign contributions to candidates, eliminate the need for fundraising, provide a financially level playing field, and tighten loopholes.

Progressive Challenge Sponsors

In addition to Democratic Socialists of America, sponsors of the Progressive Challenge include[5];



  1. IPS: home page, Dec. 5, 1998 (archived by Web Archive and accessed on Nov. 8, 2010)
  2. [Dem. Left Winter 1998, page 2]
  3. [Democratic Left • Issue #1 1997 * page 7-8]