Organizing progressive politicians

How a billionaire's son helped block a legal pot dispensary, and taking seriously the financial toll of primaries

Happy 2020! I hope everyone’s year is off to a good start, and I have three new stories to share.

  • In The American Prospect I have a feature looking at Local Progress — a growing national network of over 1,000 progressive city councilmembers. Its aim is to train and mobilize local electeds to be more effective, and frankly more ambitious once they get into office.

    As Helen Gym, a Philly city councilmember, put it: “When you run for office there are a million and one programs and networks to help you, and they often talk all about the obstacles you’ll face in a campaign, like barriers for money, patriarchy, and racism. But once you get elected there’s almost nothing in place to support you.”

    As Brad Lander, a NYC city councilmember, added: “We probably spend at least $100 on getting people elected for every dollar we spend on trying to help them succeed once they have. And that’s being really generous. It might be $1,000 to $1.”

    When we think of organizing, we don’t usually think of organizing politicians, but that’s really what this network has set out to do. It’s not always smooth-sailing, and there are all kinds of barriers and obstacles these leaders have to contend with, but what I learned I found really interesting, and I would definitely characterize Local Progress as a valuable new piece of infrastructure in progressive political life.

  • On January 1, Illinois became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana. But residents in Decatur, IL won’t be getting a recreational pot dispensary, or cannabis-related businesses in their town anytime soon. I looked at how the massive donations from Howard G. Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, influenced that situation. You can read that Intercept story here.

  • And lastly, there are so many reasons why it's challenging for average people to mount primary challenges against federal incumbents. But one reason that's rarely talked about is the financial risks and sacrifices it requires to campaign if you’re not independently wealthy. I talked with three working class candidates about how they’re managing their personal finances this cycle, and why they’re running for Congress despite the strain. You can read that Intercept story here.


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