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Political Revolutionists: Does an Inside-Outside Strategy Have a Chance?

It is going to take all of us -- inside the Democratic Party progressives and outside the Party activists -- to build a movement able to turn the tide away from the pro-Wall Street, pro-greed, anti-progressive destruction of our government.

As the presidential candidates for 2016 go kicking and sliding toward the final primaries -- and most especially into California, an increasing number of pundits with a knack for the writing and rewriting of history will offer their best guesses about Bernie’s next steps.  Many groups with thousands of Bernie volunteers will feel the pressure from those Bernie loyalists to never give up or give in.  And many thousands more are also clamoring now about how they might be able to influence those next steps.

Though many Bernie supporters know it in their minds, few like to acknowledge that the people’s movement Bernie has ignited will not be led by Bernie in the post-primary season, the general election campaign season, or even when the next president is inaugurated in January 2017.  Even if Bernie is elected as our president, his role has changed too.  The movement to bring about the kind of transformational change Bernie has adopted as his campaign platform is a “marathon not a sprint” to November.   This people’s movement requires a longer term commitment to the slogging, uncomfortable, underfunded and rarely appreciated work of getting and keeping people organized to fight the good fight.

Many of you know about the People’s Summit planned for June 17-19 in Chicago at McCormick Place.  My organization, Progressive Democrats of America, is one of the co-convening organizations.  PDA is committed to this political revolution, to using our inside-outside strategy to move our agenda, and to being the continued insurgency in the Party when we are able to effectively play that role – but we are not an arm of the Party nor are we tied to the Party in any formal or official way.  We were founded in 2004, and we have a rich history of activism.  We have chapters throughout the country doing incredible work to push for progressive change.

We would love to have you join us in Chicago for the People’s Summit to help raise the people’s voice loud and clear.  And if you want to do so as part of a group that has been pushing on the levers of power in many arenas, make sure to designate your affiliation with PDA.  

In 2008, as the Democrats prepared for their Denver convention, Progressive Democrats of America set a different course.  We engaged in a tough platform fight to help change the language of the Party platform around the issue of healthcare reform.  No other group – not one – was with us on this mission.  Many of our allies thought it was silly to even try.  We were undaunted.  That was part of our inside work, while our outside effort focused on pulling together progressives for strategizing, educating and solidarity at our own convening called, Progressive Central.  We’ll do that again in Philadelphia this year at the end of July, but our first stop is in Chicago to be a part of the People’s Summit.

Oh, wait, say all who are averse to anything or any group that has the word Democrat in its name.  Please, get over that.  Bernie has and did.  For all these many years as he served his home state’s constituents and the rest of us in Congress, he has caucused with the Democrats.  And most of you already know the rich history of PDA using a 2013 petition drive to encourage Bernie to run as a Democrat for the presidency.  Revisionists may want to craft their own tales, and I’ve heard many, but PDA has work to do.  We have excellent endorsed candidates from Bernie at the top to several great Congressional candidates – we are proud that the first two Congressional members to endorse Bernie – Keith Ellison, MN, and Raul Grijalva, AZ, serve on our advisory board.

It is always difficult to know the right next steps if you are accustomed to following the pack.  And in this case, if we all wait for Bernie to tell us those next steps, we have not heard his core message very well at all.  This is about movement.  Will we have a more inclusive, informed and receptive progressive in the White House if Bernie wins?  Of course.  Will he need a powerful people’s movement to demand change?  Of course.  What if someone else is elected president?  Will a powerful people’s movement be able to push that person to be more inclusive, informed and receptive to a people’s agenda?  Yes, a powerful movement can do that.  And at the People’s Summit in Chicago, we will all help chart the course ahead. 

Keep working for Bernie.  Keep working to get out the vote in the remaining primary states.  Keep partnering with other progressives to keep this national conversation going strong.  Whether you are an inside the Party progressive advocate or an outside the Party activist or even someone who only worked through this primary season because of Bernie’s candidacy, you will find your position honored and lifted at the People’s Summit.  It is going to take all of us continuing and growing our influence to move this political moment from notations about “the Bern” to its rightful recording in history as the period when the tide truly turned from the pro-Wall Street, pro-greed, anti-progressive destruction of our government to a wave of insistent justice that crashes against the barriers to change. 

The people are speaking.  And we aim to be heard.  Join us at the People’s Summit

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Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA's mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using "inside/outside" and "grassroots fusion" models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.