Who said the progressive movement was dead? It is alive and well in Tucson, Arizona.
An estimated 300 activists, liberals, Green Party members, and Democratic Party foot soldiers crammed into a large meeting room at the YWCA on the west side of Tucson Monday night for the inaugural meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Tucson Chapter.
Twenty minutes before the meeting started, it was standing room only. By the time the first speaker began at 7 p.m., all chairs were filled and people were standing 2-3 deep on the sidelines, sitting 4-5 deep on the floor in front, and standing out in the hall.
Pretty much all of Tucson’s liberal leaders and volunteers– including a significant portion of Democratic Party Precinct Committeepersons (PCs)– came to hear what Congressman Raul Grijalva, populist radio commentator Jim Hightower and PDA leaders Tim Carpenter and Mimi Kennedy had to say.
As one of the introductory speakers, Carpenter sparked cheers from the crowd with fiery rhetoric, saying, “We [PDA] are not the Democratic Party… We’re the insurgency of the Democratic Party!”
Carpenter said that PDA was born out of the presidential races of Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean. He gave a shout-out to other liberal groups whose members were in attendance: MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Jobs with Justice, and the Central Labor Council.
“Building community and building organization. That’s what PDA is about,” said Carpenter. But despite their efforts, progressives learned in recent years that electing a Democratic Party president and Congress wasn’t enough to get progressive legislation enacted. PDA is now going to work inside and outside the Democratic Party for real change in America.
The speeches were punctuated with cheers when Carpenter, Grijalva, and Hightower talked about taking our country back from the radical right and corporate pawns in the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Hightower warned activists that taking the country back from the corporate oligarchy that now runs it would be a long struggle and likened it to the 70-year battle for women’s suffrage.
Hightower did admit that he wasn’t beyond “colluding with the pharmaceutical industry” in his quest to rebuild the middle class. He wants them to invent a “new Viagra” that could be used to stiffen the spines of Democrats and give them the backbone to fight for the middle class, rather than kowtowing to big business and their lobbying machine.
After the speeches, attendees broke up into issue organizing teams around PDA’s six core issues:
- Single-payer healthcare (Medicare for All)
- Peace (ending the wars and occupations and redirecting the funds)
- Clean elections and voter rights (including repeal of Citizens United and elimination of private funding for elections)
- Economic and social justice
- Accountability of elected officials
- Environment and global warming
Republicans and Republican-lite Democrats– be forewarned. Like the Tea Party on the right, progressives are “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore”. Well, maybe we’re seriously annoyed and not going to donate to or volunteer for Republican-lite anymore. Southern Arizona Leadership Council Democratic Party sympathizers and No Labels Democrats could be in trouble, if even half of the Democratic Party PCs in attendance decide to work for real progressive candidates and issues instead of just settling for someone who is not Republican.
The Tucson meeting was the second in a series of PDA organizing meetings across the state. According to Carpenter, the Bisbee organizing meeting drew 120 attendees; later this week PDA will hold events in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Winslow.
Watch for an update of this story with full video of the speeches.