If we scratch the surface of what causes us to act and are truthful with ourselves, we recognize that progressiveness has nothing to do with ‘us’ and everything to do with ‘us, all’. We’ve then admitted to ourselves that our ‘why’ in moving a progressive society ahead has, as its origin, that empathetic impulse to improve all lives. It arises from seeing ourselves in others.
Nowhere is it written that progressiveness is not associated with broad planning and activism. It’s not about angry, separatist political thought. It’s about changing hearts and minds.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, has a 50-state plan for what it calls People Power, founded only last year. The beauty of the movement is multi-faceted. It’s meant to be flexible to encourage activists to move on local issues while standing on the long-established structure and funding of the ACLU. “Local chapters [are] already in place, as well as funding for a long-haul effort”, says Marshall Ganz, who organized for the civil rights movement in Mississippi in 1964 and was the architect for Barack Obama’s grassroots campaign in 2007. I canvassed for President Obama in Cincinnati, and the structure of the campaign was masterful. It was built in a way that got commitment, respectfully, from each and every potential voter as to that person’s candidate preference, no matter the number of contacts required to do so.
Ganz makes an important distinction between ‘mobilizing’ which is what we largely see today – reactive – and away from ‘organizing’ which is local, broad and powerful.
In an interview with The Nation, Ganz says the ACLU changed their motto to ‘We the People.’ “That’s a pretty significant reframing. If you think of yourself as, ‘We the lawyers who are defending rights’ versus ‘We the people who are fighting for our rights’ – that’s a very different idea.”
“If there is one thing I will give Donald Trump credit for, he has given birth to what may be a golden age of citizen activism.” — Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director. Faiz Shakir, ACLU national political director and architect of People Power, is “leveraging a movement… that builds out long-term infrastructure to prevent the next Trump.”
The ACLU says, “We’ll do the work in the courts. You do the work in the streets.”
Interested in changing hearts and minds?