Friday, June 23, 2006

Getting our act together on the left

After a year or more of planning, and involvement by dozens of groups and more than 100 activists, a new statewide progressive network makes its debut today.

Its goal is nothing less than to make Wisconsin a progressive state again.

Yes, it's a long-term project, in a state where Republicans hold big majorities in both houses of the legislature, and where the most extreme elements of the GOP drive the agenda.

But Wisconsin has been a blue state in presidential elections since before the term blue state was invented. The last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state was Ronald Reagan.

But the new group, called One Wisconsin, isn't just about elections. It's about long-term change in the state's political climate, about building support for progressive programs and policies.
"This isn't an election-year, fly-by-night P.O. box operation. This is a long-term operation that's being built to last," John Kraus, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, told the Journal Sentinel.
Kraus, who most recently worked as an aide to US Sen. Russ Feingold, has a 10-year track record of successful political work in Wisconsin, including work on campaigns for Gov. Jim Doyle, presidential candidates John Edwards and Al Gore, Superintendent of Public Instruction Libby Burmaster, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He's also been executive director of the state Democratic Party.

Craig Gilbert's story today is the first public announcement of the project.

It coincides with the launch of an impressive new website by One Wisconsin Now, the communications hub of the project, and the piece of the project that will engage the public and attract the most attention.

One Wisconsin Now (OWN)says it is "an independent, non- partisan advocacy organization that unites research, policy, message, communications and networking activities of organizations that are dedicated to a progressive public policy agenda in Wisconsin."

OWN's website features a blog by Cory Liebmann, formerly of Eye on Wisconsin, who will be the group's "netroots" coordinator; The Forward Report, a daily news commentary; and more. It is still in development, and will offer inter-active features for progressives to get involved.

Robert Kraig, policy director of OWN,was the Wisconsin State Political Director for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for the last six years, managing SEIU's state electoral, public policy, and communications programs.

Ambitious? That's hardly an adequate word to describe the undertaking. It's about changing the world, or at least Wisconsin's piece of the world.

OWN, while the most visible piece of the project, is not the whole show by any means. There is also an organizing component as well as a separate electoral piece. But the main focus is on long-term change, not short-term electoral gain.

Will it work? Check back with me in a year.

It is certainly worth the effort, and could bring some real change -- if Wisconsin's progressives can sustain the interest they've generated in the project in the past year. That, and funding, are the challenges.


At 10:22 AM, Blogger XOut said...

It would at least be more sporting if liberals could figure out what they stand for and finally have a point.

Good luck.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger publius said...

Maybe they can run really flashy ads on TV that say Mark Green is against Mom and apple pie...

Oh wait, some group did that already. What was the name of that organization again?

At 11:29 AM, Blogger boblaughalott said...

Just keep Ed Garvey and his pals away from this thing so that it keeps some chance at actually being effective.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger James Wigderson said...

I'm sure the attorney general's office will kick in fifty grand.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Shades said...

Why don't they just call it the tribe and union money-laundering organization? One dirty 527 just isn't enough for the lefties.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger jhaas said...

Given that you're based in Milwaukee (Bay View, even), do yourself the favor of coming to Drinking Liberally on a regular basis and making the group known to the many attendees. We're just a mile away (Club Garibaldi, 2501 S. Superior St.) and meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month, 7 PM onward. Bring lit, and it will be taken!

At 1:15 AM, Blogger Spotlight said...

I feel the playing field beginning to level.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger tosa voter said...

I think this is an outstanding idea and i'm happy to see liberals finally working together on a coherant philosophy.
On a 2nd note, why would anyone listen to what Mr. "I'm terrified of Milwaukee County, oh please dont make me go across 124th street" Wigderson has to say on any issue. If he's againist it, i'm for it.


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