CLEVELAND - I write tonight from Cleveland, Ohio, but the big news from the populist uprising is from Albany, New York, where Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno tonight announced he is retiring. This opens up about as big an opportunity as there is for the progressive uprising to wield its power - arguably as big an opportunity as the presidential election.
In THE UPRISING, I report firsthand on the battle by the Working Families Party to use fusion voting to help Democrats take back the New York State Senate, and how that battle has national implications because of the size of New York's economy. Getting Democrats full control of the New York legislature and governorship means that one of the largest economies in the world - the one that encompasses Wall Street - would be regulated by a Democratic (and hopefully progressive) government. Bruno's retirement brings Democrats one huge step closer to that goal.
For too long, progressives have ignored state politics, with organizations and donors focused almost exclusively on Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the Right has used its uprising of the 1970s and 1980s to focus intently on states. But with the rise of groups like the Progressive States Network (on whose board I serve), that's changing - and the potential shift in New York will help that change.
In the fight to convert today's populist uprising into real, concrete change, New York will be ground zero in 2009 if the Working Families Party and the Democratic Party are successful in bringing that state's legislature under full Democratic control. Because there is no filibuster in state legislatures like there is in the U.S. Senate, New York could become the single most important arena of progressive change in America come 2009.
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