With state legislatures convening right now, the Progressive States Network is working overtime in a number of areas and on a number of issues. Last week, with the help of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), we launched the 50-State Anti-Escalation Campaign against President Bush's "surge" plan in Iraq. The campaign is moving forward quickly, as thousands of you have used Progressive States' web tool to contact your state legislators demanding they introduce state resolutions urging Congress to take immediate action to stop the escalation (update later this week on states moving bills). Now today, Progressive States has two major op-eds in key states about other critical issues state legislators are facing.
The first piece is in the Billings Gazette, Montana's largest paper. It is written by Steve Doherty, Progressive States' co-chair; and Dan Geldon, a former staff member for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee who is an expert on bankruptcy and credit issues (and who you may have seen over at TPM Cafe). The Montana legislature is currently considering a bill to crackdown on payday lending. The bill has, not surprisingly, faced opposition from powerful interests who are profiting off exorbitant interest rates. Those interests recently managed to engineer a negative committee vote on the bill, but with House Minority Leader John Parker and Attorney General Mike McGrath pushing hard, the legislation is expected to come up for more votes. This op-ed is designed to help build grassroots pressure for the legislation, especially on lawmakers from Billings, the largest city in Montana.
The second piece appears in the Baltimore Sun and is authored by Joel Barkin, Progressive States' executive director. It looks at how an army of corporate lobbyists is focusing in on state legislatures now that Democrats have taken control of Congress. The piece goes through a series of progressive policies that states have led the way on - and that Big Money interests are determined to eviscerate.
It's easy for all of us to become totally focused on what's happening in Washington, to the exclusion of everything else. Society at large (and admittedly parts of the progressive movement) have succumbed to a celebrity-obsessed culture, entranced by the false premise that the only important people are the Senators and Congressmen who preen like royalty inside the Beltway. This is undoubtedly fueled by a media that makes it seem as if the only thing that matters is what happens in the U.S. Capitol or the White House.
Yet, much of the power in this country is found at the state level. The conservative movement figured this out long ago, and has been effectively governing this country with state policy for at least a decade, if not more. This is why we originally established the Progressive States Network, and why we are working with so many courageous state legislators across the country in moving the progressive agenda. It may not be as glamorous as cocktail party receptions on Capitol Hill - but often times glamor and power are not connected. And at the end of the day, successful movements are built from the bottom up and focused on using power for substantive - not rhetorical - ends. That's what the battle for the states is all about.