Politics is a two way street. It requires both an active and engaged electorate, but also elected officials who support that culture of involvement with a transparent, accessible process. Even given the pressures of maintaining during this harsh economic climate, in fact more now, we owe it to each other to show up. But this is about more than just casting a ballot. It is also about asking the tough questions, demanding good answers, and ensuring our communities are well informed. Not paying attention's a great way to get taken advantage of.
We need all of your two cents to truly manifest that "New Wave" of Chicago Politics trumpeted on the front page of the Sun-Times after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's Democratic Primary victory one year ago. But in this case, we're not saving up in hopes of offering the 24-carat comb Rod Blagojevich would have surely accepted as payment for President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.
Though maintaining a commitment to engaging emerging leaders for a lifetime of political action, when Progressive Alliance PAC hosts its official launch and fundraiser, Tuesday, February 15th, it will be with an expanded mission. During this February's Municipal Election, we are working to defend and grow the Progressive Caucus in City Council.
Although the Millennial Generation has been named "the most progressive generation" by a recent Pew Research Center poll and others, "post-college, with its arms-reach activism, too many are confronted by the same political vacuum", said member, Kristina Zaremba. Most 18- to 35-year-olds have not yet started families and don't worry about exactly who controls those school budgets. Most have college loans, as opposed to the high-powered jobs which would land their names on some campaign fundraising list. They are labeled as infrequent voters; not even worthy of registration, let alone get-out-the-vote efforts. Yet that same group overwhelmingly staffs those very political campaigns. They are the front line workers giving long hours for low pay to many a non-profit institution. It is exactly this community of committed, informed, political non-entities that the Progressive Alliance has succeeded in activating.
During our very first action last fall, covered by Progress Illinois, HuffPost, and Gaper's Block, and linked to by CBS, more than 120 Progressive Alliance volunteers hit the streets in 12 wards all across Chicago, logging 500+ total hours and registering over 700 new voters in a single weekend. "But most importantly, we had tens of thousands of political conversations with members of our own communities", said co-founder, Karlo Marcelo. Using a combination of peer-to-peer organizing and new media, in tandem with old-fashioned direct voter contact, Progressive Alliance PAC has expanded on that core group and readied ourselves for the next step. For this year's Municipal Election we are committed to defending and growing the Progressive Caucus in the Chicago City Council.
Moving beyond the limitations of the traditional, but arbitrary, political divisions such as age, race, and socio-economic class has allowed our membership to define itself based on shared beliefs. The Progressive Alliance's mission is greater than any individual politician or elected office, and broader than any single issue. Our current needs far exceed the scope of any one of these. As opposed to the common model of parachuting in election workers in the final months, we have built a diverse but unified community that plugs citizens in to their democracy year-round. By forging this lasting coalition of progressive, Democratic, Independent and reform organizations and leaders, we can create a political process where residents feel a sense of connection, urgency and progress. Only then can we ensure the officials we elect are public servants, and that government protects human rights and invests in the long-term stability of communities.
Together, we can reestablish our rightful ownership of the electoral process and public policy. Said new member, Umair Mamsa, "anyone who feels like we got less than was promised by our new president, those of us who felt underwhelmed by our choices for mayor, and those who will never get used to our Aldermen passing their jobs off to sons and daughters, or even their drivers -- we are no longer asking for a sharing of power. We are creating it."
Speaking at the event will be Billy Wimsatt, founder of the League of Young Voters and author of 'Please Don't Bomb the Suburbs', and Don Washington, WBEZ correspondent and founder of mayoraltutorial.com. The People's DJ Collective, of Peace Party fame, are contributing music. Visit myprogressivealliance.org to learn more. Tickets are $25, with $15 tickets available for students. Donate now or buy a ticket to celebrate the Progressive Alliance PAC Launch from 6-9 p.m. at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 1 W Grand.