Last Tuesday at the home of a community organization in South Central Los Angeles, some of California's brightest political minds took an extraordinary step that will send shockwaves clear to Sacramento. It wasn't a setting that most power-brokers would consider important. There were no lobbyists, expensive hors d'oeuvres, or fancy cars; no press conference or wink, wink, nudge, nudge glad-handing. Come November 2012, however, every Democrat and Republican in the state will marvel at what went on there.
Amidst the mountain of coffee cups and lovingly prepared soul food, were organizers from 51 organizations across California. These people -- young, old, and as diverse as California -- were all united under a single purpose: going on offense. Convened by the visionary California Calls, a statewide grassroots alliance, we spent the day learning, collaborating, and making BIG plans.
2012 stands as a monumental year for California. Conservative ideologues have hatched a ballot measure which they see as landing a decisive blow against the progressive movement: the Orwellian "Paycheck Protection" initiative, more accurately known as "Paycheck Deception." If passed under the auspices of "campaign finance reform" this Republican scheme would take away the right of both corporations and unions to use payroll deductions for political purposes. Of course, corporations don't use payroll deductions for political purposes, so it would, in effect, force a unilateral disarmament of California's labor unions.
On the other hand, rumors abound of a very different sort of ballot initiative. One that would stand out as a bold solution to the imbalance of wealth in the hands of the 1%: a tax measure forcing the wealthiest Californians to pay a little more for the state that has given them so much. It wouldn't restore our state to its former glory, but it would raise $6 billion dollars to lower college fees, rehire teachers, repair roads and reopen libraries and fire stations.
Our day revolved around these two diametrically opposed initiatives. But unlike so many conversations before, our strategy went beyond simply winning the election. Inspired by insights offered by Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion, Patrick Bresette of Demos, Steve Smith from the California Labor Federation and Ben Tulchin from Tulchin Research, we crafted messages that could cultivate a new vision of our state and inspire others to join our truth squad for the 99% bent on restoring the California Dream.
That last and final point is the biggest news of all. At the end of the day, all 51 organizations --including the Courage Campaign, California Federation of Teachers, Dolores Huerta Foundation for Community Organizing, Liberty Hill, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote, SEIU, and PICO -- decided to explore a formal partnership to take on the challenges of 2012. Progressive leaders are trading notes, breaking down silos, building power and going on offense. In 2012, the strength of the 99% will be felt in California.
Learn more about the Dolores Huerta Foundation at www.doloreshuerta.org.
Learn more about California Calls at www.cacalls.org.