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Local candidate Jefferson Smith embodies the spirit of New Organizing Institute's new program
Progressive training organization New Organizing Institute launched a new program "2,012 for 2012," designed to recruit 2,012 new candidates to run for local offices in the 2012 elections. NOI's efforts have been so successful leading up to the official launch of the campaign, with 2020 pledges as of Friday morning, that they have already revised their goal upward to now target 5,000 new progressives running for local offices in next year's election.
Across America there are more than half a million local elected offices -- that's more than 500,000 ways to influence whether government serves the 99% or just the 1%. We need progressive voices at every table where decisions are made that impact our families, from state legislatures to utility commissions.
2,012 for 2012 is a non-partisan initiative to recruit a new generation of progressive candidates for local office. The initiative is a movement-wide effort driven by some of the most effective and creative progressive non-profits in the country, and hosted by the Candidate Project (a program of the New Organizing Institute).
Early partners in the campaign include: Progressive Majority, Emerge America, the American Dream Movement, Credo Mobile, Democracy for America, Color of Change, Living Liberally, the Women's Campaign Fund and America Votes.
Huffington Post reported on the importance of the campaign:
The effort is being led by Carlos Odio, who served on the Obama campaign and in the White House's Office of Political Affairs.
"[The White House] was a very good vantage point to see that increasingly, in so many of the fights that we were fighting, the battlefields were actually out in the states," Odio told The Huffington Post in an interview. "If we really want to make some progress on all these things that we care about, we not only have to get those decision-makers to be our allies, we have to actually elect our allies as decision-makers."
Groups like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority led the way in grassroots organizing in the latter part of the 20th century -- long before George W. Bush became president. They took advantage of local organizations that already existed in church and home-schooling groups and turned them into powerful political constituencies. Activists backed socially conservative candidates at all levels and elevated issues like school prayer to the national stage.
Ralph Reed served as executive director of the Christian Coalition in the 1990s and now heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He told The Huffington Post that while progressives may now be looking to stop conservative gains at the local level, conservatives were originally taking a page from the progressive playbook, pointing to politician and presidential nominee Bob LaFollette in Wisconsin, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor movement in Minnesota and Woodrow Wilson in New Jersey.
"They really believed that change and reform would percolate up from the states to the federal level. And that the state, I believe -- to borrow a phrase from Louis Brandeis -- were laboratories of democracy," he said. "So you began by winning control of state legislatures and capitols -- and that's where the first child labor laws were passed, that's where women first gained the right to vote. All the things that we associate with the progressive movement reforms were first done at the state level."
"We did the same," he continued. "Before Newt Gingrich was speaker and George W. Bush was president, you had people like John Engler and Tommy Thompson and Rudy Giuliani who were reforming welfare in their states. And change in America always goes from the state to the national level, not the other way around."