Saturday, February 26, 2005

Speech for 4th CD Grassroots

4th Congressional District
Conference on Activism
Chad Lupkes

I want to start with some poetry.

The moose has left the wooded hill;
his call rings through the land.
It's a summons to the young and strong
to join with willing hand:
To fight for right and country;
to strike down a robber band,
And we'll go marching on.

Progressive Party Convention, June, 1912

Who am I.

I joined the efforts of the Democratic Party during the run up to the 2004 Precinct Caucuses supporting Howard Dean, and I was the elected Chair of my own caucus. I have been more and more active in the 46th Legislative District Democrats over the past year. I am currently the website manager for Democracy for Washington and the Progressive Democratic Caucuses of Washington, along with several County and LD organizations within Washington State including Kittitas County and the 13th LD, as well as some specific candidates like Tami Green and Jim Barnett. I am currently the newsletter editor for the 46th LD and an At-Large member of the Executive Board. And on and on... No rest for the willing it seems.

Democracy for Washington


When Howard Dean dropped out of the race on February 18th, many of the people who had been in leadership positions for his campaign in Washington State decided not to let the movement die. I asked them how I could help, and became their website developer. On March 18th, Gov. Dean came to Seattle to launch Democracy for America, and we launched the Democracy for Washington website the same day. We held a well attended Gubernatorial Candidate Forum, and all three Democratic candidates showed up to give their stump speeches and answer questions from the audience. It was a good start.

DFW Mission

We are a progressive citizen's organization that stands for fiscal responsibility and social responsibility. We support the grassroots on the frontlines of democracy, by encourging activists to get involved in local political organizations and targeted campaigns, by providing a network connection between activists and political leadership through technology, candidate forums, networking and social events such as Meetups, and by directing new candidates to professional training to help them compete and win.

DFW Actions in progress

The DFW Core is traveling the state in partnership with Progressive Majority to work with local activists on candidate recruitment, development and support. We've met in Bellingham, Olympia, Vancouver, and we'll be in Spokane on the 12th and Yakima on the 13th. Please go to our website,, to RSVP. We have raised money for candidates including Don Barbieri, and have recruited volunteers for campaigns in the 2004 election, and will be more active in this and future cycles. We are also developing a series of social events to allow progressives to strengthen their network and meet political leaders who make decisions affecting them.

Progressive Democratic Caucuses of Washington


In 2004, some members of the 46th Legislative District Democrats had been meeting over the summer and early fall to discuss ways to make their local party organization more transparent and more responsive to the progressive platform and to grassroots concerns at the district level. We also wanted to work both inside and outside the party structure to engage candidates and work on issues.

After the Democratic National Convention in July, 2004 many delegates returned to Washington State energized by the newly-formed Progressive Democrats of America ( The PDA is a union of the Dean and Kucinich campaigns, started by grassroots activists who understood that this fight would not be won or lost on November 2nd. Several of them wanted to form a Progressive Caucus within the Democratic Party here in Washington State. They put together a proposal for the Progressive Democratic Caucuses of Washington and shopped it around to former Kucinich and Dean supporters they had met during the 2004 Presidential Primary campaign.

They recieved somewhat contradictory feedback. Some people thought that the organization should function outside of any political party, and some believed that the organization should function as a caucus within the Democratic Party. The separation came from the difference between electoral politics and issue-based politics, and the fact that many of our members are so disillusioned with the Democratic Party that they wanted to stand back and let us work on it before they would be willing to join.

We did both. PDCW is the caucus within the Democratic Party, and Progressive Change for Washington is a non-partisan group working exclusively on issues. We'll see how that works.

PDCW Mission Statement

Political activists from the State of Washington are joining together to create Progressive Caucuses within their Democratic Legislative Districts.

The Caucus will work to implement the progressive platform of the district by educating members, articulating public policy, and holding our elected officials accountable for representing that platform.
The Caucus will work to maintain the new energy of the Democratic Party by encouraging transparency of Party processes, rapid and open communication with members, and continuing tolerance of diverse viewpoints.

We will promote policies and candidates that steadfastly support peaceful resolution to conflict, the protection of human rights, public infrastructure and natural spaces, as well as economic, racial, social and environmental justice.

WSDCC Caucus Meeting

On January 28th, the first meeting of the WSDCC Progressive Caucus met. We are still trying to figure out how long it has been since there was a Progressive Caucus here in Washington within the Democratic Party, or any party for that matter. My research so far says 1916. We elected officers, and those officers have formed a bylaws committee. We need this formal structure to have the most impact.

How the WSDCC Progressive Caucus works with the LD level caucuses.

We are committeed to developing our relationship and evolve into a formal caucus. Right now we are looking at the possible legal and financial structures to make sure that we can do what we set out to do.

To what end?

I am often asked what the Progressive Movement wants to accomplish. Will we try to get candidates into office? Will we draft legislation for our representatives to submit? Our actions need to be guided by a question. "What will this accomplish?" 90% of policy is decided on election day, because it gives certain people the authority to make decisions. So, supporting candidates is important. But so is writing legislation that actually accomplishes what we want. Always look forward to how you are affecting things. The journey is as important as the destination. The method of accomplishing change is as important as the change itself.

Engage, Educate, Empower

As activists, we need to engage, educate and empower.

To the grassroots, this means that we talk with our neighbors to find out what they care about and what we have in common. We need to educate them about what we think on those issues and come to a mutual understanding of how we can work together to accomplish something about upcoming decisions on a local, state and national level. Then we need to provide the tools so we can empower people to get their voice heard.

To our current elected officials, we need to engage them on the issues we care about, educate them on our positions on those issues, and empower them to make decisions in support of those positions. We grant them the power to make those decisions. We need to convince them to use that power to support us.

Message and Infrastructure, Yin and Yang

I believe that in any political organization, there are two things that are required to be successful. The first is the message itself, and the second is the infrastructure necessary to get that message out. One cannot succeed without the other.

What is Progressive?

One problem is that too many people see things on a single axis, Left vs. Right, Liberal vs. Conservative. They see a majority bump in the middle of the spectrum and spend all their time and effort trying to push the party line over in the direction of their opposition to try and get that extra single percentage point that will put them over the top. The Republicans have mastered that art. The Democratic Party has never been good at it. The Party seems to focus too much of it's energy trying to make that push for the 'center'. We are operating under an illusion, and will continue to lose until we break that illusion and refocus on what is really important. Progressive is not far left. Draw a line perpendicular to the Liberal/Conservative line, and put Progressive at one end, with those who put profit over the needs of our people and our planet on the other end. We are not the radicals. We are the people.

What does it mean to be Progressive?

This is my framing and it consists of four parts.

Grassroots, People-Powered Democracy

If a decision is being made on any level of government that affects you, your voice should be heard on that issue. I've recently read a book that made me realize how far we have come and how far we have to go. The Tao of Democracy is a description of how the evolution of our democratic processes is occurring all around the world. What we need in this country and around the world is a way for people to get directly involved in the way our government operates. Many opportunities exist now, but they are hidden behind a wall of secrecy and only the hard-core activists seem to be able to break through. We have to make the process of electoral and issue based politics transparent and open so everyone can get involved.

The Concept of WE

The Earth is a single environment. Everything that affects individuals affects groups, and the larger the subject, the larger the group that is affected. I'm tired of hearing people describe the world in terms of 'us versus them'. We're all on this planet together, and the more we understand that, the better we will be able to create a world that works for everyone. How can we get a better understanding of how everyone is linked together, and that something affecting one affects us all?

Understanding the Past

Where do our problems come from? How do they relate to each other? If we search for an understanding of our past mistakes, we gain a better understanding of how not to repeat them. Maybe we can even solve two problems with the same action.

Looking to the Future

It's not enough anymore to think and act for the moment. In the big picture, we are creating the world of the future by our actions today. I'm concerned about how my children are growing up, but I'm just as concerned about the kind of world their grandchildren will be living in. We should grant them the power to turn that world into whatever they wish it to be, with clean air and water, energy resources to explore their dreams, a peaceful world where people talk instead of fight with each other. What can we do now, either big decisions or small actions, that can help to create that world of opportunity?

Progressive Networking

The Conservative Movement did not start out in lock step, and they are not there now. What they have done is found a way to minimize the separations and appear united. We need to find out how to use our diversity as a strength instead of a way to keep us separated. United we stand, divided we fall. Diverse does not mean divided. Our network already exists, but it's not documented in a way that we can use effectively. The voter file hosted by the Washington State Democratic Party is a good first step. It will help us identify people in our precincts and districts that we can count on. We also need to connect with groups, identify issues and plan events. All four pieces of the networking puzzle need to be connected together.

How many progressive organizations do you think there are in Washington State? 25? 50? Actually the PDCW has identified over 200 different progressive groups that we have begun contacting. And that number is growing.

Paradigm Shift

The Progressive Movement is the face at the base of the Democratic Party. For the last hundred years, we've been watching and waiting. We campaigned for Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. We fought for Sufferage. We voted for Franklin Roosevelt 4 times. We voted for JFK and LBJ, and we fought in the War on Poverty in pursuit of the Great Society. We stood by our African American brothers and sisters to grant them equality and civil rights. Some of us voted for Ross Perot in 1992 looking for someone who could balance the budget. Bill Clinton gave that to us in the 90's. Some of us voted for Nader in 2000 because we didn't like what we saw in the top two campaigns. This is the Progressive Movement that was engaged by Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich in 2003. In 2004, we couldn't gain the clout within the Democratic Party in time to get the nomination. But what we have done is recognized what the illusion is and we're working on trying to break it. Think of the Parties as teams on a sports field, with the people in the stands supporting their teams. The problem is who owns the field and who pays the referees. It's time for the Progressive Movement to understand who we are and what we have to do. There are two major times in history that show us the way. 1932 and 1994. We must study and learn the lessons of both. We need a Roosevelt, and we need a Gingrich. Or do we? I think that we are the ones that we have been waiting for.

We are at war. Bush v. Gore was not the first shot. This has been going on for decades. The 2004 election was one of the first battles where we truly understood the stakes. We fought hard, and we almost won. The Conservative Movement won that battle. But the war goes on. And the only way we can lose this is if we stop fighting.

This is where we must recognize the change that needs to occur. In a standard business hierarchy, you have the President/CEO and the Board of Directors at the top, then the high level managers, divisional managers, low level managers and then the salespeople. At one point, Bruce Nordstrom was asked to draw out the heirarchy of the Nordstrom corporation. He drew the normal pyramid, then turned it upside down. The people on the front lines are the people who are the face of the company, and everyone in the chain from those front lines back to the President is there to support that front line, not the other way around.
In politics, the people on the front lines have been the political pundits and their guests on the TV in people's living rooms. Thanks to the 2004 campaign, now we know differently. The people on the front lines are the people who walk from house to house to talk to their neighbors. They invite people into their homes for meetups and social gatherings. And these are the people who are looking for support from the rest of the structure. We are turning politics upside down. As we do this, there will be holes that need to be filled. Maybe you need talking points on a particular issue. Maybe you want to support a candidate or an issue campaign and need some quick fundraising. Maybe you need to schedule, plan and execute a forum between two candidates for a local office. My local party organization, the 46th, has one general meeting per month, and one Executive Board meeting per month. The Democratic Party can't do everything. And this is where groups like DFW and the PDCW can step in to help. We need your help to find those holes, and we need your help to fill them. Remember, WE are the ones that WE have been waiting for.

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