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You Still Have the Power

In 2006, the Fifty-State Strategy helped put Congress in the hands of Democrats. In 2008, it put the White House in our hands too. We worked hard; we listened to the boots on the ground, and America voted for Democrats — often in places once thought off limits to Democratic candidates.  Americans honored us with the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to lead.

In 2010, we face the reality that the culture of incumbency and corruption in Washington will not be changed just because Barack Obama was elected President, or just because the Democrats have majorities in both Houses.

You know the problems:

• A handful of Democrats openly siding with Republicans to kill health care reform — a core plank in the Democratic Party Platform — and then being rewarded for it.

• An activist right-wing on the Supreme Court that has shown the world that they are willing to blow-up over 200 years of institutional honor in the name of their own ideology.

• A GOP guided by a strategy of “no” that time and time again puts politics ahead of what’s good for America.

• And most importantly, the sense that too many candidates whom we have trusted and worked to elect have become part of the lobbying, money, legislative merry-go-round, instead of the solution that we thought they would be.

In the face of this frustration, in the face of low Democratic voter turnouts because people are fed up; in the face of friends and allies seemingly giving up; in the face of Democrats losing because they won’t stand up for the values of the Party; I think it’s time we took stock of ourselves, our considerable accomplishments, our opportunity to lead, and where we are going with our efforts to change our country.

If we stop for a minute, take a piece of paper and write down our values, for me, it’s simple:

• We value a healthcare system that covers all of us.

• We value a Democratic Party that fights for real change, in all 50 states, even when it’s hard.

• We value the ability to compromise without compromising our values.

• We value leaders who won’t quit, and who are willing to take risks. We appreciate leaders like Congresswoman Pingree and Congressman Polis who are still working for a public option.

• We value a good, strong American backbone.

Most of all, we value grassroots political activism because it is the citizens of our country who must seize control of our politics. Grassroots organizations like Democracy for America — the organization I founded in 2004 — have helped many progressives get elected to office and many more to take leadership positions in the Party and on legislative and electoral campaigns, all over the country and up and down the ballot, in just five years.

Later this year elections will be held across our country, and there is work being done that will decide the future direction of policies and politics at the local, state, and federal levels.

• Already, efforts are underway to reform the New York State Senate whose longtime incumbents are vulnerable because they could not govern.

• Many groups, including DFA are already working on critical local elections that will bring reformers into politics, such as this week’s election of Mariyana Spyopoulos to Cook Water Reclamation Board, a governing body with over a billion dollars of responsibility and overseer of Chicagolands most precious resource, Lake Michigan.

• And there will be opportunities to improve the Democratic Caucuses in both Houses in critical primary elections around the country that will be taking place in the coming months

This year the quality of the Caucuses must take precedent over the quantity of the Caucuses. We’ve got to pay attention to values, and we’ve got to elect leaders who implement their campaign platforms when they take office.

The Point:

This is not about whether we like the Party or not, it’s about getting good people into our political leadership. And there is still plenty of opportunity to make it happen.

Democracy for America is a great resource to get involved and find out more. There are also many local and national communities and campaigns to choose from.

The important thing is to choose a community or campaign that YOU want to work on because YOU have the power; and now is the time to use it.

This article was originally published on Daily Kos.