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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Needed: More 99 Percenter Candidates

Democrats are recruiting an impressive number of strong candidates to run for office across the country. But at this historical moment, grass roots progressives — the OWS-friendly “99 percenters” — have a particulalry favorable political climate in which to run for office and do very well, argues The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuval in her column, “99%er Champions.”

As we head into a presidential election year, I’d wager a lot the mainstream media will focus their attention on the horse race for the White House and other prime time campaigns. But this is a moment–when we are seeing a real shift in our politics, from Wisconsin to Ohio to Occupy–to be recruiting and supporting what I’d call 99 percenter candidates: those who share the core convictions of Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent movement.
This space that’s been opened by movements provides a real opportunity now for a progressive politics that is strong at the grassroots and strong in principle, and that finds champions inside an electoral system badly in need of reform–reform that will only come if we can elect enough “inside” progressives to help our “outside” movements make it happen.
So it’s great to see candidates like Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono on the campaign trail talking about issues like democracy and equality. It’s also good to know Progressive Majority, along with allies like the New Organizing Institute, Rebuild the Dream and Democracy for America, has pledges from over 1,500 candidates to run in 2012.

Vanden Heuval spotlights Norman Soloman, a Democratic candidate for congress (CA-6) and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, who has been endorsed by CA-based progressive leaders and activists, as an excellent example of the kind of candidate who meets “the need to fuse movement energy and electoral politics”:

The vision of Solomon…is aligned with what is now so central to our political discussion and must remain so: action on jobs and income inequality; ending the wars and investing those resources at home; sane and fair taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street; protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; ending our dependence on fossil fuels and preventing catastrophic climate change.
…”I used to say that having a strong progressive movement was much more important than who was in office, but now I’d say that what we really need is a strong progressive movement and much better people in office,” he said. “Having John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern, Raúl Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey in Congress is important. We need more of those sorts of legislators as part of the political landscape.”

“It’s just common sense that progressives who come out of movements have a far better chance of staying connected to the Occupy movement energy and principles than Democrats who don’t,” says vanden Heuval, noting that “Solomon is such a candidate, and there are others.”
Vanden Heuval amplifies the call in her conclusion: “I’ve always believed lasting progressive transformation will come from people’s movements, the kind now taking root in towns and cities across the nation. But it will also require people on the inside who share those principles and are fully dedicated to fighting for them. In 2012, we have the opportunity to elect those champions.”

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