Progressive Mass Board Member Named "Activist of the Year"

2013May_LadiesInBlue-YD_Story-Wu.JPGOn May 16, 2013, the Young Democrats of Massachusetts recognized our Board member, Harmony Wu, as their Ladies in Blue Activist of the Year.  Senator Elizabeth Warren was honored as “Woman of the Year,” and Representative Ellen Story was named “Legislator of the Year.” Congratulations, all!  Harmony’s prepared remarks:

A bottom of my heart “thank you” to the Young Democrats; I couldn’t be more honored.

Let’s hear it for the Young Dems who are doing everything they should be doing — exceedingly well: organizing and mobilizing volunteers, pushing the envelope, supporting strong candidates, and kicking at the shins of the powers-that-be. Bravo. You’ve worked hard to create this wonderful vibrant and active community and deserve a round of applause.

It’s 2013. We’ve elected Pres. Obama for a second term, sent Scott Brown packing and Elizabeth Warren to the Senate. We’ve re-elected Governor Deval Patrick and sent a slate of progressive legislators to the State House. We’ve had a pretty good couple of years– electorally. We should be proud of all our hard work and all of those #DemDoors!  And you have no chance to be nostalgic, because we’re still doing it: are you getting out on doors for Ed Markey?

Electoral wins are extremely important and we must continue the work to elect good progressives/Democrats at every level of government. 

But our own Massachusetts experience shows us that it’s not enough to elect good people—even extraordinary and progressive ones.In True Blue Massachusetts, we have Democratic dominance at all levels of government – but we do not have single payer healthcare, or a just system of taxation. Our wealth gap is the widest in the nation, we have gutted our human services past the bone, and our regulatory agencies and transit system are falling apart.

Clearly, simply electing our Democratic allies to office is not the solution.

So is it that we don’t have the numbers for progressives and strong Democrats to fight for our values and influence the agenda? Sounds reasonable and I want more progressives elected too–but look at the national Congressional Tea Party Caucus!  They’re controlling the legislative agenda with while representing just 11% of the full House, and suffering very low public support for their agenda!

Let’s not be fooled into thinking that if only we had a few more legislators our issues would suddenly get traction. Numbers are great to have, but numbers aren’t destiny.

All this is neither a criticism of our individual legislators—nor is it a surprise. If it were easy to enact real progressive change –- it’d already be done.

We have a role to play, and we need to step it up. We must both demand more from our progressive legislators and make it easier for our allies to do the work we want them to, work harder at helping them succeed in pushing progressive policies once elected!

After elections –- let’s use our organizing muscles to apply pressure from the left. Let’s give our allies the political cover to go out on limbs to the left. Let’s create vocal support when they make courageous choices.  We’ve got to be organized, informed, and ready to act when the political moment demands it.

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But, again, if it were easy, we’d not be talking about this. The Legislative process is quixotic, opaque, and dense, and exponentially so at the state level. The precise moments when key Beacon Hill decisions are being set –- the moments when grassroots action can have the most influence –- happen well outside any news reporting, if there’s any coverage at all.  Meanwhile, we all have our non-activist lives to lead!

If we want to make these changes, we need to make advocacy easier for all of us –- to make engaging in the political process between elections:

    • for politicos like you, as easy and expected as signing up to canvass on weekends,
    • for the less politically engaged, as easy and natural as picking up the phone to make an appointment.

And we need to stop the pattern of turning out activists for campaigns, but going away to rest in the time between elections! We need a thread between campaigns and issues and legislative battles.

These are foundational motivating principles of Progressive Massachusetts:  to be a permanent home-base for progressive organizers and activists –- to provide the connective muscle between each election cycle, and to mobilize activists at the grassroots for critical action at important/key moments in the political process.

So we as progressives can build and grow over time, not reinvent the wheel each cycle.

So we can keep pushing at the edges of that status quo impeding progress.

There is a lot of work to do, and there always will be. I hope you’ll join Progressive Mass. (of course, I brought a sign up sheet!).  I hope you’ll get involved on our issue campaigns- and our endorsed state-level races.

And, I hope you keep cynicism at bay, now and when you someday turn from Young Democrats into middle-aged and senior ones. Resist the urge to throw up your hands in disgust or despair because “nothing ever changes.” “Things change” only when good people work to change them! Keep up the good work, and thank you Young Dems!

--Harmony Wu

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