Reformers as Regulars?

Reformers are investing in a politics that combines technical skill with grassroots energy. 
Can that formula transform the culture of “wait-your-turn’’?

Photo credidt: Tim Pierce. CLICK for more.


The thought-provoking piece by Robert Kuttner  in the Boston Sunday Globe describes the dynamics of Massachusetts Democratic politics, wherein an older party establishment can be resistant to the new ideas and tactics introduced by “outsiders” not used to party norms. Kuttner holds out hope that reformer/”insurgent” candidates like Deval Patrick and Elizabeth Warren can re-align the party’s mechanics, aims and candidates.

At Progressive Mass, we don’t see reformers and party politics necessarily to be at odds, but we believe that for real cultural shift within the party institution, there must be an outside  force applying some pressure. Indeed, this is one of the foundational impetuses of Progressive Massachusetts.

What do you think? Does Robert Kuttner describe the state of play accurately? How does an institution like a political party cultivate nimbleness? Do “outsider” efforts–including Progressive Mass–risk becoming part of the same cycle that turns energy and reform into “the way things are done”? (If so, how do we stop that?) Or is the “reformer as regular,” in Kuttner’s formulation, a real possibility?

Many of our most active Progressive Mass organizers and activists also work hard for the benefit of the Party, not only in winning elections (Patrick, Obama, Warren!), but also on Ward and Town Committees. Individually, people have been staking out ways to be both outsiders and insiders. Can we create a way to harness the best of party politics and outsider reform? (consider Kuttner’s earlier article, “Can Insiders be Outsiders?“–from 2001!)

Excerpts from this great article are below; read the whole thing here (it may be limited to subscribers for a few days).

Can state Democratic reformers transform the “wait your turn’’ culture?

[...]Despite the Democratic sentiments of voters, the institutional party has often seemed dysfunctional, decrepit, and not welcoming of new blood.

In this odd history, one fact screams out. The two big statewide winners of recent decades were complete outsiders.

We could be in a new era of what might be called the reformer as regular. The people attracted by Patrick and Warren are now increasingly the institutional party, and they are very good at politics. Even so, the legacy Democratic Party is still alive, and familiar faces are running for the Senate seat just vacated by John Kerry.

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Team Needham: Spontaneous Organizing at the Library

Funny thing happened today as we were organizing around ‘Act to Invest in Our Community.’ A couple of us were at the Needham Public Library (kids have a report to work on) and as we talked, people kept stopping by and saying hello–the library’s a great community scene! 

Friends from church, book group, the recent campaigns, our kids’ friends’ moms and dads–at one point we had a crowd of 5-6 people (shh!)! 

We shared what we were working on — and (no surprise, Needham is a progressive and politically active town) everyone wanted to know how they could help out:

“Calls? Letters to the editor? What do you need?”

(yesyes, and waddyagot?). Tomorrow we’re meeting our State Rep at the Senior Center. Will let you know how it goes! 

–Team Needham

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Lexington Revenue Calls

We need substantial new revenue to invest in our communities, restore a decade+ of budget cuts, and build a strong economy for the future. And we need to do it fairly. Your legislators NEED to hear from you! Lexington residents — use the script and information below to make a call to your State Senator. It takes just a couple of short minutes, but it really can help change the debate.

Need more info before you call? More resources here:

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Team Needham Takes on Taxes

We gathered at Needham’s Bagel’s Best.  Veterans of many past political campaigns–Obama ‘08, Obama ‘12, D’Alessandro ‘10, Warren ’12. We have lots of ideas and energy to take what we did during electoral campaigns and apply these tactics to issues.  We can elect great candidates — but we know policy is where the rubber hits the road!

We know Needham needs more revenue – to keep our schools, infrastructure and innovation strong.  But we also know it’s not easy to ask people to pay more – no one likes taxes.

That’s why we’re organizing.  Reaching out to our friends and neighbors.  Sharing our thinking.  Encouraging them to support ACT TO INVEST IN OUR COMMUNITIES.  Talking to our legislators... many of us haven’t done that before.  But we’re fired up and looking forward to reaching out to more people from our Needham-area grassroots campaign team.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  #PMTeamNeedham

Oh, and, the bagels were great, too!

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Co-sponsoring Bills: Build Momentum to Pass Progressive Legislation

Part of the core mission at Progressive Mass is to ensure our elected representatives stand up for progressive principles and policies that make real differences in people’s lives. Right now, legislators have a simple and straightforward opportunity to reflect their views on important public policies — by adding their names as co-sponsors to key legislation.

Why It  Matters

Co-sponsoring a bill means, of course, that a legislator supports a bill, but it also can help build momentum for legislation to move through the process. Given the Legislature’s current challenges in passing many pieces of progressive legislation, this is important.

A bill with a large number of co-sponsors shows broad support for that legislation. Two years ago, the historic Transgender Equal Rights bill had a majority of legislators, both in the House and Senate, as co-sponsors — which played a critical role in convincing leadership to take up the bill, leading to its passage in 2011.

Bills for the 2012-2013 legislative session were filed on Friday, January 18, 2013. Legislators now have until this Friday, February 1, 2013, to co-sponsor a bill, with their names listed on the bill as co-sponsors.

As we speak, legislators are being contacted by constituents who want their representatives’ co-sponsorship on bills important to them. Though having a large number of co-sponsors doesn’t itself increase a bill’s likelihood to pass (See: Bottle Bill, 2011-2012 session!), it can help. Additionally, it is often a useful means to distinguish which legislators are strongly for a piece of legislation, and those who might need more persuasion from constituents. (Pro tip: If you ever notice that your legislator isn’t co-sponsoring a particular bill important to you, as a constituent, you might call to ask, “Why not?”)

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Sunday, March 24 – 8AM – 5PM

Lasell College – Newton,  MA

[Click here to Register Now!] [Policy Conference/PDF] [Full Schedule]

The message of the last election is clear: the people of Massachusetts said that it’s time to invest to create jobs and opportunity for the middle class and for people striving to enter the middle class.

But what policies, in particular, will make the biggest difference? And how do we bring about substantial change on Beacon Hill?

Learn more from policy experts and activists. Share your perspective on change. Have some fun with fellow progressives.

Morning – Policy Sessions: Health Care, Education, Criminal Justice,  Election Reform, Economic Development, Revenue

Panelists Including (New Names Added Everyday; check here for latest):

  • Steve Grossman, State Treasurer
  • Barry Bluestone, Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy , Northeastern University
  • Dr. Donald Berwick, Former Administrator of the Center for Medicare/Medicaid
  • John Larivee, Community Resources for Justice
  • Lisa Guisbond, Citizens for Public Schools

Afternoon – Action Sessions: Organizing, Advocacy, Social Media

Opportunity to connect with other activists and build momentum for progressive change on Beacon Hill

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We’re Off and Running – An Act to Invest is Filed

Yesterday, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Jim O’Day refiled their bill – An Act to Invest in Our Communities 

Members of the community spoke movingly about the impact that cuts to vital programs and services have had

“As a Bristol Community College student and someone who is reliant upon public transportation, I have to say that the lack of adequate funding has not made the last few years easy for me,” said Sapphire Castillo, a New Bedford resident who said the local buses stop running at 6 p.m.

Vivian Moulden, 75, of Springfield told a crowd that the state’s 5.25 percent income tax and other taxes should be hiked to pay for home care for the elderly, health care and education.

“As a community we must do better,” said Moulden, a grandmother of six, retired health care worker from Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and member of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council.

This is a top priority for Progressive Massachusetts and we are currently supporting it’s passage by collecting signatures on apetition to the State House and putting together delegation visits to elected officials.

If you are interested in helping in any capacity, contact Ben Wright at

Learn more about the Campaign for Our Communities


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An Act to Invest – Sign Our Petition

We need to invest in our communities and keep middle-class families working and earning! By allowing us to invest in education, innovation and infrastructure, The Act to Invest in Our Communities proposal builds on our state’s strengths, making life better for our families today and into the future. By asking more from high income households and investors who received large windfalls from the Bush tax cuts, while raising the personal exemption as a way to hold down the tax increase for middle-class families, the bill raises needed revenue primarily from those who can best afford to pay. With that revenue, we can keep the quality schools and services that make our state a good place to live and do business.

Sign Our Petition

Tell your State Senator and Representatives that you urge them to support, “An Act to Invest in Our Communities” so that Massachusetts will continue to have world-class education, innovation and infrastructure for all our residents now, and into the future.

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OUR FIRST PRIORITY – An Act to Invest in Our Communities

$7.26 Million.

That’s the revenue Holyoke lost in local aid since 2000.  And the shortfall is much worse in cities like Boston (-60%), Springfield (-40%), and Lawrence (-44%).

Look up how much your town has lost in local aid.

And during this time, libraries were shuttered, class sizes rose, fire stations closed and fewer police were keeping our communities safe.

Think it doesn’t impact our economy?  Check out this story about Fall River

Massachusetts has lost a total of $3 billion in revenues and fallen to 25 out of 50 states in taxes – below the median and only barely above (Mississippi and Kentucky) in its ability to invest – in education, infrastructure, transportation – all drivers of equitable economic growth.

Get the facts about our taxes you can share with your friends and neighbors

Next week progressive champions Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Jim O’Day will file a bill – an Act to Invest in our Communities – legislation designed to raise nearly $1.5 billion dollars in additional revenue for our cities and towns – nearly half from an increase in investment taxes which mostly impacts the top 1%. And Progressive Mass will be standing with them.

Read about the bill

Stand with us and with investment in our communities.  Sign our petition to support our cities and towns. 

Tell the State House you believe in our future as a Commonwealth and the need to invest in the things that have always made Massachusetts a great place to live and work.

Share our petition with your friends and neighbors.  Tell them we need to invest in Massachusetts.

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[ARCHIVE] An Act to Invest in Our Communities

[Oops! you found your way here from an old link... please see our updated information on Act to Invest at this page:]

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