Keeping up the Momentum – Report from Acton It’s Up to Us

Written by Tom Dionesotes

On a snowy Saturday afternoon, activists from across the Middlesex & Worcester district gathered together to connect, share their experiences from the campaign, and to start the conversation about the kind of progressive change we need on Beacon Hill and in Washington, DC. Longtime activist Tom Michelman generously opened up his home in Acton for our meeting.

While we all worked hard on the coordinated 2012 campaign, the biggest take-away from the meeting is that we want to keep the momentum going!

There were many familiar faces in the crowd along with some new ones, so we went around the room and introduced ourselves.

We shared our personal stories and meaningful moments from the 2012 campaign. These ranged from seeing high school and college students get involved in politics for the first time in their lives, to whole communities of senior citizens  that people thought were conservative but ended up strongly supporting Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and other candidates on the issues.

Next, we opened up the floor to an in-detail election debrief. There was lots of praise for the coordinated campaign and strong Get-Out-the-Vote effort that resulted in a record voter turnout of over 73%!

What Went Well:

Coordination among all the campaigns went smoothly, and activists from different towns came together to support each other in key precincts and cities during GOTV

Our local campaign office was a valuable resource for organizing and a common space that helped create strong bonds between staff, team leaders, and volunteers.

We won! Strong new progressives elected around the state, and the country.

Areas to improve:

How can we get better at organizing? Can we really know which organizing and voter contact tactics worked, and where? Need for feedback and metrics.

Effective training for volunteers early on, not just around GOTV.

Quicker way to plug people into their local office, and get the word out that the Boston-area HQ is the only place to volunteer for the campaign.

What’s next?.

Senator Jamie Eldridge noted that it’s critical to have a movement of progressives to always be pushing the envelope and holding elected leaders accountable. We as progressives can’t rest on our laurels after an election- the fight continues as the conversation turns to legislation and policy.

We collected feedback and had a conversation about the issues and policies we felt passionate about and we could make a difference on.

Issues: Massachusetts

New revenue for MA- across the board, not just MBTA and transportation related.

Foreclosure and housing reform/

Election reform, with a special emphasis on reducing the long lines at the polls.

Anticorruption and governance reform

Prison reform

Issues: Federal

Elizabeth Warren on Senate Banking Committee- our wish came true!

Fiscal cliff- changing the conversation away from “cuts and deficit reduction” towards “jobs and helping real people”.

Filibuster reform in the US Senate, to break some of the gridlock.

Next steps- we pledged to:

Stay connected! Both locally, and with like-minded progressives across Massachusetts. Connect on common issue we’re passionate about.

Stay informed! We’re collecting feedback on compact for a true commonwealth, to make sure progressives are on the same page to push forward a unified agenda for the next legislative session

Take action! Write letters to the editor in support of Filibuster reform, need for Washington to resolve the Fiscal cliff without inflicting painful cuts on those who have already suffered the most in this recession, and to support fair taxation for the wealthiest Americans.

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It’s Up to Us — ACTION!

This is a web version of the hand-out you received at one of the “It’s Up to Us” election debrief/celebration meetings, Dec 2012-Jan 2013. 

Thank you for keeping the momentum of 2012 going! By meeting with fellow progressives to organize and strategize for the coming year, we are building a long-term grassroots infrastructure, which is necessary to effect the change we want to see. We have a long arc to bend, and we are in this for the long haul! We have identified a few actions you can take in the near term:

Grow the progressive grassroots

Get connected and amplify the progressive message
We are stronger when we work together

Reach out to others

Join the Campaign for Our Communities

We must tell our elected officials that our communities need more revenue and more investment if we are to thrive. It is important to enlist our friends and neighbors in this effort.

What you can do:

  • Sign a postcard provided by Campaign for Our Communities or send a letter/email to your elected officials 
  • Organize a meeting with your State Rep or Senator– a small delegation is best. Tell them we need more revenue. Let us know when you reach out and if you get any response, so we can better advocate in the future!
  • Organize house parties or canvasses to tell your neighbors about the Campaign – walk lists available from Progressive Mass
  • Write a letter to the editor for your local paper – advocate for more local aid 

Make a difference in Massachusetts

Help us seize the opportunity opened by the 2012 election. The message of the election is loud and 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. And we must translate this mandate into reality at the state level, here in Massachusetts.

How you can help:

  • Tell us what you think of our draft Compact for a True Commonwealth –
  • Circulate The Compact for A True Commonwealth to your network with an email announcing your support.
  • Organize house parties or canvasses to tell your neighbors about the Compact, our values and goals. Walk lists available from Progressive Mass
  • Learn more at our True Commonwealth Conference – details will be posted soon at our website

Have an impact at the national level

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Ideals Aren’t Enough – We are Taking Action (Needham)

From Stacie Shapiro, who hosted an “Up to Us” Meeting on Sunday – Needham grassroots volunteers worked hard in the 2012 campaign, for Barack Obama in New Hampshire, and locally, for Elizabeth Warren and Joe Kennedy. We knocked on doors, made phone calls, held signs, wrote letters, and played an active role in getting our democratic candidates elected.

Sunday, we met again to discuss how we can keep the momentum going and find ways to stay engaged in the political process now that the election is over.

We shared our experiences from the campaign, and although there were many different highlights, a few themes were prominent:

Personal interaction with voters as well as organizers was critical.

  • The grassroots organizers for the different campaigns (Needham for Obama, Needham for Elizabeth Warren) were welcoming and made it easy to get involved and stay involved.

  • The physical presence of the Democratic Town Committee Headquarters was a huge help in keeping volunteers connected with the campaign.  It allowed for more personal interaction with other volunteers and organizers.

  • Volunteers felt that the one-on-one interaction with voters, at the doors and on the phones, was powerful and persuasive.  Wearing buttons, holding signs and displaying lawn signs helped to spark up conversations with friends, neighbors and passers by.

Engaging new voters and new volunteers in the electoral process serves us well now and in the future.


  • Voter outreach in underrepresented communities was both rewarding and yielded great electoral results.  It proved that we still have a voice as long as we show up to the polls.

  • In Needham, a few high school students, with the help of Progressive Mass training and Harmony Wu, set up a campaign team that grew into a powerful force with 50 students campaigning on Election Day! We were all very inspired by the hard work and commitment of the students and hopeful about what this means for the future of civic engagement.

(For a fuller accounting of “what worked/what didn’t,” see our notes from the evening)

After the election debrief, we discussed advocating for issues on the state level.  As many as 6,000 bills will be filed in the MA Legislature next month.  Most will not be controversial, but it’s critical that we have a system that alerts us to those we need to speak-out on, either defensively against bad bills, or as advocates for great policy that needs our grassroots support to survive the political system.

We seem to be in agreement that all the issues we care about; health care, education, jobs, MBTA and much more, hang in the balance of the revenue crisis, and that progressive revenue reform is something we could likely all get behind.  We are hopeful that a bill will be filed in the current session that supports progressive revenue reform, much like the bill “An Act to Invest in Our Community,” from the last legislative session.  Some of us are already preparing to advocate for it with our legislators, and making plans to educate the community through grassroots outreach and community presentations.

There is much more to discuss, and people are enthusiastic about keeping things going. We understand that it’s not enough to have ideals and be passionate about them, we need to act upon them and turn them into policy.

Great discussionsWe’ll be getting together soon after the new year to share more thoughts and ideas, and come up with a strategy for moving forward. We welcome new partners in our work! For Needham area activists whom we haven’t met yet, you can get plugged in by signing up at Progressive Mass.  Also, contact us at ( and we’ll make sure to invite you to the next meeting!

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Compact for A True Commonwealth

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. Here in Massachusetts, we must translate this mandate into reality at the state level.

Progressive Mass has spent some time working with several progressive legislators, drafting our view of what this election means for Massachusetts. We intend to use this document as a basis for setting our legislative priorities over the course of the next session. It is a first attempt to translate our belief statements into policy.

Tell us what you think!

At the Crossroads: The Compact for A True Commonwealth

With our overwhelming vote for Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren, on November 6, 2012, the people of Massachu­setts declared that it’s time to invest, to create jobs and opportunity for the middle class and for people striving to enter the middle class. We pronounced the old scheme—cutting taxes on the wealthy and creating special tax breaks for insiders—a failure. We affirmed, as President Obama and Elizabeth Warren have argued, that the economy must grow from the middle outwards. We have no more tolerance for warmed over “trickle-down” policies.

Investing in our economy from the middle out is the national mandate for President Obama in his second term and Elizabeth Warren in her first. And it is the mandate for the Commonwealth, too: we must enact these policies and strengthen this vision at the local and state level.

We already know how to do it: after World War II, we built the strongest economy and proudest middle class in history by investing in healthy communities and education, developing infrastructure, and partnering public investment with private industry.

Massachusetts has the economic engine, creative and intellectual capital, environment, historic models, energy and inspiration to reinvest in, re-create and grow a true Common Wealth. We can build more opportunity and more equity, better prospects and greater justice. We can return to our foundational ideals that shaped our state and then defined our nation. We can use the power and strength of our economy to shape a better society.

We do this by investing in people

  • Deepening our commitment to affordable, first rate, public education for all children, regardless of where they live
  • Recommitting to making public higher education affordable
  • Valuing jobs that support families, their security and stability by paying a living wage
  • Training workers in skills for the good paying jobs we have

We do this by investing in jobs and the middle-class

  • Supporting businesses and entrepreneurs who remain rooted in our communities—not by offering advantages and incentives to corporations that extract our wealth and resources
  • Recognizing and developing our unique competitive advantages, growing the industries that will give us advantages for decades to come, ensuring that our regulatory permitting processes foster small businesses and start-ups
  • Valuing Labor’s critical role in decisions about corporate governance, social priorities, working conditions and wages

We do this by investing in infrastructure

  • Modernizing our public transportation system and ensuring the funding is adequate to keep fares affordable
  • Improving roadways, bridges and digital highways, drivers of economic growth
  • Maintaining our role as a global leader in research, technology and clean 
  • Reorienting our thinking, spending today’s dollars on tomorrow—rather than spending tomorrow’s dollars today

We do this by fairly and adequately
funding our government

  • Updating our tax code to reflect today’s economy
  • Unapologetically raising the revenue we need to grow and prosper as a Commonwealth
  • Raising this new revenue primarily from highest earners and shielding working families and seniors from increased burden

We can do this

We have done it before. With leadership, political courage and grassroots advocacy, we will do it now, again.

For over 200 years, we have led the nation, always by investing in the future and with a deep sense of obligation to democratic self-determination and the community good:

  • Our state government and Constitution became a sturdy model for the nation
  • We created the first public park in our new country, and we called it Boston Commons
  • We founded the first public schools, built the first public transportation system
  • We were first legalize marriage for all, the first to offer health care insurance for all

This Compact is offered in the spirit of these inspiring firsts. We aim to be both pragmatic and idealistic, detailing specific ways to realize a common vision for our Commonwealth. We call on our legislators to make 2012’s promise a reality—and on our fellow citizens to insist that they do.

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It’s Up to Us

The election is over and progressives throughout the state are celebrating – and enjoying a brief respite.  But activists and organizers across the Commonwealth say they are anxious to stay involved.  They want to see the results of the election mean something – in Washington and on Beacon Hill.

In between elections comes the hard part-–actually governing. “Politics” and ideas become actual legislation-–or not. An organized grassroots -–so important and influential in campaigns-– can also be a powerful force in affecting legislation.

Help make our victories mean something.  See if there’s a meeting in your area (more are coming!)–and if there isn’t, host one in your community – fill out the form below!



Review the Agenda and Print Out Materials:


  • Email your attendees any notes and follow-ups from meeting, including the link to the web-version of the “Take Action” hand-out: []
  • Be in touch with Progressive Mass organizers to share how it went and discuss what’s next!



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After national progressive victories, time for bold vision from Massachusetts progressive leaders

The challenge for progressives is to develop a clear, specific and focused agenda, and communicate these priorities to every Massachusetts State Representative and State Senator

Guest post from State Senator Jamie Eldridge — Two weeks ago, I attended the Progressive States Network (PSN) annual conference in Washington, DC. Through PSN, progressive state legislators from across the United States are connected to policies that make real differences in people’s lives, including in education, immigration reform, and health care. My State House legislative work on corporate tax credit transparency, green jobs, and improved access to lending to small businesses and working families (through a state bank) has been strengthened by my collaboration with PSN.

Over one hundred progressive legislators, from over 30 states, made this year’s conference its largest yet, an encouraging sign for the next generation of progressive leaders: among these legislators are tomorrow’s Governors, US Senators and Representatives, and perhaps even a President.

With good reason, participants and speakers were energized, hopeful and emboldened by the November 6th election results:

  • Gay marriage was made legal in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state.
  • The ranks of progressives grew substantially in the U. S. House of Representatives–the Congressional Progressive Caucus is expected to have between 90 and 100 members, making it the largest caucus in the House. By contrast, only 14 Blue Dog Democrat remain.
  • Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy took retiring Senator Joe Lieberman’s seat, giving the U.S. Senate another clear progressive voice.
  • Krysten Sinema, a young progressive and former lawmaker, was elected to Congress in not-so-progressive Arizona.

Many of these new members ran populist campaigns, focused on raising taxes on the wealthy, and clearly opposing cuts to Social Security and other domestic programs.

One of these newly elected progressives is, of course, Massachusetts’s own Elizabeth Warren, whose stature as a national progressive voice was inescapable at PSN. Many in attendance expressed their high hopes that Elizabeth Warren will lead the fight on issues like opposing cuts to domestic spending, taking on Wall Street and Big Oil, and cutting our military budget.

Massachusetts had progressive victories at the state level, too. Democrats picked up four seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and a number of Democratic seats will be filled by progressives, including Mary Keefe of Worcester and Aaron Vega of Holyoke. Democrat Kathleen O’Connor Ives’s  victory in the First Essex Senate district brings far more progressive values than her predecessor–and in a region commonly thought as “conservative.”


All of these victories are incredibly exciting, so what now? Elections are promises; legislation is where these promises are meant to be kept.

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Campaign for Our Communities

ourcommunities.jpgThe Campaign for Our Communities was formed to improve the quality of life for Massachusetts families and the strength of our economy; we need to make smart investments in our people and communities.   To fund those investments we support tax reforms that will raise substantial new revenue while holding down increases for low and middle income families.

Our Principles:

  • Our families and our communities need investments in the services, schools, and infrastructure that make Massachusetts a great place to live and work.
  • In order to make the necessary investments, we will need to raise significant new revenue.
  • That revenue should come primarily from the highest income earners.

Our model legislation, An Act to Invest in Our Communities, would raise $1.37 billion dollars by restoring the income tax rate to 5.95% while increasing the personal exemption to hold down increases for low and middle income families, and raising the tax rate on investment income to 8.95%, with an exemption for low and middle income seniors.

Our plan is to pass major revenue reform in the Commonwealth in 2013. In order to do that, we are engaged in an 18-month campaign to make the demand for investment in our communities clear by:

  • Mobilizing activists to call for adequate revenues to invest in our communities through local grassroots organizing and social media outreach.
  • Demonstrating local support through municipal resolutions, forums, and press coverage.
  • Building a broad coalition of allies from business, healthcare, transportation, and higher education.
  • Educating the public on the need for revenue and community investment.
  • Lobbying the Legislature


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Now What? The long-term work of bending the arc


I’ve now worked as a grassroots volunteer and organizer on a number of campaigns since Obama 2008 (my first). After they end, there’s the glow and satisfaction of the win (or depression and coming to terms with the loss). The grassroots team that worked doggedly for months and months recognizes that what we did was important and good, regardless of outcome, and there’s a resolve to keep the momentum going.

What DOESN’T happen: the campaigns themselves do not reach out and help provide structure for ongoing engagement. (Apart from occasional appeals of money and calls to support legislation). Field organizers who provided recruitment support, software and events are no longer there. The binary outcome of “WIN”/”LOSE” on a specific date disappears.

More often than not, without the urgency and infrastructure, the ‘team’ falls away. Then, when another important election comes around, organizers and campaigns spend a lot of valuable time trying to “re-find” the people who were so active and important the last time around… reinventing the wheel.

The consequences aren’t only electoral. In between elections comes the hard part-–actually governing. “Politics” and ideas become actual legislation-–or not. An organized grassroots -–so important and influential in campaigns-– can also be a powerful force in affecting legislation.

I believe that many of the disappointments progressives felt after Obama 2008 were as much our responsibility as the President’s: he told us to “make him” do what we elected him for. OFA was a great idea and effort. But Organizing for America was always a campaign and Democratic Party offshoot, limiting what they’d be willing to go after. Katrina vanden Hoovel articulated this in 2010:

There were costs associated with channeling progressive energy through the administration. Obama aides, led by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, argued fiercely against going after the Democrats-–-Blue Dogs and New Dems-–-who were impeding reform, and the White House chose not to mobilize its base to pressure them. Groups were often blindsided by backroom deals like the one with the drug companies that sustained the ban on negotiating lower drug prices.
[update: David Bernstein addresses the disappointments of the first term, in this week's Phoenix]

I do not want to simply criticize the candidates/electeds or lament lost opportunities over the last few cycles, but rather be realistic and forward thinking.

It may be impossible, philosophically and practically, for a governing elected to maintain a true grassroots base organized for action. Re-election and institutional power is an endemic part of any campaign or Party infrastructure.  Our leaders need a force to their left, to act as counter-weight to the opposing forces of big corporations and their influence, the center-right mainstream media/punditry, and the temptation to succumb to the path of less resistance (which is rarely the best course). That doesn’tcome from an organization that is focused on re-election or maintaining support.

It is 2012 now. We know of the pitfalls and limits of post-election organizing, and this time, we should be ready:

…to help — or to push — President Obama to have a successful second term

But we don’t need tweaks; we need deep structural change. It’s up to the organized people who defeated organized money at the polls in this election to make that happen. [from The Nation]

While no one is expecting you/us to stay as engaged and work as hard as we do during important elections, it also makes no sense to let a great effort and team disappear in between those important elections. We care about the policies and issues-–that’s why we invested so much time and work in our candidates, not just because we thought Pres. Obama is a great guy. We support him (and Elizabeth Warren and everyone else) by working, between elections, to turn their ideas into policies. (Not to mention that there WILL be important elections again, very soon!).


Grassroots power is not turned on and off and back on again with a switch, at a moment’s notice. To truly build an effective movement, one that mobilizes true change, it takes long-term organizing, work, relationship-building, and collaboration with others who share our common goals.

  • What if getting better government and policies meant not just an every couple-of-years high-intensity short-term election push?
  • What if we worked on a slower burn, sustained and over time?

We have power; let’s focus it and put it to use!


Harmony Wu
progressive organizer
from Needham, MA


want to be a part of post-election meetings? read more, here:

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Translating Election Results Into Action

Up_to_Us_v1.jpgThe election is over and progressives throughout the state are celebrating – and enjoying a brief respite. But what we are hearing from organizers across the Commonwealth is that they are anxious to stay involved. They want to see the results of the election mean something – in Washington and on Beacon Hill.

>>> Why is continuing to organize so important? Read more here!

Over the next six weeks, progressives are meeting in living rooms and community centers around the State to talk about what’s next.

>>> Check our events for a meeting near you! Or host one if you don’t see one yet! 

We already have organizers planning meetings in Newton, Cambridge, JP, Third Middlesex, Natick, Springfield and Western Mass, and more all the time! It’s clear activists and volunteers are ready to stay engaged.

Can you help organize a session in your community? Let us know, below!

At these meetings we will:

  • Celebrate!
  • Share and Reflect (what went well, what didn’t)
  • Focus (urgent issues upcoming in the next few months – the fiscal cliff, the Campaign for Our Communities, the potential selection of an interim-Senator to replace John Kerry should he get appointed)
  • Plan for Action (steps the group could take, actions individuals could commit to)
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Our Values – What We Believe

We believe elections matter – both in Washington and here on Beacon Hill.  That is why Progressive Massachusetts is actively working with key legislators to ensure that the issues we care about are front and center.

As bills are drafted and sponsored, we will alert our members to both opportunities to move Massachusetts forward as well as policies that threaten to undermine our communities and all our residents’ well-being.  Over the course of the legislative session, we will be following the progress of these bills closely and working with both our members and like-minded legislators to ensure passage for the bills we favor and defeat for those we don’t.

But in all we do, we will always be guided by our values.  Progressive Mass works to move our Commonwealth  toward a future where the values of equal opportunity, social and economic justice, consumer and environmental protection, health care as a right, equal access to quality public services, respect for all residents and accountable and transparent government are given top priority.

Check Out Our Values on Key Issues.

Tell Us What You Think.

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