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The New Progressive Alliance (NPA) is a grassroots organization founded in 2010, entirely online, in response to the Democratic Party’s complete and final forsaking of its role as the leading voice for Progressive ideals and reform in America.
In the 30 years prior to 2010, though their campaign rhetoric claimed otherwise, the party’s leadership and vast majorities of its Congresspeople and Senators had increasingly shown a willingness to sell out the vital interests of America’s poor, its disadvantaged, and its working men and women – and to capitulate on basic Progressive policy issues such as non-intervention, civil and human rights, and progressive taxation.
As evidence of these transgressions against their core principles continued to mount, the Democrats survived by convincing enough voters that they represented the lesser of the two evils – the other being the Republican Party – which owned American politics.
For many Progressives, the final straw came in early 2010. Despite control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats failed to enact nationalized health insurance, or even to provide a publicly funded alternative to the high-cost “coverage” offered by profiteering, benefits-denying insurance companies.
In February 2010, even before President Obama formally approved his party’s gift of 40 million more customers to Big Insurance, blogger “Masoninblue” posted this invitation to readers of The Seminal, a site at FireDogLake (FDL), to join him in forming a new Progressive party. In late March, he and five other Seminal bloggers and readers formed an online group to incubate the process. They supported strict adherence to the basic tenets of Progressivism, and even chose a name – New Progressive Alliance.
Differences in approach soon surfaced, however. One member strongly espoused a highly theoretical approach wherein the new party advocated a complete overthrow of the current system of representation. Others felt the focus should be on electoral activism which emphasized the Progressive values distinguishing the new party from the Democrats.
Fast forward to September. With the 2010 midterms approaching, calls for electoral opposition to Obama in 2012 increased at The Seminal (soon to be re-named MyFDL). Diarist jeffroby launched an effort called “Dump Obama.” Anthony Noel, one of those in the fledgling New Progressive Alliance group who supported electoral activism, pushed for a vow from midterm voters to write in “Public Option,” rather than vote for any incumbent House or Senate Democrat – 90 of whom caved on their own demand that such an option be included in any health reform bill coming up for a vote.
Then, days before the Democrats’ epic midterm defeat, jeffroby asked Seminal readers to nominate potential primary challengers to Obama. After the midterms, Noel followed suit. The resulting nominee lists were combined, and readers voted for their ten preferred challengers, with these results:
By the time the nomination and voting process was complete, it was late November. Noel next asked readers to propose platform topics, and a name for what was beginning to feel like a movement. From more than 40 proposed issues, these ranked as the readers’ top five:
1) Full Employment
2) Medicare for All
3) Civil Rights/Human Rights/Civil Liberties
4) Fair Trade
5) End the Wars Now
And from more than 25 proposed names, the group inspired 10 months before by Masoninblue had its favorite confirmed: We would be the New Progressive Alliance, or NPA.
In May 2011, the New Progressive Alliance filed as a 527 political organization.
Simultaneous with the online nomination and voting process which founded the NPA, a strategy for reaching them began taking shape. On November 9, 2010, while nominations of prospective primary challengers were still being accepted, NPA Facilitator Anthony Noel wrote:
Consider the degree to which third parties have been successful up ’til now, and why. The answers to these questions are “not very” and “bad strategy,” respectively. Most [third party] efforts have followed the same flawed plan:
(1) Build a movement
(2) Name a candidate
(3) Get trounced
[The NPA] turns that approach on its head, to wit:
(1) Network with other progressives – common people – to identify and rank potential candidates with proven, uncompromising records of activism strongly espousing progressive thought.
(2) Write the platform.
(3) Approach the desired candidates, one at a time, first choice first, second choice second, etc., until one agrees to run.
Following this strategy will allow us to “supercharge” our membership base, thanks to the discontent and disappointment of those who supported Obama and other Democrats so strongly in 2008, only to be shunned for the next two years.
More important, it will allow for building a much larger base than any Lefty third party now enjoys, much more quickly, thanks to the media attention the effort will garner during the primaries. Our media love open conflict, and challenging a sitting president in his own party’s primary is just that.
Conversely, the announcement of yet another run by yet another tiny third party’s candidate will be greeted by the media with, “Oh, really? Good for you. Now where did I put my donut…?”
If, during the campaign, we doggedly indict and attack the Democratic Party establishment for its complicity in pushing the party to the Right for the past 30 years, the media will never tire of our story, because there are so many issues on which the party has failed phenomenally. Each of which we’ll be more than happy to point out. Further, we’re the underdog – something else the media love.
Since the NPA’s founding, this strategy has evolved further:
First, while the NPA is leaving open the possibility of registering as a political party and fielding its own candidate in 2012, consultations with its Steering Committee suggest that endorsing an Independent or third-party candidate is a viable option. Whichever of these routes is finally taken, however, the second "main objective" - attempting to bring the Democrats back to their senses - has been dropped.
It is our firm belief that the Democratic Party is irretreviably compromised from top to bottom of its administrative structure at the national level. This ensures that even a truly Progressive Democrat who succeeds in being elected to federal office will be forced to knuckle under to the party establishment's decidedly corporatist sympathies. This is unacceptable. Therefore any candidate seeking the NPA’s endorsement will be required to publicly pledge to uphold the Unified Progressive Platform.
The second change revises the statement that winning is not one of the NPA’s goals for 2012. We now believe winning the General Election is within reach in view of the growing international Progressive awakening - something unforeseen as recently as December of 2010.
That awakening is evidenced by:
- The early 2011 uprisings in the Mideast and our own Midwest
- Increasing withdrawals of support for the Democratic Party by organizations which have perennially supported it
- A movement begun fully a year before the 2012 Iowa caucuses to organize caucus-goers in standing as uncommitted, rather than in support of Barack Obama, and
- The momentous collapse of Canada’s Liberal Party in the May 2011 elections. The Liberals lost "official opposition party" status when the NDP (New Democratic Party), which campaigned on a strongly Progressive platform, swept them from power.
But perhaps most critically, the NPA aspires to create a lasting movement not representing only "the Left," but all Americans who value peace, a good job, a healthy planet, and an end to the privileged treatment our sold-out government now accords corporate elites. Their complicity has perpetuated illegal wars, shipped our manufacturing overseas, despoiled our environment, and stolen money from public coffers in providing corporate welfare to often-criminal enterprises.
We believe that if we model our movement on the success of America's first Progressive Era - a successful public response to the robber barons or 100 years ago - we too restore the public good back to its rightful, topmost place in our society - and this time make the victory permanent.
We invite you to join the struggle.
A Unified Progressive Platform
During its March 2011 phone conference, the Steering Committee supported the creation of a Unified Progressive Platform, which would add five points to the original five chosen during the NPA’s founding:
6) Environmental Stewardship
7) Campaign Finance Reform
8) Regulate of the Constitutional Rights of Corporations
10) Living Wage / A Real Social Safety Net (tie)
Work began immediately, and, in addition to the input of bloggers and commenters voiced during the NPA's founding, drew on legacy platforms of the Populist and Progressive parties of 1892 and 1912 respectively; those of today's Green and Socialist parties; and of the advocacy group Progressives United.
After several drafts and extensive public comment, the Unified Platform was ratified in August, 2011.