Progressive Central: The Peoples' Inauguration

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Progressive Central The Peoples' Inauguration was held Saturday, January 19, 2013, at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law 5th Floor Moot Court Room, 4340 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC.



The event was sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America, The Nation, National Nurses United, and Busboys and Poets. The event was advertised and promoted by the Institute for Policy Studies.[1]

Progressive Agenda

On January 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C., Progressive Democrats of America gathered with left-leaning members of Congress and social movement leaders to lay out the organization’s agenda for the next four years.

PDA, whose allies in Congress come from the activist wing of the 76-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, engages in what it calls an “inside-outside” strategy of connecting the demands of progressive social movements to legislative action from members of Congress. Saturday afternoon’s Progressive Central: The Peoples' Inauguration, the third such gathering in the group’s eight-year existence, embodied that “inside-outside” spirit, as PDA-backed members of Congress spoke on panels with activists from the labor, peace and environmental movements at the University of the District of Columbia’s law school. At other times during the conference, attendees mingled outside in a hall that featured tabling from groups like CODEPINK, Public Citizen and Democratic Socialists of America.

In the 113th Congress , some PDA-backed Democrats planned to introduce pieces of legislation that enjoy widespread support among the American left—but will, in all likelihood, be met with stiff opposition. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said he would introduce a full employment act. Conyers will also again introduce a version of the so-called “Medicare-for-all” bill, which would create a single-payer universal healthcare system. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said he would introduce a constitutional amendment to affirm that corporations are not people, in addition to supporting a bill that would strengthen the Voting Rights Act. McGovern, like other PDA allies in Congress, also said that defense cuts would be a priority, telling the audience to rousing applause, “If I had my way, I would shut down every U.S. military base in the Middle East right now.” Moreover, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will introduce a bill, backed prominently by the National Nurses United union, to implement a tax on all financial transactions, the so-called Robin Hood tax.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, told In These Times that he was worried his party leadership might agree to a future budget deal that could include cuts to Social Security.

“I’m concerned. I’m concerned,” Grijalva said. “But none of that’s going to pass without Democrats, so I think for the Progressive Caucus and our 70-odd members, holding the line can be huge leverage in this discussion. I’m optimistic about the role we can play. This is where the outside-inside [strategy] is so critical, because the pressure from the outside, not just on progressive members of Congress but on all members of Congress, is going to be critical to holding the line.”

Another major piece of legislation that could put progressives on the defensive is the Trans-Pacific Partnership , a global free trade agreement that has been described as “NAFTA on steroids.” The trade deal, which has largely been negotiated in secret, would create international tribunals overruling domestic laws, ban “buy America” procurements and substantially curtail Internet freedoms, among other things.

But as Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, pointed out, left-leaning opponents of TPP might be able to hold up the trade deal’s passage by aligning themselves with conservatives in Congress. A potential makeshift coalition of liberal Democrats and Republicans could unite to block the TPP, just as a similar coalition helped put a stop to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

“From a conservative perspective, also 100 percent accurate, just a different frame, this is about an international governance regime that undermines U.S. sovereignty and solvency,” Wallach said.

“I’m a Saul Alinsky guy, you know, that’s where I learned this stuff,” Grijalva told In These Times. “There’s gotta be some victories regardless of how small they are. Sometimes the victory with this group is going to be keeping the worst from happening.”[2]


8:00am-­‐9:10am Climate Summit -­‐ Windmills not Bombs -­‐ Green Economy

Moderated by Steve Cobble, Progressive Democrats of America National Board/Institute for Policy Studies

Featuring: Ted Glick, Chesapeake Climate Action Network -­‐ Jose Aguto, Friends Committee on National Legislation -­‐ Jacqui Patterson, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -­‐ Valerie Serrels, iMatter/Kids vs. Global Warming

9:15 am-­‐10:10 am Building the Peace and Justice movement inside and outside the Democratic Party: Healthcare not Warfare -­‐ Stop the drone wars -­‐ U.S. out of Afghanistan -­‐ Bring War Dollars Home

Moderated by Steve Cobble

Featuring: Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies -­‐ Donna Smith, Co-­‐Chair Healthcare Not Warfare Campaign -­‐ Medea Benjamin, Code Pink -­‐ Robert Score, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees LOCAL 1/Labor for Single Payer

10:15 am-­‐11:10 am Building the Progressive Democrat -­‐ Labor Alliance

Moderated by John Nichols, The Nation and MSNBC

Featuring: Karen Higgins, RN -­‐ National Vice-­‐President National Nurses United -­‐ George Kohl, Communications Workers of America -­‐ Lindsay McLaughlin, International Longshore and Warehouse Union -­‐ Bill Fletcher, PDA National Board/ American Federation of Government Employees

11:15 am-­‐12:30 pm What will the Progressive Agenda be in 2013?

Moderated by John Nichols

Featuring: Rep. Jim McGovern – Rep. John Conyers -­‐ Andrea Miller, PDA National Team -­‐ Randy Parraz, Citizens for a Better Arizona

12:30 Lunch -­‐ Rep Keith Ellison (video)

1:00 pm-­‐2:10 pm Organizing the Progressive Movement Inside and Outside the Democratic Party

Moderated by John Nichols

Featuring Rep. Raul Grijalva -­‐ Rep. Mark Pocan -­‐ Thom Hartmann, PDA National Board/Radio/TV Host and Author -­‐ Lori Wallach , Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

2:15 pm-­‐3:25 pm Organizing for Main Street not Wall Street

Moderated by John Nichols

Featuring: Rep Alan Grayson -­‐ Michael Lighty, PDA National Board/National Nurses United -­‐ Becky Bond, President CREDO SuperPAC

3:30 pm Closing Remarks by John Nichols and Tim Carpenter, PDA National Director[3]