Prescription for Progressive Change: Inspire and Mobilize

Barack Obama is going to need all his organizing skills to be an effective leader.

As I write in an article in the Huffington Post, Shifting Gears: Transforming Obama’s Campaign Into a Movement for Change, to achieve a progressive agenda, Obama will have to win over some reluctant Democrats and a few moderate Republicans. Like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, Obama can use his bully pulpit to inspire and educate Americans to help move the country in a new direction.

But like those two transformational presidents, Obama will also need to get the ground troops mobilized, in key states and congressional districts, to put pressure on members who might otherwise sit on the fence.

Are the progressive and liberal organizations and constituencies up to the challenge? What lessons can they learn from the success of FDR’s New Deal coalition, the Reagan-to-Bush conservative coalition that gained influence and power starting in the 1970s, and the Clinton adminstration’s tepid efforts to move the country in a new direction?

Peter Dreier is professor of politics at Occidental College and has contributed to Shelterforce since the 1970s. He served for many years on the board of the National Housing Institute and was a founder of the Massachusetts Tenants Organization in the 1980s and has worked with housing activist groups since then.


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