By Chip Ashley
On Sept. 16, regional progressives will meet under a new name—the Progressive Network of Central California (PNCC)—at the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union hall at 4422 E. Ashlan Ave. in Fresno to kick off the 2012 elections.
The PNCC started on Oct. 1, 2011, when national radio commentator and author Jim Hightower spoke at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno. At this event, organized by Volunteers for Change–Fresno, Hightower inspired hundreds to believe anything was possible. Heck, it might even be fun. “Battling the bastards,” Hightower said, “is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.” It seemed true. We were happy as fleas at a dog show!
Almost a year of “battling the bastards” has taken its toll. The primary election last spring was disappointing. Attendance at PNCC meetings has gradually declined, and lots of us are probably remembering something else Hightower said: “Getting people together is harder than loading frogs in a wheelbarrow.”
Well, maybe, but it’s time to reenergize, jump back in the wheelbarrow and get to work. Hey! We have a choice (not!): We can stick together in our progressive wheelbarrow or become road kill.
Hightower spoke that day on “Strengthening Our Voice—Bringing Valley Progressives Together.” The very fact that we were there—some 400 of us filling the UU Church sanctuary to capacity—proves that we can bring Valley progressives together.
Just imagine what progressives could do if we got all 400 of us (or more) back together in the progressive wheelbarrow to stay. Just think what we could do if regularly we all got out in the street or on the phone to get out the vote—and stuck with it, not just up to the election but afterward. That’s what Sept. 16, 2012, is about.
Getting Hightower to Fresno in front of an excited audience of 400 proves we can accomplish great things. But success is going to take lots of hard work and sacrifice. As Hightower said as he quoted Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, “One should never wear one’s best trousers when going fighting for freedom and truth.”
Now all we’ve got to do is prove we are smarter than frogs—that we have brains enough to see the big picture and guts enough to get to work.
We’ve had successes. At the Fresno City Council, we protected the Sugar Pine Trail from encroachment. Many in the PNCC organized with other groups to convince the Fresno County Planning Commission to vote down the Cemex proposal to mine Jesse Morrow Mountain. We also organized with others to get the smart-growth 2025 Fresno City General Plan passed by the City Council. Neither of these last two victories is complete, and victory on these and other important issues will require sticking to it and sticking together.
Not only do we need to work hard to reelect President Obama, but we also have important local Congressional races. We need to work hard to protect unions from the deceptive union-busting Prop 32, and we need to protect public education by supporting Prop 30.
That’s what Sept. 16 is all about—jumping back in that wheelbarrow together, putting on our work clothes and getting to work on making progress toward our goals of “economic fairness, social justice and equal opportunity for all people.”
As Hightower puts it, “It’s no longer enough to be progressive. We have to become aggressive again.”
Chip Ashley is a local environmental activist and member of the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club. Contact him at 559-855-6376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.