By Mike Rhodes
We all agree with the chant “the people united, will never be defeated” when we hear it at a rally or a march. Some participants will raise their fist into the air and shout the slogan out as loud as possible. But, have you ever thought about what it would take to unite the people?
An effort is currently under way in Fresno to unite the progressive movement by bringing groups and individuals together. The goal is to create a political force that is more powerful than any single group could ever be.
There are dozens of progressive groups in Fresno addressing an amazing number of individual issues. There are groups working on protection of the environment, immigrant rights, organized labor, peace, racial justice, economic and social justice, healthcare, LGBTQ issues and many more. Each group works hard, all too often in isolation, to accomplish their goal. Sometimes they win, but many times they lose or fail to gain traction because the forces lined up against them have more political power.
What if the progressive community in this area could come together and develop a political strategy that challenged the underlying assumption that conservatives have a lock on power in Fresno? Would it be worth two hours of your time to find out? Would you help?
The groups that organized the Jim Hightower event on Oct. 1 believe that it is possible to bring many of the single issue groups in Fresno together and start a conversation about building unity that could lead to the strengthening of everyone’s agenda. Participating groups will continue to focus on their issue of primary concern but will increase their effectiveness by having a broader base of support.
It starts with a willingness to sit down together and talk about what this might look like. A meeting has been called for Jan. 8, 2012, at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 2672 E. Alluvial Ave. in Clovis. Everyone who shares progressive values is encouraged to attend.
No decisions have been made about what the outcome of the meeting will be, although many people made proposals at the Hightower event. Suggestions have included something as simple as having a more effective calendar of events so there are not multiple activities at the same time. There is a proposal to find ways to communicate better—perhaps to have representatives from various groups communicating regularly with each other and sharing information with their respective groups. Communication may lead to development of strategic actions Another proposal is periodic get-togethers so those in the progressive community can see each other, face to face, and continue a dialog. Developing a united electoral strategy for local races (School Board, City Council, Board of Supervisors) is also a possibility, but there is no concrete proposal for that level of unity at this time.
The first step is getting representatives from each progressive group in Fresno to make a commitment that they will sit in the same room together. That meeting will take place on Jan. 8 where we will see if the chant “the people united, will never be defeated” is more than just a nice slogan. Another World is Possible. So, let’s get united.
Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.