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3 Organizations Take Up Where ACORN Left Off

After conservatives successfully dismantled ACORN, these groups are picking up the slack in empowering the poor and disenfranchised of America.

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A July 12 poll shows 60 percent of voters oppose the ban on same-day registration. Regardless of the November outcome, Maine People’s Alliance plans to register more voters in 2012.

Battles are still being fought and won, even in the age of austerity. But none of these groups has the scope or capacity of ACORN. Outside the ever-shrinking labor movement, ACORN was the only truly national group to specifically focus on low-income and working people’s economic power. Even National People’s Action, which boasts the sole national profile of the groups portrayed here, only has offices in five states.

“If you don’t have ACORN connected in all these different states you have a lot more independent groups and there’s not as much built-in coordination,” says Joe Szakos, executive director of Virginia Organizing, one of the few strong state community groups in the South. (His group never affiliated with ACORN, but worked with it on many projects.) “Having said that, I’ve been doing this for 32 years and there’s way more cooperation among the state groups than ever before. The lines aren’t as rigid.”

The New Bottom Line is one of the ways that cooperation is taking shape. Dozens of community groups, including the Maine People’s Alliance, Virginia Organizing and National People’s Action, are part of the coalition, which is chiefly meant to build power on the national level around financial and housing issues.

“The New Bottom Line wasn’t really possible ten years ago,” says Goehl. “It puts us in 30 states. In my world it’s a groundbreaking alignment. Tons of organizing that might feel like it's below the waterline, but it's trending in the right direction, building power. Attacks on working families will be met with serious resistance.”

Jake Blumgart is a researcher for the Cry Wolf Project and a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia.