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CS MONITOR: Online Activists Get States to Oppose Iraq Escalation

David Sirota: What happens when the Netroots stops focusing exclusively on the Beltway, and focuses some energy on the states?
 
 
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What happens when the Netroots stops focusing exclusively on the Beltway, and focuses some energy on the states? As a major new story in the Christian Science Monitor reports - we start to exert real power. Using the Progressive States Network's Anti-Iraq Escalation campaign as a model, the Monitor shows how when grassroots activists focus more on states and less exclusively on Washington, the progressive movement can exert incredible influence over American politics.

Here's the key excerpt:

The current push at the state level was spurred largely by a mid-January initiative by liberal advocacy groups, including the Progressive States Network and MoveOn.org, with support from US Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts. Launched as Congress wrangled over whether to debate Mr. Bush's new Iraq strategy, the online campaign urged war critics to bombard their local as well as national elected representatives with calls for action. "The Internet is making the 50-state campaigns easier and cheaper," says Christopher Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. "This has led to an increasing nationalization of state politics."

The mechanics of it really are quite simple:

"State legislatures are the representative bodies that are closest to the people, and they have been hearing from constituents who are frustrated with the war," says Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, in an e-mail. "As more state legislatures take up resolutions on Iraq, it will add to the mounting pressure for the president and Congress to change strategies." In the case of the Iraq resolutions in the states, activism helped give a national debate some local flavor, Mr. Barkin says. The aim remains to make Washington pay attention, but the means of doing so are changing. "You put in 500 calls to a [legislator in Washington] and you will send a message," says Barkin. "But you put 500 calls to a state legislator and it shakes the whole building."

And we've seen the results all over the country. This week, the battle is brewing most intensely in Colorado, where the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press report that Republicans are freaking out over State Sen. Ron Tupa's (D) anti-escalation resolution that would pressure Colorado's congressional delegation. AP notes that Tupa "participated in a conference call organized by the Progressive States Network Tuesday with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and other lawmakers."

This is what real grassroots organizing and movement-based advocacy looks like in the Internet age - and we can't do it without the Netroots. Thanks for everyone's help in this specific campaign - and more generally for your help building this critical infrastructure that spans over multiple years and multiple campaigns. It's paying off big-time.

David Sirota is a veteran political strategist and author of Hostile Takeover , a New York Times bestseller about the corruption of both political parties.

 
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