Common Culprits, Common Cause

This piece is part of the Prospect's series on progressives' strategy over the next 40 years. To read the introduction, click here.

Whatever the issue that progressive organizers are working on, we can find common cause in the need to rein in corporate power and restore governments’ ability to advance the common good. The success of big corporations has handed us an opportunity to align our disparate fights against common corporate malefactors, with strategies that advance both our short-term battles and our long-term shared goals. As corporations merge and consolidate their power, an ever smaller corporate elite drives the agendas that many of our organizations are fighting against.

Whether we run joint or separate campaigns, aligning some portion of our work against common culprits at the top of the corporate food chain can increase our leverage as we take on our targets and can amplify our message identifying who is responsible for the problems in our country. 

We need to define our shared goals of reining in corporate power and restoring the ability of government to address the problems confronting regular people. We should identify short-term campaigns that attract more people to the fight, deliver for our members, and bring some of our organizations in alignment against common corporate targets. Such aligned campaigns might, for example, address the debt crisis for tens of millions in this country—whether housing debt, credit-card debt, school debt, or state and municipal debt. In California, community and labor groups are taking our budget fights in a new direction by calling on Wall Street banks to renegotiate the debts that are gouging local and state governments. This campaign not only can save vital public services but can also highlight the role that major banks have played in creating unsupportable debt to increase their revenues.

We can begin if all of our groups devote some percentage of their time to this shared campaign. More than that, though, we need a team of organizations, including mass-based groups, think tanks, and communications outfits, that work together to advance this campaign as their singular mission. They must focus on building outside power, without tempering their message, demands, or tactics. The campaigns must be informed and driven by folks on the ground, people angry at current conditions and looking for real alternatives.