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Independent Political Organizations Landscape Analysis

Article published:
Looking down a street and seeing nothing but people during the Women's March

Since 2016’s devastating election, many on the Left have come to believe that we need to take elections more seriously. Article after article discusses the massive accumulation of political power the far right has achieved in state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, the Supreme Court and of course, now in the White House. We realize that we need efforts and organizations that can dig into electoral politics, help defeat the Trump and his allies while finding progressive people to run, fighting for power at the state level and helping social movements “cash in” on their street protests and battle over ideas by winning victories at the ballot box.

Luckily, there is already a sector of organizations who have been steadily building local political power in working-class communities of color, and some working-class white communities. These organizations have increasingly been calling themselves IPOs, Independent Political Organizations.

In 2016, I took on a project with the See Forward Fund, to survey IPOs around the country. I was joined later in the year by Ryan Greenwood of Peoples’ Action and we finalized the survey and collected responses from about 75 organizations immediately after the November election. Check out the initial results we pulled out from the data in the attached report preview.

IPOs represent only one slice of the movement in the US. Many are part of the big national organizing networks in the country: The Center for Popular Democracy, Peoples’ Action, PICO and Center for Community Change. Some are affiliated with the Working Families Party. Many are unaffiliated but hail from similar organizing traditions. These organizations and networks must work closely with other sections of the movement, including more organizing groups, activist organizations, progressive unions, digital groups and others, if we are to build a united and powerful Left in this country.

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But IPOs have some unique things to offer. They are increasingly becoming a major electoral force in states. They are more democratic and more rooted in working-class communities of color than many other activist organizations. And increasingly, they are fiercely independent, ambitious and they are challenging themselves to take more risks politically. If IPOs can continue to grow and deepen their work, we may soon be able to disrupt the economy of political funding, where the consultant class dominates and most money is wasted on television ads and parachuting in firms with no relationship to communities. IPOs can take up the cause of true progressive candidates, help win races and hold them accountable in ways that political hacks and moderate party organizations often can’t or wont. And their clear progressive politics can take dead aim at Trump and the far right.

Read the report preview to see how IPOs are assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and how they want to develop. I’d love to hear your questions, ideas and feedback.

—Adam Gold, Center for Popular Democracy

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