Indivisibles and Progressives Combine Forces Statewide

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Chiara D'Amore and Becca Niburg, co-chairs of Together We Will Howard County, welcome the progressive group representatives. Photo: John Wells

About 95 indivisible and progressive group leaders met on Saturday, June 24 in Columbia, MD, to chart out a course for combining Maryland’s progressive groups into a powerful coalition. This All State Progressive Leadership Meeting was organized by Together We Will-Maryland, Indivisible Maryland, Progressive Maryland, local Huddles, and others.  

The event started with an encouraging announcement that the Maryland Democratic Party has created an Executive Committee position for a progressive representative. The Maryland Progressive Caucus recently elected Sheila Ruth as Director of the Progressives Leadership Council, one of several new Maryland Diversity Leadership Councils created under the leadership of new Maryland Democratic Party chair Kathleen Matthews. This latest initiative represents a significant step forward to those of us indivisibles who may have been skeptical about the true progressive credentials of the Democratic Party. These Diversity Leadership Councils are tasked with “increasing inclusiveness, capacity building, voter education, and empowerment of Maryland’s diverse communities” including African-American, LGBTQ, and veteran Marylanders.

Sheila Ruth urges participants to work together.

Sheila Ruth notes, “It’s essential that we stand together to take back our Democracy and advance the progressive goals. Working together isn’t always easy, because we come from different perspectives and have different ways of working, but we all understand that the stakes are too high to allow egos to get in the way. We encourage all other groups to join us and help us lead. There is no room for turf battles in this movement.”

Can we combine our forces in Maryland, and pass our model on to other states? Based on the number, thoughtfulness, and sheer determination of the participants at Saturday’s meeting, I believe this will happen, and soon.

Most of Saturday’s session was devoted to breakout groups, with a number of “high-powered” attendees to help guide the open-ended sessions. Some examples:

The breakout on elections focused on getting big money out of politics. Gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross said he has raised over $400,000 without PAC money. Charlie Cooper and Susan Ogden, who have led the 6,000 member Get Money Out Maryland group for several years, suggested other ways of fundraising. Ogden pointed out that “until now we have strictly funded our efforts with personal contributions from our members, mostly by the organizers. At some point we have to go further. We are exploring methods to raise money for very specific activities using [transparent] tools like GoFundMe”.

Earnest discussions within the elections break-out group

In the environment breakout, gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous suggested that wind power could be a very powerful vehicle for bringing unions to the movement, “but we need to do it here in the State”.

The progressive organizations that met on Saturday will work to connect indivisible, progressive, public interest, union, and faith-based conscience groups to form a unified coalition. The meeting’s organizers are already setting up a directory of progressive group leaders with a central calendar, lists of websites, and key contacts. A unified coalition will provide valuable infrastructure support for all progressive candidates, regardless of party.

I will be urging my members to support this effort and encourage others to look into it as well.  We need to work together, effectively, and intensely– and I believe this group will help us all to do just that.

John Wells attended the 1968 March on Washington and continues to be active in city and national politics. John started the group Annapolis Indivisible.

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