A DIY Direct Democracy Approach to Unite the Progressive Movement in 2020

Martin Bishop
4 min readApr 29, 2021

Given the current dearth of viable options inside and outside the Democratic party (at least at the presidential level), the only strategy that excites me right now is the possibility of putting progressive initiatives (aka “propositions”) on the ballot in every state that allows them in 2022.

We know the DNC will never allow a true progressive to win the Democratic presidential nomination and we also know the DCCC and DSCC have their thumbs on the scale in favor of corporate centrists in the House and Senate. Third parties are non-starters without Ranked Choice Voting because 51% of Americans are incapable of thinking outside of the “Lesser of Two Evils” box.

There may be possibilities to elect a few progressives to the House or Senate from within the Democratic party, but recent experience shows such exceptional people are soon brought within the comfortable fold of Democratic leadership by forces not really understood publicly to such a degree that one can honestly wonder if they were visited by the “pod people” in one of those Sci Fi films like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

What, then, to do?

Ballot Initiatives give us the opportunity to bypass representative democracy as well as party politics and enact policy using direct democracy. This means the oligarchic skewing of lobbyists and campaign contributions becomes moot and long-denied policies that the majority of Americans want have a real chance to win (https://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_measure)

We have to start now (April 2021, as I’m writing this). The initiative language must be drafted/crafted for each state for a number of policies. We need a national clearinghouse organization to coordinate and fund-raise plus signature-collecting committees in every state that allows them. We will also need legal teams in each state to handle flak from authorities that routinely try to thwart popular initiatives.

The right wing has their “ALEC” organization to coordinate state-level *legislation* and we need to invent a similar organization for #WeThePeople that is oriented toward populist/progressive policy and is geared toward grass-roots ballot-measures. Working name: #KALE ? Specific measures, we could run in participating states:

  • #MedicareForAll: #M4A actually looks like Medicaid for All at the state level (Combining federal Medicaid funding and state funding). This has been the number-one priority for progressives activated by the Bernie campaigns.
  • #FightFor15: The $15 Minimum Wage. When workers actually have a chance to vote for higher wages, they do… hugely.
  • #NORMLcy: Cannabis legalization for both medical and recreational purposes. Many states have already achieved this with ballot measures. This issue underscores the viability of ballot measures as successful tools for achieving real progressive change.
  • #RCV: Ranked Choice Voting is essential to avoid splintering the progressive movement in 2024. The usual progressive-bashing about “protest votes”, spoilers, lesser-of-two-evils must stop.
  • #BLM: The Black Lives Matter movement is key to progressive reforms. Police Reform and/or abolition. We at least have to replace many police with social workers, disarm traffic cops and end unqualified immunity.
  • Some issues can only be achieved with federal authority, but some can be done with state-level authority or buttressed by state-level measures. One aspiring-to-be-comprehensive list of progressive objectives: https://martintruther.medium.com/my-list-of-demands-cc51d96b1e59

There are several important synergistic advantages to a nationwide ballot measure strategy. (1) First, obviously, we get to enact policies we want at the state level.

Secondly (2), Ballot measures being on the ballots have the effect of raising progressive issues in the media and the national dialog, providing myriad opportunities for voter education and organization. Also, such measures embolden reporters to ask where candidates stand on these issues which helps to separate the authentic progressive candidates from the posers.

Ballot measures also have the effect of motivating tuned-out voters to vote, which is VITALLY important in off-year elections. Democratic strategists (if they cared) would be all over this as a way to keep the House and Senate in 2022. Instead, we are being subtly propagandized to accept losing control in both the House and Senate in 2022 due to Republican gerrymandering in diverse states based on the 2020 census. Don’t underestimate the propagandistic “anaesthetizing” effect of this narrative. It’s not by accident. It’s not like we’re powerless.

To make all this happen, we need our best progressive leaders to come together around this strategy, form “#KALE” (a national organization) and drive ballot-measure crafting talent, funding and volunteer energy into both the national and state-level organizations needed.

Will you help make this vision into reality? Please re-tweet and lobby progressive leaders to get behind this. Thank you! Together we can make great strides in 2022 if we get busy now.

P.S. Organizing around a semi-national (26 states allow ballot initiatives) direct democracy strategy has yet another advantage — it helps to create a “peoples’ political machine” by getting us to organize around ISSUES instead of PERSONALITIES (who live, die and get corrupted, making them unreliable as uniting principles)

I wish I could Google “progressive ballot initiatives organization” and find something similar to Democracy Alliance (https://democracyalliance.org), but, instead, find an organization for whom “progressive” wasn’t just a co-opted sheep-dogging term of art used only to derail actual progressives. I mean, how progressive can an organization actually be if their conference keynote speakers are Obama, Pelosi and Perez? https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/15/democratic-donors-lawmakers-2020-071090

I’m going out on a limb, but it appears to me that a truly progressive nation-wide state-level ballot initiative campaign coordinating council DOES NOT YET EXIST, so we need to start one, quickly. (Please correct me if I’ve missed something).

We’re going to have to start our own organization. Who’s with me? Let’s start with podcasters and Zoom calls SOON. (DM me if you’d like to help)



Martin Bishop

Tirelessly advocating the apparently contrarian view that human extinction is worth avoiding.