Last modified: August 8th, 2019
Q What makes the PPOF different from other progressive electoral groups?
A The PPOF aims to build a viable third party, not another organization working within the two-party system, and not another party that doesn’t seriously compete for power from the outside. Rather than regularly endorsing Democrats or running weak third party candidates in longshot races, the PPOF’s Progressive Party will run its own strong candidates in winnable races from the bottom up.
And while certain other progressive groups may talk about the need for a new party, none have developed a coherent, compelling new strategy for creating it. By comparison, the PPOF’s sharp focus on raising and selectively applying significant resources to party building stands out.
Q Since the two major parties are so powerful, how can any third party, including a Progressive Party ever win?
A Consistent with the story of David and Goliath and a long history of victories by political underdogs (in social movements and revolutions across the world), the arrogant and powerful can be defeated by skilled and committed challengers. The American duopoly today is not any more immune to being overthrown than other ruling regimes that have been repeatedly toppled.
Past wins by US third parties, whether in previous centuries or in the last several decades, have given us just a glimpse of what could be possible. In the mid 19th century, the Republican Party itself began as a third party. Its rapid ascent contributed significantly to ending slavery. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Populists, Socialists and Progressives elected over a thousand officials at all levels of government and helped leverage or inspire a wide array of enduring progressive reforms. Since the 1980s, wins by a growing cluster of Vermont Progressives, several Greens in different locations, and more recently, a Seattle socialist, have helped stimulate a variety of substantial state and local changes (such minimum wage increases, fairer taxes, stronger environmental regulations, and marriage equality laws).
And as public discontent with the corporate backed major parties has become more and more widespread in recent years, our two-party establishment has become increasingly vulnerable -- not only to being influenced but also to being brought down, one step at a time, by a serious progressive populist third party. Such a party can start winning by first drawing upon just a fraction of the popular support for a viable alternative; recruiting a small but potent core of adept activists and candidates; strongly contesting the duopoly where it is weakest; building a critical mass of lower level victories, puncturing the popular myth that third parties can't win; and thereby attracting a much larger pool of popular support.
Q Why don't you just support progressive Democratic candidates, instead of taking the harder route of running candidates in a third party?
A On the face of it, it may seem easier to support progressive candidates working within an established major party, the Democratic Party. That way, one doesn't have to face obstacles to running third party candidates. However, progressives working within the Democratic Party themselves have to confront a huge impediment -- unrelenting opposition from a powerful, status quo oriented Democratic machine and its wealthy backers. In the rare instances when true progressives do get elected as Democrats, they are forced either to become marginal, token outsiders within their own party or to start cooperating with the corporate party establishment. Thus, progressives who aim to take over the Democratic Party are contained or co-opted.
By contrast, working outside of the Democratic Party as part of an independent Progressive Party offers several critical advantages: Progressive Party candidates can clearly distinguish themselves from our corrupt and discredited duopoly, completely expose the misdeeds of both major parties and their rich funders, and remain loyal to the interests of ordinary citizens. This willingness to thoroughly (not partially) challenge politics as usual can excite and draw to campaigns, polls and the streets many people who previously were disengaged politically. Also, in solid “red” districts where not voting for a Democrat has become an embedded tradition, Progressives can offer a fresh, untainted alternative.
Importantly, just one elected Progressive can threaten and push the establishment much more than multiple elected Democrats who call themselves "progressive." Kshama Sawant, the Socialist Alternative city council member in Seattle, exemplifies this kind of third party clout. Within months after she was first elected in 2013, she played a pivotal role in mobilizing the public to press Democratic council members to join her in passing the country's first $15 an hour minimum wage. Had she herself been a Democrat, it is doubtful that she would have had the independence to do this.
In sum, running and electing Progressives will be the much bolder, more promising path to progressive power than staying in the Democratic Party. And of course, as described in a subsequent FAQ, the Progressive Party will aim to minimize common obstacles to third party success by being very selective about the races it enters and candidates it recruits.
Q How will you grow your base?
A In order to build a winning Progressive Party, we must reach far beyond like-minded activists with a popular progressive message. For example, we’ll call for government to serve the common good rather than the privileged few, and we’ll stress that our society has what it takes to create a decent life for all. Such a message, along with a popular progressive policy agenda, can appeal to citizens across ingrained political and cultural divides. It also can attract many ordinary people who’ve either disengaged from politics or previously sided with elite-led parties that repeatedly mislead and betray them.
Just as important, a new Progressive Party will attract broad support if it shows it regularly can win, in contrast to less successful third party efforts. Starting at the grassroots level, organizing democratically, and competing for power from the bottom up will help us do this.
Q Specifically, how will you counter the popular appeal of the Right?
A The Right has used exclusionary rhetoric to equate greatness with the reinforcement of individualism, nationalism and white male privilege. It seeks to divide the progressive majority by sowing distrust, telling people: “We can’t trust the government, the media, immigrants, non-whites, the poor, or women.” In an extreme form, this has encouraged cruel and violent actions against minorities. But it also has justified subtler forms of economic, political, and social exclusion that have made most Americans feel more isolated and vulnerable. And along with that, the environment has also been marginalized.
The GOP has openly embraced this reactionary approach. But the corporate-dominated Democratic Party has also caused it to flourish. By refusing to seriously champion a progressive alternative, Democratic establishment leaders have left many people feeling disenfranchised, angry, and more open to right-wing populist appeals. It needn’t be this way. We believe a great society is an inclusive society, and a strong government is an inclusive government that serves all of us. We aim to develop a truly persuasive challenge to Right politics by strongly, genuinely representing all ordinary people over powerful elites, and by organizing democratically and winning from the bottom up.
Q Why not join or help existing progressive third parties, rather than create a new one?
A Building an entirely new party will allow the PPOF to champion a winning new strategy. This will involve not only remaining independent from the two major parties and articulating a strong progressive populist message, but also developing party organization, running viable candidates, and gaining political power from the bottom up. In this way, we can make much more of a difference than if we join other efforts that are not so oriented toward achieving electoral results.
Existing national left third parties, unfortunately, do not really aim to win They often promote longshot candidates who perform poorly, and they seem committed to continuing to do so. Joining or assisting these parties probably won’t change them into more electorally competitive organizations.
Of course, since the first Sanders presidential campaign various other groups have formed for the purpose of building a new national progressive party. Yet they've failed to move their vision forward by committing to a serious grassroots, democratic party building process. As a result, these "proto-party" groups have either collapsed, withered away, or remained stuck gathering endorsements and seeking social media attention. Joining or helping them is unlikely to make them more effective.
Generally, unity among third party progressives is desirable. But in the end, it is best to unite around a party-building project with real potential, even if that requires creating something new (with a solid strategic and organizational foundation). That's what the PPOF aims to establish -- a viable new progressive third party. This party will aim to attract a wide range of activists and other citizens interested in actually winning power on behalf of a better society
Q Which candidates and races will the new party (and the PPOF) favor?
A The PPOF and the new party will commonly support campaigns that have a strong potential to actually win. To do this, we will focus first on local races where the obstacles to third party success are weakest (where money, endorsements and media attention are less important, and where it is easier to interact directly with most voters). We'll also prioritize races and districts dominated by one major party, so as not to split the progressive vote with an opponent. And we'll recruit candidates who have strong connections to their community -- those who can easily build a competitive base.
Q How will the PPOF determine if prospective candidates are viable and therefore worthy of support?
A By repeatedly observing what it takes to run successful progressive third party campaigns, PPOF team members have developed considerable expertise concerning what it will take for Progressive Party candidates to be viable, i.e., to achieve critical electoral goals. With that knowledge and in consultation with our local affiliates, the PPOF will gather and analyze essential information about potential candidates’ ability to win, to make a good showing, or when needed, to achieve party ballot access. Each viability assessment will depend on a combination of relevant factors. For example, the PPOF may consider candidate experience and reputation, the opponent's standing among constituents, the political makeup and size of the district, and other elements specific to a race.
Candidate viability assessments will shape PPOF decisions about who will receive funding. The results also will be shared with the candidates and their PPOF-affiliated organizations, in order to strengthen their electoral campaigns and future candidate recruitment.
Q What is your platform? What do you stand for?
A The national Progressive Party platform will be determined in more detail once the party is officially and democratically established. However, we do have a agenda that sets a firm progressive direction for our emerging organization.
Q What type of organization is PPOF?
A We are organized as a non-connected Political Action Committee (PAC). A non-connected PAC is a PAC that is not sponsored by any organizations and can receive donations from the general public. PACs are formed for the purpose of raising money to support specific issues and candidates. They are used by all sorts of people from all sectors of the community and even by corporations. Some PACs promote bad policies and get corrupt politicians elected, but others (like the PPOF) support good policies and progressive candidates. You can learn more about PACs at fec.gov.
Q Are you a super PAC?
A No, we are not a super PAC. A super PAC is one type of an independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates. The PPOF is a non-connected PAC, different from a Super Pac, and has certain contribution limits.
Q Do you have a dollar amount cap on donations from any one individual?
A Yes, as a non-connected PACs, the PPOF has a federal contribution limit of $5,000.00 by any single individual per year.
Q How can I get involved?
A There are several ways to get involved: