Progressives may occupy the left end of the political spectrum, but Baraboo’s chapter of Our Revolution is focusing on principles that lie right up the middle: good government and citizen participation.
Since March, the local Our Revolution chapter — a spinoff from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign — has convened in hopes of fixing American government at its roots. The group meets monthly, focusing on three priorities: recruiting candidates to run for Sauk County Board, persuading the board to put an advisory referendum on legislative redistricting on the April ballot, and member recruitment.
A meeting Tuesday attracted 11 attendees, including four newcomers. In total, the group has 25 active members. Facilitator Bill Dagnon said the group wants the government, particularly local government, to operate in a more open, transparent way. He’s frustrated by Sauk County government’s back-room dealings.
“We just want to see a good, functioning democracy,” Dagnon said.
The group is concerned about Wisconsin’s redistricting process, in which the party in power draws up “safe” districts designed to ensure re-election. (A lawsuit brought by Democrats over the 2010 redistricting has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.) Progressives also are working to counteract the effects of voter identification laws by conducting a registration drive.
Citizen participation is critical to good government, Dagnon said. That means staying informed, voting and running for office. “People don’t realize they have to do it themselves,” Dagnon said. “People have got to get involved.”
The local chapter, along with others around the country, is carrying on a tradition with rich history in Wisconsin. Gov. Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette was a famed progressive a century ago, and his ideals were carried on in later years by U.S. Sens. Gaylord Nelson and William Proxmire.
“I look at it as the heritage of Wisconsin,” Dagnon said.
Through this spring, local progressives will stay focused on Sauk County politics. After the April election, their attention will turn to state — and possibly national — affairs.
“We’re trying to influence the Democratic Party to be more progressive,” Dagnon said. “It’s a small group. I hope we’re effective.”
Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley