Filling the need for a farm team

FILLING THE NEED FOR A FARM TEAM…. Over the last 10 to 15 years, there was a concerted effort on the part of many progressive leaders to start creating parallel institutions to rival the right. The point was about creating an “intellectual infrastructure” that could establish a foundation for ideas, voices, and candidates on the left, allowing them to thrive.

To a very real extent, these efforts have been successful. Institutions like the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, among many others, didn’t exist 15 years ago, but already have an enormous influence.

What the left is still lacking is a farm team. A new initiative, launched this week by Sen. Mark Begich (D) of Alaska and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) of Maryland, intends to change this. It’s called the “NewDEAL.”

This winter, progressives and elected Democrats in states across the country found themselves blindsided by a coordinated wave of conservative legislation. The policies themselves were tailor-made to both advance right-leaning policy objectives, and undermine the electoral hopes of the Democratic Party: union-busting, voter ID laws, tort reforms.

Despite high unemployment, and a public clamoring for jobs, these political measures popped up in just about every state where the GOP took control of part or all of government after the 2010 midterm romp — the ideas themselves were drafted and circulated by a network of conservative groups, and advanced by a crop of politicians that has been nurtured by the movement for years.

Looking forward, progressives want a piece of that action.

Begich told Brian Beutler, “The other side has been doing stuff like this for years, and I think that has been their long-term strategy. We have had a void to this area.”

The effort is still coming together — it was literally unveiled yesterday — but O’Malley and Begich had a piece fleshing out their vision in the Huffington Post, explaining that the NewDEAL intends to create a “national network searching the country for pro-growth progressive state and local elected leaders in order to help them share their innovative ideas to win the future.”

As part of the rollout, organizers introduced the first 10 “NewDEAL leaders” this week. The names won’t seem familiar — they’re not supposed to, a farm team is about future stars — but the group offers some hope for the future. The issues they’re working on — from rail to health care to civil rights — are also heartening.

It’s an initiative worth keeping an eye on.