Mountaineers for Progress is dedicated to the advocacy and support of progressive change in West Virginia. We have chosen to organize as a IRS 527 non-profit association and we are registered as such with the Office of the Secretary of State for West Virginia. As a 527 association, our focus is on working on matters of local, regional and statewide significance where we may offer support of a non-monetary nature to local, regional and statewide political candidates not running for Federal office, but our primary focus is working to foster progressive change across the state.
Recently, a document titled “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” has been circulated nationally via Google Docs (www.indivisibleguide.com). This document is receiving wide-spread attention as a grass roots organizing and resistance strategy to expose and contain the attempts by President Trump to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. While this document is focused principally on influencing members of the U.S. Congress, tactics and strategies outlined by it offers effective guidance to locally focused organizations like ours. The four local advocacy tactics described by Indivisible are equally relevant regardless as to whether the target is a member of Congress, Governor, State Senator, member of the House of Delegates, City or County Council member, or almost any other elected officer in the state. These tactics are easy to do and offer high impact:
Town halls. Many elected officials regularly hold public in-district events to show that they are listening to constituents. Make them listen to you, and report out when they don’t.
Non-town hall events. Elected officials love cutting ribbons and kissing babies back home. Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
District office sit-ins/meetings. Every member of Congress and many elected state and local officials have one or several district offices. Go there. Demand a meeting with them. Report to the world if they refuse to listen.
Coordinated calls. Calls are a light lift but can have an impact. Organize your local group to barrage your elected representatives at an opportune moment about and on a specific issue.
In keeping with our progressive principles we should join forces with other like-minded groups across West Virginia to encourage consistency in our messaging and tactics. In coordination with these groups and, in addition to working locally, we band together to act on national issues of relevance to the needs of West Virginians. As is so eloquently stated within the Indivisible document:
“You may not like the idea of being purely defensive; we certainly don’t. As progressives, our natural inclination is to talk about the things we’re for — a clean climate, economic justice, health care for all, racial equality, gender and sexual equality, and peace and human rights. These are the things that move us. The best way to stand up for the progressive values and policies we cherish is to stand together, indivisible — to treat an attack on one as an attack on all.”
Mountaineers for Progress is growing rapidly and is becoming well positioned to have a big impact on the political/economic climate of our local community. As an association, we have taken several positive steps toward increasing our visibility and relevance in our community and, even, across the state. Our work in establishing focused committees to address specific issues and concerns should continue and be encouraged. Let us now take a page from Indivisible and also work to contain as much as we can the wrong-headed, backward thinking that has captured the West Virginia political scene and use this as an opportunity to expose the true costs to each of us West Virginian citizens of the disparagement of our environment; the short-changing of our children’s education and future welfare; rampant disregard to public safety through un-checked gun availability; insidious collaboration of the pharmaceutical and the resource extraction industries causing the opioid epidemic so apparent especially in the poorest regions; the continued subsidy of the extraction industries at the expense of encouraging new industry and a brighter employment future for our citizens; neglect of our basic infrastructure; and, the increasingly regressive nature of our local tax laws. These and the many issues impacting race, gender and equality are but a few of the many targets of opportunity on which we as a group will apply our focus and energy working to change the minds of the public and make it difficult for our elected representatives to not be held accountable for their votes.