Earlier this week I got the chance to hear League of Conservation Voters President Deb Callahan present an impressively self-aware critique of the operation of LCV and other American environmentalist groups, in which she compared the 11 million Americans in environmental groups to the 13 million in unions and asked why the latter had representation that was so much more effective than the former. Her answer, in large part, was that the environmental movement needs to shift its resources from soft money campaigning into grassroots organizing. Amen to that. During the question period, I asked Callahan why a movement fighting injustices which disproportionately target people of color has membership and leadership that’s so overwhelmingly white. Her answer was part rationalization, part apology, and part putting forth the beginnings of a program to build a movement based around the people who, she argued, should be its real base: Harlem families whose kids all have athsma rather than wealthy liberals in San Francisco.
One step she mentioned was the funding and organizing LCV has invested in the past week in Barack Obama, the black state senator and former community organizer running in the heated Democratic Senate primary this Tuesday. Obama, who’s also been endorsed by SEIU, UNITE, and Jesse Jackson Jr., is a real progressive who’s pulled ahead of more conservative millionaires and demonstrated a strong chance of becoming the only African-American in the Senate come November. Check out his website here.
As Harold Meyerson argued Friday in the Washington Post, electing this man, according to all signs, would be a major victory not only for Illinois but for a revitalized Democratic party and America.