Political group tours state with progressive agenda | VailDaily.com

Political group tours state with progressive agenda

Alex Miller

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyMike Huttner's group ProgessNow wants to help activists create Web sites to help mobilize their supporters.

VAIL – Call them Democrats, liberals or progressives – one thing the forces on the left side of the political spectrum appear to agree upon is that the right is winning. But members of a Colorado political action group called ProgressNow were in Vail Wednesday with a message of hope for those of the blue persuasion.The idea, explained ProgressNow Executive Director Michael Huttner, is to create a Web site local groups can use to help mobilize like-minded allies on a variety of topics. “It’s exciting because it’s a model to do hard-hitting, rapid media response to the right wing,” Huttner said. “And it’s a way to help push a mainstream, progressive agenda.”ProgressNow has been in existence for about two years, Huttner said. The new initiative, called ProgressNow Action, has at its heart a powerful Web site that’s free and open to groups that need to get the word out. It could be something as simple as posting information about local school board candidates or a call to action against the latest comments by James Dobson or Tom Tancredo.Huttner said his group led the way earlier this month, when Dobson – the head of ultra-conservative Focus on the Family – compared stem-cell researchers to Nazi scientists. “We called him out on that and got written about in the Wall Street Journal,” Huttner said.

Huttner compares ProgressNow Action to more well-known liberal groups like MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, but with a much more local focus. Using the site to build online communities with shared progressive beliefs, Huttner said, is the best way to counter the forces on the other side, which mobilize quickly under a united ideology.”The idea is to respond with speed,” he said. “It’s critical for progressives to be quicker, more targeted and with a clearer message.”Also critical, he said, is using local people to get the message out. Carole Onderdonk of Eagle showed up at Fiesta’s Cafe in Edwards Wednesday to hear the ProgressNow message and said afterward it seemed like a good idea.”I really like the idea of being able to be in touch with other Coloradans with a progressive leaning,” she said. Onderdonk, who creates the newsletter for the Eagle County Democrats, compared the ProgressNow initiative to the strategy used by the Howard Dean campaign during the Democratic presidential primary.”Dean had a lot of success with that bottom-up campaign,” she said. “The more we get involved, the better off we are, and this is another tool.”

The siteA preliminary look at the ProgressNow Action Web site – which isn’t yet active – shows a full-service site that makes it easy for groups to create their own, free accounts and Web page. From there, they can set up blogs, post news releases, go to a chat room or search the database for other groups.The site will enable people to find one another on the grass-roots level, Huttner said, but also have information about the media, elected officials and experts on particular subjects.The new Web site at progressnowaction.org should be ready by mid-September. Jen Caltrider, director of projects for ProgressNow, said it will function as an electronic meeting place for Colorado progressives.”It’ll become a one-stop place anyone in Colorado can look to if they’re progressive,” she said. “It’s a place for everyone to come together.”Huttner said he’s already had interest from progressives in other states about using the ProgressNow Action model. Mostly, though, the group is focused on getting out the word to Coloradans. Over the next few weeks, Huttner and Caltrider will visit 17 more cities in Colorado.

“The goal is to connect real people with the press and elected officials,” Huttner said. “If we do our job well, you won’t be quoting me but someone who, for example, is being hurt by Medicare cuts.”ProgressNow is based in Denver. Huttner, a former policy attorney with Gov. Roy Romer, is also a law professor at the University of Denver.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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