“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice”
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”
As paraphrased by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
and quoted by President Barack H. Obama.
The State of Play
It is hard to believe that a year has passed since six dedicated Bernie Sanders “super-volunteers” came together first to first commiserate, then recriminate, and then finally to germinate the seed of an idea, the fruits of which are now starting to bloom before you in the form of this not-so-fancy but functional new website for our similarly situated new non-profit organization, Force the Issue NJ.
During the past year, we have been faced with numerous questions such as, “What is the issue?” or our personal favorite, “What is Force the NJ Issue?” to which we have answered “Do you know any good graphic designers?”
If there is one issue that has troubled us the most, it is the gradual deterioration of the famed “Obama Coalition.” This deterioration was first evident in the failure of progressives to resist the reactionary tea party wave of 2010 (or effectively turn it back in 2012 or 2014) and more recently manifested in the often acrimonious primary contest between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and by the failure of the latter to hold enough of that coalition together to spare the world from the deplorable presidency of Donald J. Trump.
Here in New Jersey, despite a population that leans strongly towards liberal and progressive values, we have spent the last eight years suffering under the disgraceful governorship of Chris Christie which – enabled by his allies in the Democratic Party almost more-so than the Republicans – has resulted in New Jersey not only failing to make progress on many key issues, but actually falling behind on others. Quite a few of our congressional districts are solidly held by conservative representatives, who do not at all represent their largely liberal-leaning voters. Many state legislative seats and municipal offices are held by seemingly liberal and progressive Democrats who serve, wittingly or not, corporate special interests and thwart needed progress on a whole range of issues affecting us as New Jerseyans.
Why is that?
While there are any number of external factors we might justly blame for these catastrophic occurrences, it has become clear to us as progressives that it is the internal factors which are a) most determinative of our success or failure, and b) most within our power to change.
Chief among these factors, is the lack of coalition and cohesion among progressives. Our collective political power and energy is too often diffused into either local or issue-oriented silos. It seems we are torn between being co-opted by the mainstream Democratic Party establishment on one hand, resulting in the conflation of our ideals and positions with the corruption and mediocrity thereof or, on the other hand, diverted by smaller, ideologically driven parties or organizations with no effective strategy to build a coalition that can make an impact.
Lacking the type of cohesive coalition in which we can gather our numbers and thereby consolidate our power leaves us with a state of play where progress on the issues we care about only takes place in fits and starts – if it even takes place at all. Progress we do manage to make can too easily be stagnated or reversed by even the smallest obstacles. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that it is equally clear to us that the goal of building and nurturing such a coalition is not only a necessary goal, but a realistically achievable goal provided the following factors are present:
- An organization dedicated to just that goal.
- A base of technically and civically savvy volunteers, activists, and organizers dedicated to that goal, and willing to work towards it.
- A modest but consistent level of dedicated funding sufficient to develop and maintain that organization
It is Force the Issue NJ‘s goal to become that organization, to develop and maintain Platforms for Progress so that activists, volunteers, organizers, and organizations throughout the state can support and amplify their own efforts, and in so doing, help build and sustain an effective, well-organized and powerful coalition. This is what we mean when we say “We’ll Work for Change!”
But before we get into more detail on what these platforms would entail, we feel it is critical to define what we mean by calling ourselves a progressive organization.
What is a progressive?
For us, this answer is simple. We seek progress towards justice including, but not limited to social, economic, political, racial, and environmental justice. While many individuals and organizations may hold and act on some beliefs that can rightly be considered progressive, we feel that in order to define yourself as a progressive individual or an organization, you must work towards justice on an inter-sectional basis. To again quote Dr. King, a progressive believes that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Second, in order to make progress, both organization and strategy is required. Holding progressive beliefs may be a necessary pre-condition to making progress, but that is not – in and of itself – what makes progress happen. Progressives must activate their beliefs by determining strategic goals, organizing towards achieving those goals, and following through on their plans.
Third, while political engagement and voting is critical, progressivism is not simply an ideal to be expressed at a rally or in letter to your representative or voted on at a ballot box. Progressive change can and must also be effected through direct service to both the communities you live and work in, and the communities that neighbor your own.
Animated by these core ideals, and informed by our experience working on the Bernie Sanders campaign, the members of Force the Issue NJ determined that the most important way we could contribute to progressive change is to facilitate the development of an independent progressive coalition throughout the state of New Jersey by developing and maintaining platforms that help organizations facilitate collaboration across a whole spectrum of issues and demographics, and to promote and facilitate individual participation at every level of New Jersey’s civic community from the block association to the Statehouse.
Platforms for Progress
Platforms for Progress are tools that will be accessible on this website, and are designed to have an immediate and direct impact in the real world.
If you are an individual activist, volunteer, donor or voter, you will be able to use these tools to find specific information on organizations working on issues you care about in your immediate area, including both long-term projects and short “one-off” opportunities. We will build dashboards that will provide you with customized information on your personal political geography, including up to date information on upcoming elections, city council meetings, and other news and events which are relevant to your interests and your location.
For organizations, the same functionality will serve to amplify your efforts by allowing your organization to use these platforms to identify and communicate with targeted communities of volunteers, activists, donors and voters. Force the Issue NJ also looks forward to partnering with select organizations or campaigns to help enhance your impact. Our tools will encourage organizations to collaborate with each other rather than compete with each other for limited volunteers, funds, and resources.
These tools will be phased in over the coming year, with a directory of progressive community organizations being up within the next few months.
How Can I Help?
We’re glad you asked! As a start-up organization, all that we have accomplished in the past twelve months has been the result of the hard work of our Board of Directors and a dedicated core of volunteers. In order for this organization to succeed we need to rapidly increase our audience of dedicated supporters, volunteers, and donors.
Here is how you can help us do that:
- Stay informed. Sign up for our bi-weekly (we promise!) email mailing list to keep up to date on all of our happenings.
Donate! Force the Issue NJ is a 501(c)4 New Jersey Non-Profit Corporation and a registered charity in New Jersey and New York. Donations will be used to build and maintain our Platforms for Progress and to strengthen this organization to enhance our capacity to do even more in the future.
Volunteer – we are looking for volunteers to collaborate on building our Platforms for Progress. Click here to learn more about our volunteer needs, and then here to take a brief survey telling us about your skills and availability. Whether you want to dedicate yourself to our projects or can just pitch in a couple hours here and there, we will find a fulfilling and effective use for your time and talents.
Organizations – Please complete this survey to add your organization to our upcoming Directory of Community Organizations. We will also add you to a special mailing list and update you when we have new tools or opportunities for your review.
Thank you for your support!
The Board of Directors and dedicated volunteers of Force the Issue NJ.