Congratulations to our friends, families, allies and accomplices for surviving another tumultuous year – capping off an equally tumultuous decade – in activism, politics and progressivism, both in New Jersey and on the national level. As we continue to build the capacity of this organization to serve and support volunteers and organizations across the Garden State, we wanted to take a moment to look back on 2019 (and forward to 2020) with respect to some of the major events for this organization, and for the New Jersey activist community as a whole.
If 2016 and 2017 were years of awakening in the state, where newly engaged citizens and groups emerged and joined forces and shared resources with longstanding stalwarts in the activist community, then 2018 and 2019 can be characterized as years where that new synergy really started testing it’s ability to make a real difference in state and national politics.
NJ Congressional Delegation
In 2019, the candidates we fought for in 2018 took their seats in the US House of Representatives and have had an impact on national issues including, most prominently, the recent impeachment of President Trump. There is a lot of media focus on the treason of NJ02 congressman Jeff Van Drew, whose betrayal was fairly predictable given his low character and his association with the corrupt South Jersey political machine of George Norcross. It is important to remember however, that with this exception, the NJ Congressional Democrats were all “yes” votes on both articles of impeachment, and the yes votes of Andy Kim, Mikie Sherril and Tom Malinowski would not have been possible without the strong activist support each received in their 2018 races. The sustained engagement of activists has clearly stiffened the spines of more moderate, senior members of the delegation as well, ensuring that NJ spoke loud and clear for impeachment, as well as on a host of other progressive issues in 2019.
In 2020, there will be an opportunity via the June 2nd Primary Election to further improve and strengthen the progressive power of the delegation, both in the House and Senate. Expecting high engagement due to the concurrent Presidential contest, we are looking forward to learning more about the upstart progressive candidates challenging entrenched power in competitive Congressional Districts and finding opportunities to force the issue by supporting strong progressive candidates wherever possible.
NJ State & Local Politics
As seems to be a tradition here in the Garden State, the year is ending with indictments of some of NJ’s sketchiest political characters as the factional fighting between different cogs in the NJ State Democratic Party machine continues to waste time, energy and resources that could be dedicated to making positive and progressive changes for our state. That said, there have been some amazing victories on both the state and local levels in 2019. It is becoming clear that Governor Phil Murphy is – for the most part – living up to his promise to be a progressive change agent in state politics, with groups like Working Families Alliance, first under the leadership of Analilia Mejia and now Sue Altman are fighting and winning with an independent voice to hold entrenched power to account and to #takebacknj
Engaged leadership and empowered organizations are critical to making progressive change, but neither can succeed without consistent support and pressure from an energized citizenry. When you have all three working in harmony, real changes impact real people and the below are just a handful of ways New Jersey became a better place thanks to impassioned, hard work on all levels. Whether you contributed in a big way or a small way, to any or all of these fights, it is important to know that you made a major positive difference in the lives of your neighbors and community:
- New Jersey passed a $15 minimum wage bill.
- Restored Voting Rights to those on Probation or Parole
- Closed the Keegan Landfill
- Won Drivers Licenses for All!
- Put Legalizing Marijuana on the ballot for 2020
- Passed and Enforced “Red Flag” Laws to Remove Guns from Dangerous Individuals
- $54M (!!!) Public Investment in Childcare Subsidies
- Permitting the Terminally Ill to make their own End of Life Decisions
Force the Issue NJ Organizational Recap – 2019
Our mission is to develop and launch Platforms for Progress to help create a centralized hub for information and action in the Garden State. As a start-up 501(c4) organization operated entirely by a small group of volunteers and board members, our progress and growth in 2019 has been slow but steady in building up the capacity to become a supportive organization for NJ activists and organizers.
We are very proud of our three major accomplishments in 2019, including:
- Website Launch – The relaunch of this website with two Platforms for Progress, including Coordinates, our directory of progressive and community organizations and our Community Calendar tool. We again want to thank our friends and volunteers for their help with this heavy lift, and look forward to building more and building better in 2020 and beyond!
- Capacity Building – Our merger with The Resistance Jersey City group, along with outreach efforts by some of our volunteers, increased our footprint and reach exponentially. We have opened up our monthly business meetings to volunteers and are excited to have their voices at the table. We launched a Volunteer Content Provider initiative to generate more media on the site and via social media and are excited to build on that in 2020. We want to take this opportunity to again welcome everyone who joined our audience in 2019 and thank all who have been following our progress all along! Along with our gratitude, we want to encourage you to like and share our posts on Facebook and Twitter, and invite your networks to do the same!
- Financial Support – Thanks to generous contributions from our board, volunteers and supporters like you, FTINJ was not only able to invest in the redesign of this site and the launching of our platforms, but was also able to meet our recurring administrative obligations through 2019. While we are in a decent position to start pursuing the 2020 goals discussed below, we are admittedly still far from where we’d like to be ideally, with the funding necessary to engage talent to really bring this site and our platforms to the next level, while also expanding our reach and our capacity to support other great organizations. If #GivingTuesday and holiday shopping haven’t cleaned you out completely, we hope you will consider making a donation to Force the Issue NJ at this time, to help us lay a solid foundation for future growth in 2020.
Force the Issue NJ 2020 Goals
Our theme for 2020 will be engagement, engagement and more engagement. While we will continue to improve our current Platforms – and even hope to build and deploy a new Platform by year’s end – we want to make sure that activists and organizers all over NJ know that these Platforms are here for their use as a “force multiplier”, to help them build their organizations and to advocate and organize more effectively by accessing centralized resources and reaching an engaged audience.
As such, we will be focused primarily on building that audience and engaging with those organizers in 2020, while also supporting the shared goals of achieving strong progressive outcomes via both the Primary election in June and the General Election in November including, but not limited to, the ejection of President Trump from office and the election of progressive and ethical candidates at all levels of government. We will continue to use our voice to strongly and independently advocate for progressive change in NJ and help draw citizens attention to critical issues and inspiring initiatives.
George Carlin’s classic line about the establishment is one that resonates with us every day: “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it”.
Our goal – with your support – is to build a bigger club here in NJ, and then swing that club, judiciously – each and every time there is an opportunity to make a positive progressive change on the local, state or national level. There are many ways to support our goal with your time, money or talent and we hope you will stay tuned and stay strong through 2020.
On behalf of our board and our volunteers, we wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and progressive New Year.