Pledging a steadfast commitment to “firm progressive principles,” Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) was founded in 2004 to help propel the “long, patriotic, nonviolent, and ultimately unstoppable process” of moving the Democratic Party ever-further to the political left. As PDA phrases it, the organization's ultimate objective is to “rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up” and “transform” it—along with “our country”—by promoting “policies that serve the broad public interest, not just [the] private interests” of “corporate elites.”
To advance these goals and set in place “a lasting majority” for Democrats in Congress, PDA, which enjoys a particularly close relationship with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, employs an “inside/outside” strategy whereby it collaborates not only with the Democratic Party itself (inside), but also with pro-Democrat, leftwing activist organizations and nonprofits (outside).
The major social and political issues upon which PDA focuses its efforts include the following:
End Corporate Rule: Charging that “corporate lobbyists and donors have managed to get between our legislators and us [the American people],” PDA deplores the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling which—while leaving intact a federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from making campaign contributions to politicians—nullified a provision barring such entities from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.
Election Integrity: In an effort to eliminate “voter suppression” and “disenfranchisement,” PDA calls for “restoring the voting rights of felons upon the completion of their [prison] sentence, probation and/or parole.” By PDA's reckoning, the current system—wherein 35 states place various restrictions on felon voting rights—is racist, given that blacks and Hispanics are statistically overrepresented among convicted felons nationwide. PDA likewise opposes Voter ID laws on grounds that they allegedly discriminate against nonwhites.
Economic and Social Justice: Claiming that the “enormous wealth disparity between the top 1% and the rest of America is an unsustainable economic and social injustice,” PDA supports the enactment of living wage laws; the imposition of a “Robin Hood Tax” designed to force banks, hedge funds, corporations, and wealthy individuals to pay their “fair share” in taxes, which they allegedly have been failing to do; and the expansion of Affordable Housing programs, whereby taxpayers subsidize the cost of rental units for low-income tenants.
End War and Occupation: Asserting that “terrorism and instability have increased wherever the U.S. has intervened militarily,” PDA rejects “the false premises of an ever-expanding 'global war on terror.'” Further, the organization contends that the U.S. government should: (a) “treat terrorism primarily as a crime, not as a pretext for war and global military expansion”; (b) explore “political and diplomatic initiatives” that “genuinely promote peace, disarmament and the rule of international law”; and (c) cut the nation's military budget “to its 1998 level and beyond.” “Wasteful military spending,” PDA elaborates, should be “redirect[ed]” immediately “from destruction to creation, from war to peace, from military spending to social spending, from sickness to health, from selfish desires to universal needs.” Foremost among those needs are “healthcare, education, nutrition, decent housing and jobs.”
In addition, PDA demands “complete U.S. withdrawal” from all theaters of foreign war, the use of “diplomacy to prevent war and end sanctions on Iran,” and the cessation of drone strikes and all other “targeted killing” operations.
Healthcare Human Rights: Calling it a “moral outrage for a country as wealthy as ours” to leave “60 million people with no reliable access to health care and tens of millions more with inadequate or overly expensive coverage,” PDA advocates a single-payer, government-run healthcare system.
Stop Global Warming: Accepting the premise that greenhouse gases produced by human industrial activity are responsible for potentially catastrophic global warming, PDA impugns “the U.S. political-economic system”—typified by “greed and corporate power” that “dominate the public good”—for fostering a “nearsighted focus on short-term profits instead of serving our long-term needs and the welfare of future generations.” To address the issue of global warming and other environmental concerns, the organization advocates the imposition of a carbon tax; opposes hydraulic fracturing, oil drilling, and nuclear energy; and advocates mainly a reliance upon “green energy” derived from solar and wind sources.
End Mass Criminalization: Noting that “the United States has 5 percent of the world's population but holds one-quarter of the world's prisoners,” PDA charges that “the prison industrial complex has a vested interest in keeping people locked up.” In particular, the organization characterizes the privatization of prisons as an unethical scheme designed to profit from the tragedy of criminality; condemns the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” that purportedly funnels many abused and neglected nonwhite youngsters into the criminal-justice system without justification; alleges that “stop-and-frisk” policies employed by law-enforcement constitute racist violations of the civil liberties of nonwhite minorities; and opposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
The core of activists who originally established PDA came from the failed 2004 presidential campaign of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. The late Tim Carpenter, who was Kucinich's deputy national campaign manager in '04, founded PDA and served as its national director until his death in April 2014. Previously, Carpenter had been a key organizer for the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson (1988) and Jerry Brown (1992).
An organizational supporter of the Free Gaza Movement, PDA exhorts Israel to “meet its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination,” “end its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands,” and put an end to its “immoral and illegal acts.”