Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)


* Seeks to move the Democratic Party ever-further to the political left
* Enjoys a close relationship with the Congressional Progressive Caucus
* Supporter of the Free Gaza Movement
* Member group of the United for Peace and Justice coalition

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.[1]

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.[2][

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.

PDA’s “coalition partners” in these various campaigns include groups like, the Advancement Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Media and Democracy, Code Pink, Common Cause, Healthcare-NOW, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law,, the National Priorities Project, Peace Action, People for the American Way, Physicians for a National Health Program, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, United for Peace and Justice, and Win Without War.

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).

The television and film actress Mimi Kennedy, also a key supporter of Kucinich, has been PDA’s advisory board chair since 2004. Kennedy studied Nonviolent Theory and Strategy with Rev. James Lawson and was a founding member of Artists United to Win Without War.

Other key members of PDA’s national team have had close ties to such groups as ACORN (*), Americans for Democratic Action, Amnesty International (*), Catholics United,, the National Lawyers Guild (*), the National Organization for Women, Occupy Wall Street, Organizing For America, and True Majority Action (*).

PDA’s advisory board currently includes such notables as Medea Benjamin, John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Tom Hayden, Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, and Quentin Young. Other advisory board members have had ties to such groups as the ACLU, the AFL-CIO, After Downing Street, the Black Radical Congress, the Institute for Policy Studies, the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, Pacifica Radio, and the TransAfrica Forum. For a complete list of PDA’s advisory board members, click here.

Among the members of PDA’s emeritus board are Jodie Evans, Dennis Kucinich, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey. Other emeritus board members have had ties to such groups as After Downing Street, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, the Green Party, the League of Conservation Voters, Public Citizen, and the United Nations. For a complete list of PDA’s emeritus board members, click here.

PDA also has a close working relationship with such noteworthy leftists as Sherrod Brown, Jeff Cohen, Jesse Jackson, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Kweisi Mfume, Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Martin Sheen, Norman Solomon, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and Maxine Waters.

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.”

PDA is also a member group of the United for Peace and Justice coalition.

In 2010, author and activist Trevor Loudon wrote that PDA was “led by several D.S.A. [Democratic Socialists of America] connected activists.”

For an overview of PDA’s history, click here.

For additional information on PDA, click here.


[1] That nullification was based on the premise that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from censoring any entity’s right to engage in, or to fund, political speech.

[2] PDA also favors the public financing of political campaigns.

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