By Jim Miller
In the age of Trump I have heard many a progressive ponder: “What went so wrong?” How in 2017 can we be fighting and, in many cases, refighting battles over basic economic rights and civil liberties? Whatever happened to women’s rights? How can we still be arguing about whether or not climate change exists? How did things get this bad?
In the political realm, as I have written here many times, a big part of the problem is that the Democrats have no bench of talented, young candidates. Indeed, rather than appealing to young voters and activists, it sometimes seems like the party is bent on alienating them. We saw this with the disdain heaped upon the idealism of millennial Sanders supporters in some quarters, and we can still see it in the national party’s frustrating inability to reinvent itself by bringing in new energy.
But the problem goes deeper than just party politics, and it is apparent even here in super blue California. Too often not just the Democratic Party but also progressive organizations, unions, and activist groups end up shutting out or, worse yet, eating their young. Rather than welcoming in and mentoring young people, too many progressive groups fail to honor their own stated ideals and resort to exploiting eager new workers for very little pay or churning through them like they are a disposable resource.
If we are ever going to build an enduring movement that can turn the tide and redeem the future of our country, this needs to end. Leaders should start thinking proactively about who will be the next generation and how they can help foster and support them.
Progressives must cease looking for a savior and start doing the long hard work of growing new leadership. If unions and activist organizations want to have better leaders who understand economic, social, and environmental justice, they ought to do everything they can to encourage the education and growth of idealistic young people both inside and outside their ranks.
The time to build the future is now and there are no shortcuts.
Fortunately, here in San Diego, the Center on Policy Initiatives has been doing this work in partnership with like-minded local labor and activist groups since 2000 with their Students for Economic Justice Summer Fellowship. This extraordinary program gives college students an opportunity to get a crash course in intersectional politics, organizing, and outreach, and then do real hands-on work with a wide range of unions and other community organizations. In the seventeen years since its founding, many of the graduating fellows from this program have gone on to work in local unions, social justice non-profits, and other community groups. They have run for office and become emerging leaders.
The Students for Economic Justice Summer Fellowship is truly one of the lights in our present darkness. I encourage anyone reading this to join me in supporting this fine program on Friday, April 21st from 5:30-8 PM.
Help plant the seeds that will blossom as tomorrow’s progressive leaders.
For more details, see below.
SEJ Fundraiser, Friday April 21st from 5:30-8:30
Kelly Mayhew and Jim Miller, our amazing Students for Economic Justice (SEJ) advisory board members, are generously hosting a Happy Hour fundraiser at their private residence in support of CPI’s SEJ program!
Since 2000, SEJ has been invested in developing young leaders in San Diego who are passionate about social justice. Our alums have gone on to work for local unions, non-profits, and elected officials and have contributed directly to winning campaigns for economic and social justice in San Diego.
Join us in building the local progressive movement here in San Diego by supporting tomorrow’s organizers and leaders! All proceeds from the happy hour will help sustain this summer’s SEJ summer fellowship program. We are excited to re-connect with our SEJ alums and supporters and introduce our SEJ 2017 Fellows to you all.
When: Friday, April 21, 5:30pm-8pm
Where: Kelly Mayhew & Jim Miller’s Home
(Address will be shared once you RSVP)
Ticket price: $40 general tickets & $20 for students —
Unable to attend? Host a student by purchasing one!