Making Progress

ProgressNow exports its model for hypying liberal causes across the U.S.

Around the same time as the Xcel fight, ProgressNow was reaching out to Ohio. Using money from Democracy Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, and some high-rolling progressives, the group funded ProgressOhio and tapped Brian Rothenberg, a longtime politico who once served as Cleveland mayor Michael White's press secretary, to run it. The site launched in September 2006 and established itself quickly. Rothenberg boasts that its list of unique e-mail addresses is just shy of 200,000 and the number of friends on its MySpace page (approximately 7,400) is close to surpassing the pal total racked up by the entire Democratic Party. Along the way, ProgressOhio has come up with its own twists on the ProgressNow blueprint — among them Page Flakes, an aggregator of Ohio news that attracts visitors across the political spectrum.

Bob Burke of One Wisconsin Now, who attended the July training session, plans to borrow liberally from innovations like this one. "As we put our own program together, it's great to look at best practices and ideas from other states," he says. "We want to learn from other states as we build our own network."

Still, Huttner emphasizes that no one's been given marching orders. "The technology platform is the same for all the states. Rather than each state spending tens of thousands of dollars to create their own, they plug into ours for a nominal monthly fee," he says. "But even though the technology and the tools are the same, and we advise them on that, what they talk about and the issues they organize on are entirely up to them."

Mark Andresen

Such freedom is attracting plenty of partners. ProgressOhio, Courage Campaign and One Wisconsin Now are already online and organizations in Michigan, Minnesota and Washington state should be moving forward by the fall — and they'll likely be joined by ones in Florida and New Mexico late this year or early next. Huttner's not sure how things will develop from there, but he sees no reason to think ProgressNow will stop progressing. Indeed, the website will receive a major upgrade within weeks. As he puts it, "Our goal is to complement what's already going on by using technology to reach the average citizen all over the fifty states."

In other words, national is the new local.

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