Water For Grassroots Is Helping Turn Red States Blue
It’s safe to say that the midterms brought out a lot of first-timers. First-time voters and first-time candidates. Whether it was because of Trump, #metoo or any of the other multitude of reasons, the political novices were motivated and ready. Many of these first-time candidates were backed by small, local groups that helped get out the vote in their favor. Water For Grassroots aims to support these local groups that are focused on long term organizing for social and economic justice.
Water For Grassroots began in Brooklyn in 2016 when a group of neighbors and activists came together to create a movement with solid roots for lasting progressive change. Peter Hogness, a coordinator for the group, says, “We felt that we had both the ability and the responsibility to offer support to organizers who were trying to shift the political balance in swing states and red states.”
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One of the first things they did in 2017 was organize carpools from NYC to Philadelphia to join with a community-based voter registration effort in support of a progressive DA candidate. Says Hogness, “Pretty much every grassroots community group in Philadelphia was very active in support of Larry Krasner’s candidacy for District Attorney. He was running to change the policies of mass incarceration, to put a pause on marijuana arrests, to end the abuses in the asset seizure program and a lot of other criminal justice reform efforts.” Krasner won the election and Water began looking for the groups they could support next, “We felt it was important to support organizations that will still be around the day after the election. Ones that are working on a long term basis around certain issues, making connections in their communities with people around those issues and then building on that base to have an impact at election time.”
They next turned their attention to Florida which had a referendum on the ballot that would restore voting rights to about a million and a half people with past felony convictions. They partnered with local organizers Floridians For A Fair Democracy to build support for it. Water contacted retiree groups of NYC based unions in Florida asking them to get involved. These unions have chapters of retired workers including transit workers and teachers. Says Hogness, “By and large a lot of them were very acceptive and a lot of them got very involved. We were doing phone banking and texting to make sure the voters supporting it turned out to vote.” Once again their hard work paid off and the referendum passed.
At the same time they threw their support behind the New Florida Majority which organizes in low income communities to increase the political power of groups that have been marginalized. The goal was to get Andrew Gillum elected governor. “It was heartbreaking that he lost,” says Hogness, “he did so well. He came so close. I think that’s a good omen for the future.”
Win or lose Water For Grassroots is running full steam ahead. The midterms might be behind us but 2020 is right around the corner. “Who’s running for President is very important and people will pay a lot of attention to that,” Hogness said, “we want to make sure that progressive activists also pay some attention to our long term infrastructure, these grassroots community groups.” He added, “I think often what happens in a Presidential election is it can suck up all the financial oxygen and groups like the ones we work with are groups in low income communities. They usually don’t have buckets of money. They’re usually pretty stretched in terms of their resources.”
Following the blue wave of 2018 the momentum is clearly on the side of progressive candidates and issues. Local community groups have more resources than ever before and Water For Grassroot’s goal of turning red states blue seems feasible. They’re planning for 2020 and when they find the community based organizations that fit their agenda, says Hogness, “We follow their lead.”
To learn more about Water For Grassroots click here.