New Year's resolutions for the left: What liberals can win in 2014

From legalizing pot to stopping the Keystone Pipeline, progressive groups pledge what they'll win next year

Published January 1, 2014 3:00PM (EST)

  (AP/Ted S. Warren)
(AP/Ted S. Warren)

In 2013, abortion restrictions advanced, fast food workers struck and gun control stalled; the filibuster was curbed, stop-and-frisk was challenged and the surveillance debate was transformed. As another mixed year comes to an end, Salon asked a range of liberal or left groups and leaders to lay down benchmarks for 2014.

We emailed advocates with a simple task: Identify a few concrete victories they and their allies could realistically achieve on their issues by Dec. 31, 2014. Here’s some of what they said. Call them New Year’s resolutions if you must. Come next December, we’ll assess how they fared:

Stop the Keystone Pipeline: “In 2014, the Other 98% will shame the Corporate Caucus, stop the disastrous Keystone XL Pipeline and help to raise the federal minimum wage… We will make the consequences of the White House approving the Keystone XL Pipeline so toxic, the benefits of rejecting it will far outweigh those of approving it… [And] given the massive outpouring of support and solidarity we saw on [the minimum wage] in 2013, we think this is a fight we can win in 2014." -- Alexis Goldstein, communications director of The Other 98%

Pass ENDA, immigration reform and voting rights: "[W]e need the House to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; fair immigration reform legislation; and to restore the heart of the Voting Rights Act, so unceremoniously gutted by the Supreme Court this past year. We must win on these issues in 2014; we can win on these issues in 2014." -- Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund

Legal pot in Oregon: “2014 looks like it will be a very good year for drug policy reform. Legal sales of marijuana will actually start in Colorado, Washington and Uruguay. Oregon and possibly other U.S. states will vote to legalize marijuana, and serious debates on cannabis legalization will emerge in state legislatures across the U.S. as well as throughout the Americas and Europe. Incarceration in the U.S. will decline more than ever before. Growing numbers of elected officials will speak out for major reform of drug policy. Challenges to the international drug prohibition regime will proliferate around the world.” -- Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance

End out-of-state prisoner transfers: “The findings of our report last month showed that there are more than 10,500 prisoners that are shipped across state lines to for-profit prisons from four sending states: Hawaii, California, Idaho and Vermont. In 2014, I'm hopeful that at least one of those states will end the practice of shipping prisoners out of state while developing common-sense ways to reduce prison overcrowding.” -- Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership

Get corporations to challenge governments to be green: "If 2014 looks anything like 2013, then industry and corporate cash will still effectively run our Congress and state governments… we'll continue to directly challenge companies like Apple, Facebook and Google to adopt renewable energy programs, and this will help us move massive destructive utility companies like Duke Energy in North Carolina to adopt real clean energy solutions. And as we get corporations to put pressure on governments, we'll also be working with a wide range of progressive groups like the NAACP and the Communications Workers of America to push for Senate rules reform and to get corporate money out of our elections, so we actually have a functioning democracy. All this while we continue to fight corporations like Shell and Gazprom to save the Arctic from oil spills and climate destruction.” – Phil Radford, Greenpeace executive director

Win divestment from private prisons: “We're making significant progress in our campaign urging institutional investors to divest from private prison corporations, whose profit motive drives draconian criminal justice policy that preys upon black families and communities, and we expect to unveil several important wins coming out of our behind-the-scenes discussions with key investors next year. We're turning a string of victories on challenging television programming that exploits stereotypical, dehumanizing portrayals of black people (Oxygen's "All My Babies' Mamas," Fox's "Cops") into prospective discussions with network executives about the more varied, multidimensional and relatable representations audiences expect in 2014.” – Rashad Robinson, Color of Change executive director

Limit police Internet surveillance: “In 2014, we can ensure thousands of new radio stations -- stations that represent the issues and voices of traditionally marginalized communities -- get on the dial… we're fighting to make sure the cost of local calls from prison and detention centers are reduced in 2014… [And] our fight is to pass legislation in Congress to ensure transparency in digital data collection, mechanisms to opt out of digital data tracking, and protections from over-reaching Internet surveillance and racial profiling online. We also believe we can win the fight to get local governments to adopt digital privacy protections that place equity standards on police departments getting grants to expand their Internet surveillance capacity.” -- Malkia Cyril, Center for Media Justice executive director

Subsidize low-income housing: “In 2014 NYCC will increase wages for fast food workers and continue to organize workers to fight for respect at work. We will win no-cost pre-K education for every child in New York City… We will also organize to stop Bloomberg-era giveaways to developers who build mostly luxury housing, which prices out low-income New Yorkers. Instead, we will work with the incoming [de Blasio] administration to change how development subsidies are targeted, ensuring there is housing being built for truly low-income New Yorkers…” – Jonathan Westin, New York Communities for Change executive director

Knit a network: "The Network for Public Education has two goals -- at least -- for 2014. First, to create a communications network that knits together hundreds of state and local grassroots organizations, learning from each other, helping each other, resisting the privatization of public education. Second, to endorse candidates for local and state school boards who share our goals of reducing high-stakes testing, respecting teachers and other professional educators, and supporting public schools against corporate takeovers." -- Diane Ravitch, president of the Network for Public Education

Force Obama to act on deportations: “[In 2013] at least a dozen local jurisdictions -- including the state of California, which passed the TRUST Act -- broke ICE's hold and started to create a bright line that separates local law enforcement from the federal deportation dragnet… [In 2014] more states will follow California's example… And as local wins beget larger wins, the president will need to respond with any of the immediate steps he could enact without Congress today: ending the 287(g) program, terminating S-Comm, expanding DACA, revising the Morton memos that guide discretion. And with all of that in motion, if Congress is wise, they'll stop using immigration as an election issue and finally decide it's better to have it as an accomplishment as well.” – Marisa Franco, national organizer for National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Win workplace raises: “Working men and women from across the retail, fast food, restaurant and care sectors came together [in 2013]… My hope for 2014 is that all the low-wage workers that were in motion this year are able to win concrete improvements in their lives: better wages, better working conditions, and access to good jobs. And that all workers across various sectors of our economy – including  teachers, auto makers, truck drivers, communication workers and nurses – have a voice on the job and a significant say in building an economy that works for all of us.” – Sarita Gupta, Jobs with Justice  executive director

Defeat tuition hikes: “I think we can stop tuition hikes from happening at several universities, and I think we can craft the national narrative around fully funding public higher education… I think we can get a few measures on the ballot in different states before November to fund higher ed at a higher level… I think we can pressure the Department of Ed to review their contracts and modify those contracts with lenders that are breaking the contract.” – Maxwell Love, vice president of the United States Student Association

Defy anti-abortion wisdom: "By the end of 2014, we'll turn conventional wisdom on its head and show that taking a strong stand on reproductive freedom is a winning political issue... We’re going to take this fight aggressively into the states, elevating candidates who proudly support a woman's right to choose what's best for her and her family and working to defeat those who have passed and sign into law anti-woman, anti-choice measures... Americans have clearly shown they want courageous politicians who will stand up for our reproductive freedom, and those who do will be rewarded at the ballot box in 2014." -- Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

End NYPD anti-Muslim spying: "2014 should mark the end of unconstitutional and racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk by the NYPD... 2014 should be the year the NYPD abandons its far-reaching, suspicionless spying on the Muslim community. When it comes to Guantanamo... Next year, at a minimum, the Obama administration can and should send home the Yemenis and everyone else who’s been cleared... Will Obama be able to shutter Guantanamo in 2014? It’s something worth fighting for. Then, in short order, the state of California should end long-term – as long as 28 years – solitary confinement, the Obama administration should end its targeted killing program, the Pope should apologize to survivors of sexual violence at the hands of priests and lead concrete and genuine reform of how the church handles cases past and present, and the overreaching and vague Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act should be struck down along with the defeat of Ag Gag laws in states across the country. To name a few things we’d like to see happen in the next year. Or two. Or three." -- Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights

By Josh Eidelson

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