While Trump talks, progressives take action nationwide
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Last Tuesday, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE was invited to address a joint session of Congress to share his vision for the country. Instead, he delivered what he knows best: a good show. 

In the wake of that speech, while Beltway insiders applauded Trump for exceeding expectations that could not have been set any lower, those of us who listened more closely heard the same failed routine we’ve come to know from conservatives: a grab bag of giveaways for corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent, continued promises to take health care away from the most vulnerable, and divisive rhetoric that shamelessly — and recklessly — scapegoats immigrant communities.


Of the ideas Trump did mention, we didn’t hear any that would actually grow the middle class or provide economic security to hardworking families still struggling to make ends meet. His infrastructure plan would ensure more giveaways for billionaires and big corporations, rather than invest in rebuilding communities. His paid leave plan would leave out millions of working Americans who are most in need.


Progressives have a very different view of the world, and throughout this past week — in states across the country — we showed what real leadership looks like. Not with empty words, like we’ve seen from Trump and other conservatives, but through powerful action.

As part of a coordinated week of action, hundreds of state lawmakers joined together with dozens of grassroots organizations and advocacy groups to advance a progressive economic agenda — one that levels the playing field for working families through policies like paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, equal pay, raising the minimum wage and expanding overtime pay. We saw results.

Take Vermont, for example. Legislators and progressive advocates there have been working hard to pass legislation that would establish a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program, so that all working Vermonters — not just the wealthy few — can spend time with newborns or care for loved ones who are seriously ill.

In Michigan, lawmakers held a press conference to announce the introduction of a paid sick leave bill, while Maryland legislators passed their paid sick days bill in the House and cleared a key Senate committee where it died last year. In Oklahoma, despite conservative lawmakers blocking their efforts, progressives fought hard to advance legislation that would support working families and ensure that women can earn equal pay for doing the same work as men.

Altogether, through this nationwide effort, legislators and allied groups in more than 30 states worked to advance over 130 progressive bills aimed at building an economy that works for everyone — not just those at the top.

Why? Because we know the stakes; Trump and his conservative allies want to keep delaying and derailing policies that would give America’s working families a clear path to the middle class. Progressives are refusing to let that happen. We’re pushing back at the state level to stand up for all families. 

The fight for progressive change — and the values that define us as Americans — is no longer centered in Washington, D.C. It’s happening in our own backyards, in partnership with the elected leaders in our communities who are fighting for our families each and every day.

We have our work cut out for us, with progressives still facing anemic levels of control of state legislatures, governorships, and state attorneys general. But if we commit ourselves to investing more resources in state legislative races and policy battles throughout the country, this is a fight we can win.

Our work cannot and will not stop with this week of action. We’re just getting started, and we will use our momentum to keep countering Trump’s failed agenda with a progressive, proactive vision that ensures opportunity for all Americans — no exceptions.


Nick Rathod is the executive director of SiX Action, an independent strategy and advocacy organization that seeks to aid in the development and advancement of a progressive agenda in the states. He is the former special assistant to the president and deputy director for intergovernmental affairs in the Obama White House. 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.