Jon Walker at FDL begins a chat on politics and agendas. The big picture is built on thousands of pixels…so is national politics apparently if your advertizing budget is small.
The elected officials in the cooperatives formed a large pool of potential recruits to run for political office and to be elected to positions within the CCF. By being position- holders, these potential candidates also had a built-in base with a trusted network of potential supporters within their cooperatives. We know that being elected to a position, regardless of how small, is a great predictor of a person’s willingness and ability to win larger elections. Nothing breeds success like success.
For example, running for Congress seems like a daunting hill to climb. But if you have been elected as the chair or treasurer of the local chapter of an organization, you might feel comfortable using that as a base of support for run for town council. Going from town council to, say, state legislature might then feel like a modest progression. The jump from state representative to Congress becomes a less frightening undertaking.
Several political movements have shared the pattern of candidate development by moving leaders from relatively modest spots in local associations to more important offices. The Christian right developed local leadership among those elected to positions in churches and school boards. The churches served a similar organizing and unifying focal point that cooperatives did for the CCF. These churches are incubators for electing community leaders: deacons, elders, prayer or fellowship meeting leaders and more that in turn use these positions as a base to run for higher office.
Progressives could learn a lesson about leadership development from the CCF and the Christian right. I’m disappointed that the progressive movement does not have an overwhelming number of small, locally elected positions in independent organizations. Nor are there many strong financial and social networks that lean progressive but are not purely political, with local elected leadership. By promoting local chapters and associations with high levels of involvement, electing minor local position holders, a progressive organization can create a broad pool of talent to draw from for future leaders and candidates for higher office.