Maurice Cheeks and Mark Pocan

Madison Ald. Maurice Cheeks, left, and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan walk together prior to speaking at the January 2017 Women's March in Madison.


One of the most common questions that people are asking the political left is: “What’s next for progressives in the age of Trump?” As proud Wisconsin progressives, we are looking forward to joining a number of fellow Wisconsinites to discuss exactly this issue at the first-ever Cap Times Ideas Fest this weekend.

In anticipation of a great discussion about the future, it is worth quickly acknowledging what we’ve already seen from progressives during this era.

Days after the November election, instead of wallowing in despair, many progressives began to take action. Hundreds of people started organizing and formed grass-roots activist groups like Indivisible, Leading Locally, and Our Wisconsin Revolution. On the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, nearly 100,000 people rallied at the state capital here in Wisconsin. Actions like this across our state and country set a tone that showed progressives are going to be hyper-engaged during the Trump administration.

As millions of Americans remain vigilant in resisting the president’s destructive agenda, it is making a difference. With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, the reality that Republicans can’t pass major legislation is a testament to the strength of America’s progressive fighting spirit, and to the force of our movement in this era.

What comes next for progressives has already started with this reminder of the power of the people. The resistance is working. The key next step is bringing this show of force into the voting booth.

Every speaker on this weekend’s panel (which includes U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Matt Rothschild, and Wisconsin Assembly member Katrina Shankland, as well as ourselves) has made it their mission to protect, strengthen, and expand the institution of voting — from extending early voting at the municipal level and fighting back against President Trump and Gov. Scott Walker’s false narratives about rampant voter fraud, to demanding an end to gerrymandering and proposing a constitutional right to voting. And they are doing all of this while the right has made it their mission to expand barriers to voting, crack down on voting rights, and undermine Americans’ trust in the electoral system. The fact is, our future depends upon our commitment to participating in our democracy.

Authoring this column together — as a local elected official and a federal elected official who previously held local elected office — we want to remind people that in this era of Trump, much of our society is still shaped right in our own communities. Thriving communities are composed of people looking out for one another, working together, protecting each other’s dignity, and showing up to vote.

While people see the unfortunate dysfunction and partisanship in federal government, we must not give up on looking to local communities for collaboration and inspiration. The progressive movement is going to thrive as residents spur cities, counties, and states to emerge as present-day incubators for the future of national progressive policies.

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Nationally, progressives successfully fighting off attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act is something to be proud of. We’ll need to apply the same energy to protecting DREAMers, defending our Constitution and matters like freedom of the press, and many other worthwhile issues. Ultimately, as progressives always have, we will need to be the ones fighting to support and expand the middle class.

Elections have consequences and our next steps matter. Keep making your voices heard in public and in the voting booth, and keep contacting your elected officials. We want to hear from you. “What’s next?” will start with you.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan represents the 2nd Congressional District in Wisconsin, and previously served on the Dane County Board of Supervisors and in the Wisconsin state Assembly. Ald.Maurice “Mo” Cheeks currently represents the 10th District on the Madison City Council.

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