How We Got Here
Part 1 in a several-part series introducing Sunrise
By Varshini Prakash and Dyanna Jaye, Members of Sunrise Founding Team
Last October, the two of us got together with other young organizers who had worked on fossil fuel divestment, Keystone, and other climate fights, to figure out our next move. We had always said that these efforts were stepping stones towards something bigger, and now it was time to make bigger happen.
When we began planning, only five weeks before the election, most of us expected Hillary Clinton to win. We assumed our goal would be to instigate a public crisis around climate change in her first term, pushing her to pass sweeping executive orders.
And then…the election happened! Our old plan exploded and when the dust settled, one thing was crystal clear: We’ve gotta figure out how to win some elections. Creative protest had won many victories and built us as organizers, but it was incapable of preventing Trump’s victory. For 2018 and 2020, we would need to marry the strengths of direct action with focused political organizing.
Fortunately enough, it seems like we’re not the only ones who reached this conclusion. Movement activists across the progressive landscape are throwing themselves into political organizing with enthusiasm unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. We can’t help but see this as a silver lining to the social and environmental catastrophe that is Trump’s presidency.
We’re worse off now than with Clinton, to be sure. But under Clinton, the climate movement would have fallen back into the Obama-era playbook: push the President to do the right thing, but constantly fall short due to a Republican Congress and a Democratic establishment that refuses to go after the fossil fuel companies and banks who profit from climate change. Would the movement have thrown itself into continuing the political revolution, into throwing the climate deniers and corporate Dems out of office? We’d like to think so, but that certainly wasn’t our plan at the time.
Instead, Trump’s victory has blown over the barriers between young people and political engagement, pointing towards the possibility of a sea change at every level of government. Truly, if we all give what we have to offer, we could be only four years away from a people’s president, a people’s congress, and a people’s movement strong enough to pass our agenda.
We’re putting the finishing touches on the Sunrise movement plan, which merges the creativity, moral clarity, and disruptiveness of efforts like divestment and NoDAPL, with the targeted political organizing needed to win elections from the local to the national level. The plan extends through 2020, but the first year’s focus will be on doing it big for the 2018 midterm election.
It all starts with movement trainings this June and July, and a big wave of actions during congressional town-hall meetings and fundraisers this August. Sign up here for updates on how to participate in these trainings and actions. In the meantime, we’ll use this blog to share more information on the plan as it’s ready, and bring you into the thinking behind the plan.