I attended a meeting in Phoenix yesterday of Rocky Mountain Progressives. I am beginning to hate using that word. It really means Liberal but the far right has so demonized the word that people are afraid to use it. The meeting was non partisan as there were moderate Republicans at the meeting.
It was a fascinating day long discussion on the possibilities of putting together a "think tank" for the intermountain west. This new well funded institution would become the "Cato Institute" for the west, except it would be a moderate to progressive group that would develop expertise and messaging on issues of special importance in the west. These non partisan issues could be energy, water, land protection, sprawl, healthcare, education, immigration and many more. It would interest itself in the new demographics of the west which are becoming more diverse everyday.
If you think that moderates and progressives can't get elected in the west think Governor Bill Richardson in New Mexico and Governor Janet Napolitano in Arizona. One thing that is clear from extensive polling and focus groups is that people in the intermountain west are much more moderate and progressive than you would think. They care a lot more about the "Pillars" of society in America than the political leadership on the right wing do. Senator Harry Reid wrote about Pillars in coal mines holding up the communities above them in his autobiography "Searchlight". These Pillars can be construed to include Social Security, Education, Medicaid, Labor and Worker safety, Public Health, Pension programs, GI Bill and Veterans Benefits, Environmental Protection, Civil Rights and Unemployment Compensation. These Pillars really protect all Americans, from the poverty stricken to the affluent. The neo conservatives are chipping away at these pillars constantly in DC along with bush's team, and it appears it is now starting to backfire on them. We will know for sure after the midterm elections next year.
A western "Think Tank" must be non partisan. It must be a source of trusted information for the media and all progressive groups. It must deal with issues from the perspective of the special resources we command and needs that are unmet. It will deal with our "Pillars" in the Rocky Mountains.
The forty participants yesterday, many from government education, and non government organizations were unanimous in the need for this kind of institution. They see it as a much needed "Echo Chamber" that would echo their concerns but have the independence to be taken seriously by government, political and media interests. There is some indication that there will be funding for this effort. It would be a very positive thing for the intermountain west.