Anyone else need a pep talk? Notes from the Illinois People’s Summit

Illinois People's SummitI’ll be honest, I’m feeling a little lost after the primaries. While disillusioned and disappointed describe it, most of the time what it really comes down to is that I’m overwhelmed. A particular presidential candidate symbolized a massive number of issues and injustices I care about deeply. Once that symbol was removed, and all of the individual issues were exposed, the task of addressing any issue felt massive. I needed a pep talk.

Last weekend was the Illinois People’s Summit, a local continuation of the national People’s Summit held this past June. Here, activists came together to discuss and organize concrete steps for change to the political structure in Illinois.

The day began with a panel to discuss how the left has lost so much ground in the past 40 years, what challenges we face in our current movement, and strategies to win. The panel was moderated by Linda Jennings of National Nurses United and included Bill Bianchi of Progressive Democrats of America, Ian Hartman of Democratic Socialists of America, David Hatch from The People’s Lobby, Toby Chow of Reclaim Chicago, Jan Rodolfo from National Nurses United and David Hunt from Food and Water Watch.

Participants chose two of three breakout groups: Down Ballot Take Over, Non-Reformist Reforms and Overcoming Neoliberalism. I went to Overcoming Neoliberalism and then Non-Reformist Reforms, which I think was the best order – define the problem then define the solution.

In Overcoming Neoliberalism, Toby Chow of Reclaim Chicago discussed the history of neoliberalism, the neoliberal worldview (individualism, free markets, and small government), the product of neoliberalism (anxiety and personal debt), and how to overcome (small local wins paired with global awareness and systemic changes). Then came current exemplars of what neoliberalism looks like:  the commodification of natural resources (specifically water) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Next in Non-Reformist Reforms, we learned about local policy fights taking place in Illinois. These policy changes that get money out of elections and tax financial transactions are essential for building the progressive movement.

The day ended with a call to direct action, because as we know, standing up and standing together is essential for progressive change. Just next week, you can join a Chicago Teacher’s Union picket line at your local school to stand up for our teachers, children and community.

So did I get my pep talk? Yes. The work of organizers is already changing politics in Illinois. Efforts to elect progressives and hold them accountable have already paid off with the nomination of Kim Foxx for States Attorney and Carlos Rosa for 35th Ward Alderman. Yes I got my pep talk, because tangible change is happening in Chicago and you and I get to be a part of that.

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