What is our story and why are we here?
Heartland Strong is a grassroots-driven, collaborative effort to refocus politics at the state and local level on the issues that affect people’s lives the most: poverty, education, well-paying jobs that provide dignity and a sense of purpose, clean water and clean air, and—perhaps most importantly—meeting the daunting challenge of climate change with the limited time we have left to avert disaster.
Why “Heartland” Strong? A potent strain of progressivism, and progressive populism, has traditionally run through the Midwest, and the heartland of America. Kansas, for example, was at one time the most progressive state in the country; Robert La Follette represented a fiery strain of progressive thought and action that helped define the political landscape of Wisconsin in the 20th Century; the first (and currently only) public bank was established in North Dakota in 1919, and today provides low-interest student loans and banking services for small businesses and family farmers who need credit and capital. Heartland values—hard work, resilience, strong families, conservation of and respect for the natural world, to name some—are certainly not exclusive to middle America, but they are crucial to understanding what moves folks in states like Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.
The moment we are in requires reviving that broad progressive populist coalition that brought so many gains for so many people: a coalition of farmers, union members, the working poor, civil rights activists, social agitators, and workers of all races and ethnicities fighting for better living and working conditions. We see time and again that the values that unite us are much stronger and more numerous than those that divide us. This isn’t just a political cliche—in Missouri, in 2018, huge majorities of voters supported progressive ballot measures that imposed strict limitations on lobbyist expenditures in the state capitol, legalized and regulated medical marijuana, raised the minimum wage statewide to $12 per hour by 2023, and resoundingly rejected a well-funded effort to bust unions—aka, “Right to Work.” In Missouri. In 2018.
Much ink has been spilled about voters supporting conservative politicians who directly oppose their core interests, while also supporting progressive ballot initiatives. “How can this be?!” pundits cried. However we got here, one thing is for certain: progressives must spend twice as much time and work twice as hard to overcome the disinformation and propaganda campaigns that undercut our winning and inclusive vision for American life. For that, Heartland Strong was born.
Heartland Strong is intended to be unique among advocacy organizations: HS will run digital-heavy campaigns to impact key Heartland state electoral politics and public opinion in a targeted way that no other group is doing.
Also unique for this new organization is delivering a revitalized message on the climate crisis and economic prosperity. One major goal of Heartland Strong is to build a brand new enterprise that will organize voters and concerned Americans around the twin notions that climate change is both crisis as well as opportunity AND the best way forward is to invest in people—developing new skills, new jobs, new infrastructure—and clean energy jobs.
If you want to get to work and start changing hearts and minds, we need you. We intend for Heartland Strong to serve as a hub of new, interesting content that can provide a marketplace of political ideas and energy. And while we have plenty of our own thoughts in mind as to where to dedicate time and resources, we are strongest when each of us has a voice and a seat at the table.
Getting involved with Heartland Strong means taking control of our political future; it means rolling up your sleeves and working to change the system directly, amplifying your individual voice through group advocacy; and pitching in creative ideas about getting through to our friends and neighbors, our fellow Americans—and seeing those ideas through to fruition.
Thanks for joining the effort! We look forward to working toward the ideals outlined above as we enter the supercharged 2020 election season. Reach out any time. Let’s get to work.
— Team Heartland Strong