How Would a New Liberal Coalition Be Different?

Liberal groups, The Washington Post reported today, are in the process of banding together to form a massive coalition as a foil to the Tea Party movement, a progressive supergroup, if you will, to form equal and opposite (or hopefully, from their standpoint, greater) force in the grassroots sphere, under the name "One Nation."

The idea of a massive liberal coalition, however, is not a new one by any means. Two of note exist at present: Health Care for America Now!, which helped push President Obama's health care agenda throughout 2009 and early 2010; and Americans for Financial Reform, which is now pushing for financial reform.

Both groups consist of over 100 national organizations. Americans for Financial Reform has done mostly field and media work, organizing small protests (in which, for instance, Scott Brown was facetiously presented with a gold BMW) and maintaining a small lobbying force on the Hill. HCAN held some larger rallies in the summer of 2009 (thousands showed up for one in DC), and its more active member organizations ran ads targeting senators on health care last year.

So how would a new coalition be different?

First, the One Nation plan appears to center on the organization of a massive rally, or a nationwide day of rallies. This is something HCAN did, but One Nation (if the plan works and the coalition is launched) would apparently focus on larger rallies and less lobbying and ad campaigns.

Second, the leadership won't be the same. HCAN was led mostly by labor groups, and Americans for Financial Reform is led by a mixture of labor officials and consumer advocates. Involved in talks over One Nation are SEIU, NAACP, and the National Council of La Raza; if that's any indication of who will be leading this effort, the makeup of the leadership could have more of a civil-rights/minority-rights bent.

Third, it has the potential to criticize Obama. Pushing for "all the change" that was promised, as the Post reports they're considering, is indeed a slap at the administration, and that's what would separate a progressive grassroots effort from Organizing for America (the Democratic Part/Obama grassroots arm) and from the two most recent coalitions--HCAN was expressly formed to support the new president's agenda, though Americans for Financial Reform is less tied to the president and the party in its stated mission.

If One Nation happens, it will put a key facet of "grassroots" liberal organizing to the test: turnout. That was what gave the Tea Party its national political weight from the get-go, and that's what liberals will need to form a legitimate foil.