The Georgetown Progressive Alliance: A new space for progressive ideas, community, and activism

October 20, 2020

Illustration by Deborah Han

The Georgetown Progressive Alliance (GPA), a new political organization for leftist students, has begun holding meetings this semester and promoting progressive causes on and off-campus. 

The club itself is the product of work from members of Hoyas for Bernie over the summer. After the Democratic primary and the loss of Bernie Sanders in April, many in that club wanted to create a more permanent progressive space on campus not tied to any one candidate. Since their founding, they have endorsed two slates of political candidates around the country, released endorsements for GUSA senate candidates, and become a center for progressive political discussion on campus. 

One of the founders of the club and current director of design, Brett Guessford (COL ‘23) described the goals of GPA as two-fold: to create a “progressive hub for action” and to “build a more cohesive community of leftists at Georgetown.”

Though the execution of those goals began in Hoyas for Bernie, GPA provides a space to maintain them. “This is a movement, not a candidate,” Guessford said. “We didn’t want to lose the energy that we had already built.”

One of GPA’s main focuses is to promote progressive candidates through endorsements and campaign work. Guessford noted that GPA’s position as a purely progressive space allows them to endorse and promote candidates who are progressive, not necessarily Democrats, and not feel pressured to support anyone simply because of their party. 

GPA decides who they will support through an open endorsement process, after which GPA can begin doing campaign work for the candidate. This process is heavily guided by the members as a whole. All the potential candidates are crowdsourced from the members ranging from local candidates all the way to senators. Next, the director of endorsements, Kiernan Christ (SFS ‘21), looks at the records of the candidates, using support for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as a general litmus test. 

Once chosen, candidates are brought back to the members for a discussion about whether they would be a good fit for GPA. During this time, members have time to voice their support or their concerns about candidates. A vote is then held open to all members and a two-thirds majority is required for the candidate to be endorsed.

The work, however, does not end after the endorsement. GPA plans to hold phone banking and text banking events in order to turn students’ enthusiasm into action. Guessford also noted that after this larger election cycle, GPA hopes to get involved in more local level elections such as the Virginia House of Delegates in 2021.

GPA released their first slate of candidates on Oct. 6, highlighting a geographically diverse group of representatives including candidates from Tennessee, New York, West Virginia, California, and Texas. After releasing the first slate on social media, GPA made contact with several of the candidates such as Georgette Gómez, a congressional candidate in California, who reached out and reposted the endorsement on her social media. Other candidates who GPA has made contact with include Cathy Kunkel (WV-2), Tedra Cobb (NY-21), and Marquitta Bradshaw (TN-Sen). On Oct. 18, GPA officially published their second slate of endorsements.

The organization has also extended its activism on campus through endorsing progressive GUSA candidates. Before the September election, GPA sent each candidate a list of questions regarding advocacy points ranging from birth control on campus to the Black Survivors Coalition. Candidates that applied for an endorsement were then voted upon by the GPA members at large.

The final endorsements were released on social media reaching a wide audience in the Georgetown community. There are currently 11 senators endorsed by GPA in GUSA, making up over a third of the group as a whole.

GPA plans to hold these candidates accountable beyond the initial endorsements in order to limit performative progressivism in GUSA. “We’re looking to see if there is any discrepancy between people’s performative support versus their votes on issues that materially affect the lives of Georgetown students such as GU272,” Christ said. If candidates do not abide by GPA’s standards, the membership reserves the right to renounce any previous endorsements.

In addition to being progressive politically, the founders of GPA have pursued a progressive club structure intended to be non-hierarchical. “Everyone has an equal stake and an equal importance in the decisions that we make as a club,” said Shelby Benz (SFS ‘23), director of communications. 

Voting is a vital part of the GPA system. Each member of the club has a vote and every action the club takes requires a vote. This includes everything from deciding who to endorse to changing the club logo to any other issue that may arise. 

For that reason, many of those in the elected positions with official titles in the club prefer to think of themselves as organizers rather than as an elected board. The position of the chair also rotates between the seven other elected positions every two months. 

Noting that past progressive organizations suffered from infighting, GPA from its conception included the position of the mediator, currently held by Beyza Yazici (SFS ‘22), who also served as the first chair. Yazici notes that because “anyone can join as long as [they] consider [themselves] to the left,” there is a difficulty in avoiding conflict between people that fundamentally disagree.

Yazici works to tackle infighting by maintaining a civil and respectful discourse. Because of the difficulty in communication online, she recommends that when possible, conflict should be resolved over Zoom rather than through text or Groupme. “Mediation is not one-size-fits-all,” Yazici added. “You focus on shared values, on the things that bring people together.” 

After the election comes to a close in November, GPA organizers hope to continue promoting progressive issues, especially when the student body returns to campus. “The fight does not stop at election night,” Benz stated, emphasizing the need to advocate for racial and climate justice no matter who wins the election. 

Guessford also hopes to partner with other organizations such as the Young Democrat Socialists of America on more local issues, including advocating for the Georgetown workers’ labor unions or working with local tenants.

Looking forward, GPA hopes to add more events and programs to enrich the progressive space at Georgetown, including the creation of a leftist study group to facilitate engagement with leftist theory among members. The organizers also are looking to use Washington D.C. to bring more progressive speakers to campus. 

“Essentially the purpose of the Georgetown Progressive Alliance is to construct an all-inclusive community where people feel free to express themselves,” Benz said. “To translate ambition into action, mobilize people, and get people empowered.”

Alec Weiker
Alec Weiker is a senior studying in the SFS. He believes that the only borders that ever mattered was the book store. RIP.

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