Who is Joel Rogers?
Source: Discover The Networks
- Founder of the New Party, COWS, the Apollo Alliance, Green For All, Emerald Cities
- Original mastermind of “the green economy”
Joel Rogers is a sociology and law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is one of the most influential progressive figures in America today, writing numerous books, working as a contributing editor for The Nation and Boston Review, and founding some of the most powerful leftist organizations and coalitions in the country. Newsweek named Rogers one of the 100 Americans most likely to shape U.S. politics and culture in the 21st century, and Glenn Beck has called him “the man behind Obama,” an assessment which was previously voiced by Van Jones, President Obama’s disgraced “green czar” and now a member of the Center for American Progress. Before his resignation from the Obama administration, Jones had been most vocal in praising Rogers’ “extraordinary set of achievements,” asserting that Rogers had given “three great gifts” to the progressive movement, all of which had been readily adopted by the Obama Administration:
1) “an economic model,” which is “now reflected in the White House”;
2) a “new politics,” based upon the “New Party” and its successor the “Working Families Party,” that “brings together labor, civil rights, and feminists […] which is the basic framework for what just took over the White House[when Obama was elected]”;
3) “a new energy paradigm” as outlined by the Apollo Alliance, an organization Rogers helped create, and which in the early 21st century was, according to Jones, “a big idea in the hands of a small number of people” that had since evolved into “the most mainstream of mainstream politics”– as evidenced by the fact that “the [Obama] stimulus [package] is going to put some $80 billion in this direction.”
Since the early 1990s, Rogers has actively promoted socialist and progressive change through his writings and and through groups with political influence. In 1992, Rogers founded the tax-exempt Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS), based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Apollo Alliance began as a project of COWS, which describes itself as “a national policy center and field laboratory for high-road economic development — a competitive market economy of shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and capable democratic government.”
Also in 1992, Rogers co-founded the New Party, a Marxist coalition that endorsed and helped elect left-wing political candidates; one of its most noteworthy members in the mid-1990 was Barack Obama. During that period, Rogers fought to institute in the state of Minnesota a practice known as elctoral fusion, whereby two or more political parties support a particular candidate and thereby pool the votes for all the parties involved, essentially allowing smaller parties to influence the agendas of big-party candidates.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against electoral fusion in 1997, the New Party closed its doors permanently, although it was reinvented in 1998 by Joel Rogers’ partner, Daniel Cantor, as the Working Families Party, which became a powerful front group for ACORN.
In 1995 Rogers won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, nicknamed the “Genius Award.” Meanwhile, his COWS group continued to flourish, receiving the funding of George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Carolyn Foundation, the Garfield Foundation, Living Cities, the Surdna Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
In 2001, Rogers co-founded EARN, a self-described “poverty group” whse board of directors includes executives from Goldman Sachs, AJW Inc., Citibank, Covington & Burling LLP, Sotheby’s International Realty, and Wells Fargo. He also became an advisor to the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF). Soon after 9/11, Rogers’ COWS partnered with CAF’s sister organization, the Institute for America’s Future, and with the Tides Center, to create the Apollo Alliance (AA) where Rogers served as its first chairman. At the AA, Rogers was able to lay out a strategy for green economics, which, as longtime AA board member Van Jones claimed, became the immediate model for the Obama Administration’s environmental policy. Rogers also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Besides EARN and AA, Rogers’ COWS also developed a host of other progressive projects, most notably Green For All (with Van Jones as founder) and the Emerald Cities Collaborative, a major player in the push for Cap and Trade legislation. On the Emerald Cities board are a host of individuals prominent in the new labormovement, environmental activism, and big business. They include, among others: Gerry Hudson, Executive Vice President of the SEIU; Doris Koo, President and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners (where Franklin Raines, former CEO of Fannie Mae, and Alicia Glenn of Goldman Sachs are key figures); Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Van Jones’ Green For All; Angela Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink and former Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation; Art Lujan, special assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO; and Michael Rubinger, President and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), former administer for the Ford Foundation, and former Executive Vice President of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Rogers has been instrumental in setting the progressive agenda in other ways as well. During the Bush administration, Rogers laid out a strategy for uniting the greater progressive movement in order to retake the power of the states. In the August/September, 2004 issue of The Nation, Rogers argued that “the dismantling of the New Deal welfare state, twentieth-century American liberalism’s greatest domestic achievement” had already taken place, with the Bush Administration representing the culmination of America’s “devolution” and posing “the greatest internal threat to our democracy in our history.” Progressives, he argued, needed a new strategy to wrest power away from conservatives on their own ground. For Rogers, the right’s success began just before the Reagan era and lay in “wag[ing] an unrelenting war to take over state government in America.” Because conservatives had administered over “decades of devolution and economic decentralization,” they had gained a stranglehold over the conduits of power in the United States, which are the states themselves. Although progressives “do all sorts of great organizing, service and advocacy work in the states,” Rogers affirmed, they “don’t have a state political strategy.”
Rogers lamented that “in no state are there functional majorities of self-consciously progressive elected officials, working together off a visible, coherent program of progressive economic, social and political reform, linked systematically to outside progressive forces. That is what the right is building on its side, and what we need to build on ours.” Rogers calls for progressives to place their own candidates inside government, candidates that will “systematically” follow the agenda of “outside progressive forces” to engineer radical change in America.
America’s Little Lenin? Joel Rogers and the Obama Movement
By Trevor Loudon
May 1, 2009