An Invitation to Forge a Path to Progress

Since Barack Obama took office, the Democrats have lost 30 State legislatures to the GOP because the Democrats have turned their backs on most of America. There is a path forward and it involves you.

fdrDear Friends,

This blog includes information on three upcoming meetings of note and thoughts on what I have learned this week. In a prior blog, I recommended that all of us spend some time listening and looking inward. I have done both and will share some thoughts on what I have learned and provide links for your own exploration.

We are also announcing a transition in the work of Retake the Roundhouse and a change in name. Retake the Roundhouse is morphing from a partisan platform that advanced political candidates to Retake Our Democracy, a 501-C-4 non-partisan organization that advances progressive and democratic principles, priorities, and programs and facilitates broader and deeper involvement of individuals in civic and political processes. Lastly, this post will share with you an initiative of our friend Alan Webber. As you know, Governor Martinez has said she will not sign any legislation that isn’t revenue neutral. Alan is calling her bluff by asking people to provide him with good ideas that would not cost money, things that are revenue neutral, but would improve the lives of New Mexicans. This is the kind of grassroots effort Retake Our Democracy wants to support, so details are provided below. But first, three upcoming meetings.

Democratic Party Convening & Conversation – TONIGHT
Wednesday, November 16, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe

I plan to go to this conversation, mostly to listen and to see what local Democrats have learned from the election and what they have not learned. While I don’t feel this is the time to make accusations, we do need to examine what just happened nationally and in New Mexico. Some of what was achieved in New Mexico is worth celebrating and examining to ensure it is expanded, but as I discuss further on in this post, there is much that we need to learn and change if this party is to remain relevant. It is a delicate balancing act to offer constructive criticism while trying not to anger some Democrats. We need to unify, not divide. But we also need to learn from our mistakes. My recommendation is to come, if you can, and bring both ears.

Town Hall Conversation:  What Can We Do to Retake Our Democracy?
Sunday, November 20, 3 – 5 pm
Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe
More on this below, but please come. This is the first step in forging a new path.

Statewide Progressive Convening
New Mexico Progressive Coalition
Saturday, December 17, 1 – 5pm (although we may extend the time)
Finalized Time & Location: TBD, but hold the date.

We announced the Town Hall in the last post and while we have about 100 RSVPs, we are hoping to double or triple that number. This first of a series of Town Hall Meetings is focused on: What Next? And What Can YOU Do?  Click here to RSVP. And please RSVP so we can plan better. The meeting room at 1420 Cerrillos Rd. needs to burst at the seams with people.

We will have a one-pager of very specific and important things you can do to oppose Trump and advance democracy in New Mexico.

We will have time for small group conversation and report out.

We will present an array of ways you can become active. Hopefully, you will suggest ways that we had not considered.

You will leave with tools and with a clearer idea of how you can help forge a path forward in these challenging times. But you have to come to get them. No excuses. If you have plans, please change them. We need each other now. All of us.

For the Town Hall meeting to be as impactful as possible….and it needs to be very impactful, please begin by:

  • Forwarding this note to at least 10 friends, asking them to sign up for Retake the Roundhouse/Retake Our Democracy, and encouraging them to get active; and
  • Making it a personal goal to get five friends to attend this meeting. Call friends and personally ask them to join you, perhaps including an invitation for dinner to debrief on the meeting and discuss how you all can sustain your involvement.

You are getting this blog because you have signed up for Retake the Roundhouse and you will now get Retake Our Democracy.  But I include this link so that those you forward this to, can sign up and click here to RSVP for Nov. 20. Tell every progressive you know that you are planning to attend and hope they will too.

The Pivot to Retake Our Democracy

From the first days that we developed the Retake the Roundhouse initiative, the plan was to shift gears after the election and become more issue-focused, more about lobbying and advocating for concepts and less about partisan politics. We anticipated this by naming our 501-C-4, Retake Our Democracy as is evident from the new logo. The transition of our current website will take some time, so while in a few days the banner of the site will look different, the url will remain retaketheroundouse.org for awhile.

By being bi-partisan and issue-focused our work can be about:

  • Building coalitions around specific issues that matter to all of us, regardless of party;
  • Educating the community by publishing blogs full of facts, successful program models and research, and presenting it in a palatable, dare I say entertaining format;
  • Revitalizing the Democratic Party of New Mexico from the Ward up;
  • Lobbying against Trump initiatives in Washington and insisting that our Democratic Party representatives stand firm against him;
  • Holding our Roundhouse legislators accountable by lobbying for specific initiatives before and during the Roundhouse session;
  • Cultivating, identifying, and grooming new leaders, particularly leadership from under-represented communities; and
  • Working on social actions that do not require legislation but that improve our local communities.

To find out more, visit Retake Our Democracy at this link.

A Great Idea from Alan Webber and One New Mexico

One New Mexico is issuing the One New Mexico Challenge: Thy’re looking for ideas to Make New Mexico Better, Without Raising Taxes (or MNMB/WRT). One New Mexico is crowd-sourcing a list of ideas and solutions, will edit the list down to a workable number, and then submit it to the legislative leadership for their consideration. One New Mexico would like to have them turn it into a comprehensive agenda, pass it, and put it on the Governor’s desk. I encourage you to submit your ideas to the One New Mexico web site www.onenewmexico.com and add your idea to the Idea Bank.

Now, on to my reaction to the election and my reading over the past week.

What I Have Learned About What Happened, Why, and Where We Go From Here

I have spent hours reading over a dozen articles of writers and researchers from across the spectrum, in terms of political perspective and professional background. I want to summarize some of what I have learned.

It seems to me that if the Dem Party is going to stay relevant, it is going to have to do three things:

  • Return to its FDR, JFK and LBJ roots and become the party of working families, immigrants, and low and middle-income Americans;
  • Reconstitute the DNC so it is no longer a function of lobbyists and party hacks who promote their vested interests instead of the interests the people. The DNC needs to be an expression of true Democratic values and promote honest debate among different wings of the party; and
  • Rebuild and invigorate state parties from the ground up, and that includes NM.

Who is the Democratic Constituency?

For the past 40 years, both parties have neglected rural America, middle America, low and middle-income America. More than anything, this is the rage that manifested in the primaries and the general election. Rural America and low and middle-income America are not experiencing the supposed recovery.  The stock market is up, but if there was ever an irrelevant barometer of normal people’s standard of living, it is the DOW. And praising job growth–which certainly has occurred–is small consolation to someone working two jobs and making 50% less than he or she earned when they had one job ten years ago.

It may be great that Hillary’s friends are doing just fine and can afford to pay thousands of dollars to attend fundraisers, but the majority of Americans are suffering and are worried about their future and even more worried about their kids’ future. Her dinners with tux-wearing, limo-driven celebrities did not play well in the Rust Belt. Bernie spoke of hearing of their pain and he had specific solutions that he spoke about with passion. It is no coincidence many pointed to him as reviving the spirit and substance of FDR.

HRC’s message was quite different. She said all is good and all we have to do is what Bill and Barack have done…America is already great. Telling Americans that we don’t need to make America great because it is already great also didn’t play well in the Rust Belt. The glitzy fundraisers, money from Wall St., and the tone deaf message that we just needed to keep doing what we were doing cost her the election, not the FBI.

And this isn’t just my view. The New Yorker has published, The Aftermath: Sixteen Writers on Trump’s America.  It includes extraordinary analysis by 16 very prestigious writers and thinkers and it is instructive to say the least. Over and over these authors point to how the Democratic Party has turned its back on middle America, working America, and those who can’t even find work. And as these authors point out, it isn’t just this presidential election the Democrats have lost. From the first essay by George Packer:

map-2008

Map of 2008 State Legislature Party Control

“The Democratic Party claims half the country, but it’s hollowed out at the core. Hillary Clinton became the sixth Democratic Presidential candidate in the past seven elections to win the popular vote; yet during Barack Obama’s Presidency the party lost both houses of Congress, fourteen governorships, and thirty state legislatures, comprising more than nine hundred seats. The Party’s leaders are all past the official retirement age, other than Obama, who has governed as the charismatic and enlightened head of an atrophying body. Did Democrats even notice? More than Republicans, they tend to turn out only when they’re inspired. The Party has allowed personality and demography to take the place of political organizing.”

That’s pretty spot on and irrefutable. Losing 30 legislatures is staggering. The second map depicts this graphically.

map-of-state-legis

Map of 2014 Party Control of State Legislatures

In another essay from the New Yorker‘s Aftermath, physician and Public Health researcher Atul Gawande gets at the core of how this has happened:

“Nearly seventy per cent of working-age Americans lack a bachelor’s degree. Many of them saw an establishment of politicians, professors, and corporations that has failed to offer, or even to seem very interested in, a vision of the modern world that provides them with a meaningful place of respect and worth.”

That was what was wrong with Hillary’s message, and it is what has been wrong with the Party’s message for 40 years. Obama may have talked the talk — and he is such an extraordinary speaker he was able to inspire hope that the talk would translate into change. But in 2009, when he had a chance to walk the walk, he joined up with Wall St. and the financial experts that created the mortgage collapse, bailed out the banks, and left Americans with the bill.

  • He was going to close Guantanamo; he didn’t.
  • He was going to protect our immigrants and create a path to citizenship; instead he deported 500,000 undocumented immigrants and created fear in immigrant communities even before Trump was elected.
  • He has largely promoted the coal and gas industries at the expense of our planet, and despite signing the Paris Accord has failed to stop the Dakota Access pipeline; and
  • We’ve been in wars for the entire term.

He may have had an obstructionist Congress after his first two years in office, but the Democrats lost Congress for a reason, just as they lost all those State houses for a reason. For decades they have neglected the American people. That is why they have lost 30 state legislatures and that is why the Congress moved further right in 2010. We should have taken on Wall St. in 2009. We didn’t.

So, if the Party is going to survive, it needs to rethink who its constituency is:  Wall St? Hollywood? The coal industry?  The 1%? Or labor, working people, unions, and farmers.

Reconstitute the DNC

My second point is that we must reconstitute the DNC and install new leadership at every level of the party, remove the party hacks and lobbyists who now control the DNC, and make it a voice for working Americans and for Americans who want to work but can’t get a foothold.

The DNC is supposed to be neutral, not an extension of one campaign or the other. I don’t want to rehash all the evidence of DNC collusion with the media and the Clinton campaign. That has been reported and is fundamentally irrefutable. But what is appalling to me is that there has never been an apology from anyone. Obama praised Wasserman-Schultz for her service and she moved on to a cush job with the HRC campaign. More tone deaf messaging. No one in the DNC has ever publicly apologized to Sanders or the American people. And if they learned anything at all, they didn’t learn it very well, as the current DNC Chair was caught red-handed using her position at CNN to secure, and then pass along, debate questions to the HRC campaign. CNN had the integrity to fire her, the DNC has not. There is an opportunity to rebuild the DNC, and the campaign to elect Keith Ellison its Chair is an excellent start. But if this is to matter, transformation must also occur from the bottom up, as described below.

Reinvigorate the DPNM

The third thing we need to do to restore Democracy is to reinvigorate the Democratic Party of New Mexico. We can’t be lulled into a false sense of optimism because we retook the Roundhouse. However there are lessons to be learned from that success. DPNM and a host of progressive coalitions throughout the state ran campaigns the way they are best run, with hundreds of volunteers making calls, going door-to-door, and hosting house parties. And it worked. We Retook the Roundhouse. So we need to continue talking with our friends, neighbors and fellow Democrats, not just in the throes of a campaign, but throughout the year. To do this, we need to revitalize the Wards and make them vibrant forums for conversation and for strategizing to:

  • Support local initiatives—city council measures like Public Banking, creating more affordable housing, and investing in infrastructure and renewable energy;
  • Oppose national policies like the unwillingness to stop the Dakota Pipeline, and the anticipated Trump agenda; and
  • Support local progressive candidates for city council, school board, and county commissions.

For Ward participation to be meaningful, the leadership of the DPNM absolutely must embrace dialog, debate, and differences. At the start of the Sanders campaign, a goodly portion of DPNM leadership was coolly tolerant of the Sanders campaign. After all, we were registering thousands of Democrats across the state. But there were signs early on that this was not genuine. The cancelling of the straw poll at the Pre-Primary Convention in Albuquerque was poor judgment and reflected an unwillingness to encourage honest debate and differences. But what was far worse was the lack of any kind of apology from DPNM leadership. And then during the Democratic Convention, the DNC and DPNM entirely repressed Sanders’ delegates from expressing support for their candidate (the reason they were there), taking signs from them, shielding them from cameras, and threatening to take away their credentials. At no point in the Convention did anyone from Party leadership apologize for what WikiLeaks made clear: the DNC and the HRC campaign had cheated. And here in New Mexico we have still never heard an apology for this most undemocratic behavior. Now that the election is over, leaders in the party will be running for Ward chairs, County and State Central Committees, and a variety of Party Committees and leadership roles. Retake Our Democracy will be discussing a strategy for participating in that process and reinvigorating the DPNM from bottom to top.

In closing, after a litany of examples of how the Democratic Party has not adhered to its principles, Gawande closes his  essay in the New Yorker thusly: “Those with bad or erratic judgment will make bad or erratic choices. But it’s through the smaller-scale institutions of our daily lives that we can most effectively check the consequences of such choices. The test is whether the gap between what we preach and what we practice shrinks or expands for the nation as a whole. Our job will be to hold those in power to account for that result, including the future of the seventy per cent—the left out and the left behind. Decency, reason, and compassion require no less.”

And so we convene on November 20 to converse among ourselves, to share ideas, and to plan strategies. There is clearly much to do, but there is far more at stake.  To quote a Hopi Elder:

WE ARE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR.

Time to assemble.  Click here to RSVP for the meeting on Nov 20. And bring friends.

Again, thanks for your continued support. I hope to see you Sunday. You are needed.

Paul

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