Posted in Jan 2017, maintained on home page as it summarizes a three prong strategy: local, state and national. Over 350 progressives convened in Albuquerque for the Progressive Action Summit yesterday. Alan Webber and Paul Gibson presented to a packed room on Resist Trump & Reimagine New Mexico. This blog summarizes our thoughts.
Resist Trump & Reimagine New Mexico
The Progress Now NM Progressive Action Summit was a remarkable event:
- Over 350 progressives,
- A dozen or more elected officials, taking part throughout the day;
- Speeches from U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, Congresswoman and Gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, Atty General Hector Balderas, and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver,
- Over a dozen compelling breakouts where important conversations were held related to the environment, taxes and revenue, Standing Rock, women’s reproductive rights, marijuana legalization, millennial engagement, and a raft of other topics.
Retake Our Democracy had a table at the event and had scores of conversations with people from throughout the state. These conversations will have an immediate impact, as people offered to start up Retake hubs in Gallup, Las Cruces, Albquerque, Valencia County and other areas of the state.
Retake Our Democracy had a high visibility at the Conference. The Thursday night before the Saturday event, Pat Davis, ED for Progress NowNM called to ask if I could pull together a panel, as one of the panels had cancelled. That night, I reached out to Alan Webber former Democratic Candidate for Governor. Despite his being in Arizona for a conference and not returning until Friday night we organized a topic: Resist Trump & Reimagine New Mexico. To say the room was packed is a significant understatement as north of 100 people packed a room with a capacity for 30-40 despite the breakout not even being in the program. What follows is a summary of our remarks.
Donald Trump’s agenda is the nightmarish culmination of what we have been getting for the past 40 years: smoke and mirrors, intentionally misidentified problems, media misdirection, and personalities that distract us from what is really going on in this country. For 40 years there have been policies that have made perfect sense to most Americans (universal healthcare, gun control, drug reform, investment in infrastructure, peace, pay equality, a clean environment, immigration reform…you could go on and on.). But precious little of these ideas have become reality, despite large majorities of America supporting them. Click here for a PoliticUSA article on how American’s poll on a dozen progressive issues.
Certainly there have been some very modest gains over the years and for some populations these gains have been critical: the LGBTQ community being the most obvious example. Obamacare is also an important advance as it has insured millions more Americans while creating access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. But even with Obamacare, our healthcare system is still in the hands of insurers and big pharma, premiums and co-pays are too high, and live-saving drugs are far too expensive. The health system is far from fixed. But the political system that processes our policy and legislative options certainly is ‘fixed.’
It is not a coincidence that we are not getting much of what we want. It has been the carefully calculated work of the 1% since the mid-70s. The 1% has invested billions to create an infrastructure of misinformation that is strangling the truth in America. The Koch brothers, the DeVos clan and others from the 1% have built think tanks and purchased research that tells us GMOs and coal are fine and that climate change is a myth, that progressive policies will destroy, not rebuild our country, and that our poor have it too good.
They have purchased the media, which then routinely regurgitates what their think tanks produce; they have organized hundreds of ‘expert’ talking heads who validate their erroneous ‘research,’ and they have spread messages that have misdirected America, and allowed the 1% to steal our wealth and virtually eliminate the middle class. Now we have Trump. To respond to this reality, New Mexicans and America needs to do two things: Resist Trump and Reimagine New Mexico — or reimagine whatever state you live in. One thing is clear: at least for the next two years, any and all progressive advances will be local, the result of advocates working with city councils and state legislatures.
But first, Trump.
Resist Trump. Alan Webber developed a 100-Day Resistance Agenda that provides tools for activism at the federal level. He shared it with his friend Robert Reich who revised it a bit and published it on his blog. Click here for the full agenda. The agenda includes a great many Retake Strategies, indeed most every strategy identified by Reich or Webber will find its place in the scope of work of one of our Action Teams. Reich’s resistance agenda includes: non-violent direction action, use of media and social media, frequent communication with Congressional representatives, and local advocacy for progressive issues that can be advanced locally or by states. While during the talk I provided details on how Retake was advancing multiple strategies to resists the Trump agenda, there is no need to repeat them here as these strategies are outlined in detail in two recent blogs: What We Can Do and A Guide to Resisting Trump which includes a link to Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting Trump. Both these posts can be found on our home page, here.
Reimagine New Mexico. It isn’t enough to be against Trump’s agenda, we need to be for something. Why do we keep asking for what make sense for all of us and getting only what makes sense for the 1%? Let’s be clear about what we want and get it. Together. While Retake Our Democracy and its allies throughout the state are building our capacity to resist Trump’s policies, we are also engaging, educating, and activating a growing base of citizen activists to advocate for progressive policies at the state and local level. Local action in New Mexico could take many forms:
In Santa Fe that might be organized around advocacy for a public bank, a soda tax to fund early childhood education, and an expanded Sanctuary City. In Rio Rancho it might be addressing fracking and the threat of toxins seeping into their water. In Albuquerque it might be stopping Santolino once and for all. In Farmington, it could involve creating an economic transition plan to move away from the community’s dependence on fossil fuels. In southern parts of rural New Mexico, it could involve a transition from alfalfa production to the production of industrial hemp. Every city or state in the nation has their own issues — with good research to define alternatives and an engaged, educated grassroots base persistently advocating, change can occur locally.
At the state level. New Mexico is in financial crisis, and there has been precious little imagination used to invent a path forward. We have relied on the fossil fuel and extractive industries for decades, but only fools see a future with that as our economic base. Reimagine New Mexico is not just a range of local strategies, it is an economic transition plan from a fossil fuel economy to a sustainable economy, and it is about getting what is best for the majority, at last.
It is a platform around which a majority can unify, including rural farmers, tribes, youth, and the working poor. And it is something we can use to hold our elected representatives accountable. Reimagine New Mexico is an economic justice platform and so does not address a myriad of important social justice issues: immigration, women’s rights, criminal justice reform, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, LGBTQ rights, and many other issues that are central to a just society. Retake Our Democracy will continue to engage, educate, and activate in support for these social justice issues and will work with others to develop a companion platform to Reimagine New Mexico that is focused on social and racial justice. But if can rebuild our state’s economy, we will be better able to address all of these issues. While each of the eight items below can generate revenue for New Mexico, this really isn’t about money, it is about justice. Reimagine New Mexico is based upon eight core economic strategies:
- Industrialized Hemp. Hemp is already a huge and growing industry in Kentucky and we can learn much from them. Click here for a Yes Magazine report on industrial hemp in Kentucky. Alan Webber has written an excellent white paper on hemp’s potential, pointing to a huge reduction in water use in the south, more profits for southern farmers, and thousands of jobs from the over 25,000 industrial applications of hemp. Not only would rural farmers boost their revenue, but entrepreneurs from throughout rural New Mexico could build on crop production with micro-businesses based on hemp products.This burst of economic activity would produce more revenue for the state, save water, provide jobs, and rescue rural economies. Why is this even controversial? For Alan Webber’s full white paper on industrial hemp in New Mexico, click here: 1nmhemppositionpaper.
- Renewable energy. New Mexico is a land of wind and sun. The cost of solar and wind technology continue to decline to the point that now, solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuel. Senator Heinrich noted in his keynote at the conference that wind turbine technicians are an extremely well-paid position and one that will be in high demand if rural New Mexico expands its wind energy investments. Yet PNM’s power remains almost 90% non-renewable, and rather than reward expansion of renewable energy, they seek ways to charge those with residential solar installations and continue to invest in coal plants and nuclear energy. Renewable energy is the energy of the future, and developing the infrastructure to support it will create jobs and protect our environment.
- ETSY and the Arts. One of New Mexico’s treasures is its extraordinary artist community. By using ETSY as a systemic, statewide marketing tool for New Mexican artists, we can vastly expand the sale of art world-wide, direct the eyes of the world on New Mexico, and provide a significant boost to tourism. The result: increased income for local artists, increased tourism to New Mexico, increased revenue to the state coffers.
- Full funding for Medicaid and State Single Payer Healthcare. When you can get $9 from the Federal government for every dollar you invest in Medicaid services, why would you cut that investment? In a state with one of the worst opioid and methamphetamine addiction problems in the nation, you don’t cut behavioral health programs when 90% of the funding could come from the Federal government. And there is an abundance of research that points to how a Single Payer Health System creates jobs, cuts healthcare costs, improves access to care, and improves the health of the community.
- Expanded Investment in Film Industry. As with the investment in our artist community, investment in the film industry creates jobs that keep young people in New Mexico, generates tax revenue, and promotes the state of New Mexico, further boosting tourism. And as Alan pointed out, the future of film is digital as this fuels both the film industry and the gaming industry. If we want to keep our young people in New Mexico, what could be better than a thriving gaming industry?
- Reformed tax system. There is no justice in asking people who make $17K/year to pay over 10% of their income in state and local taxes while people who make over $300K pay less than 5%. Reversing this equation is called justice. It is not just justice, it is good economics, as those earning $17-$30K per year spend their income resulting in more customers for local businesses. New Mexico does not tax Internet sales, which translates into the equivalent of subsidizing Amazon and other Internet sales companies, at the expense of local merchants who must pay their GRT. The tax on Internet sales is one of several tax measures that are already pre-filed as bills in the Roundhouse. Click here to examine Voices of Children’s report on potential revenue generation produced by just and achievable tax reforms. This isn’t just about revenue generation; it is about justice. Too many are paying too much and too many are not paying much at all. The result: an empty state coffer and an inability to invest in our future.
- Increased Minimum Wage Statewide. While the federal government dawdles, local and state jurisdictions overcome objections from local or state Chambers of Commerce and others who warn of cost increases and layoffs if the wage is raised. However, research shows that the actual results are a more stable workforce, a community with more revenue to spend, and a boost in local commerce. And this is again about justice. It is simply unfair for a person to work a full-time job and live in poverty.
- Recreational Marijuana. See Colorado. Young voters turned out to pass this, and the resulting legalization of recreational marijuana has created thousands of jobs, revived many small town economies, and generated $145 million in revenue. Just in 2014.
We know we are not going to pass much, if any, of this platform in 2017, although the hemp bill and some tax reforms are possible. But we need to stop accepting crumbs; we need to build our base and demand what we have sought for 40 years: justice. We can use the need to Resist Trump to galvanize and grow a base of people who are scared, angry, and ready to take action. We promote Reimagine New Mexico to give people something aspirational. Under the unifying banner of Resist Trump and Reimagine New Mexico, we organize and activate using an array of grassroots strategies: community conversations, forums, panels, Town Halls, radio conversations, social media, My Views and Op-Eds, and canvassing. And we reach out to those allies with whom we share common ground and under a unifying theme Resist Trump and Reimagine New Mexico together. We have accepted crumbs for far too long. Let’s reimagine a sustainable, just future and then create it together.
Our talk ended with an impassioned plea: Each and every one of us must make activism part of our daily lives. And it is our collective responsibility to challenge friends and family members who are not engaged. Not being involved at this time is being complicit with Trump and the 1%. It is really that simple.