Originally posted soon after the election, we keep this post on the home page as it outlines how Retake Our Democracy has been formed and how its Action Teams will engage, educate, and activate our communities.
Retake Our Democracy has evolved through some twists and turns. My wife Roxanne Barber and I created SantaFe4Bernie and in that process cultivated 2,000 supporters committed to progressive change. When the primary process did not turn out as we had hoped, we followed Sen. Sanders’ direction and focused locally, creating Retake the Roundhouse. We worked with NM Working Families Party, Progressive Democrats of America, OurRevolution, Southwest Organizing Project, the Democratic Party of New Mexico, and other grassroots groups to establish Retake the Roundhouse, to return the NM state legislature to Democratic control. We canvassed, we phone banked, we emailed, and we honed the importance of civic conversation as a means of countering the insanity of misinformation produced by mainstream and social media.
While nationally the election process and outcome were a fiasco, in New Mexico we retook the Roundhouse. Mission accomplished. But now another chapter, another challenge, and a far more ambitious goal: Retake Our Democracy. We are holding an Action Team planning meeting on December 11 at 2:30pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Fe. (See Action Team descriptions later in this post.) RSVPs are required as the room is filling up. Those who show up without RSVPing may get in, but if we are full, those who RSVP will have priority.
Why Retake Our Democracy? We have been kicked in the teeth by not just the election results, but the election process itself. If our democracy is to survive, it must be restored to ensure that the voices of common people are heard and the needs of common people are met. We are currently a country where all wealth and power flow to the 1% and the Corporatocracy. This must change.
For at least the last 40 years, neither major political party has effectively responded to the needs of common people. Instead, they have focused on responding to lobbyists, corporations, and the 1%, a constituency that provides significant funding for our representative’s political campaigns. A lobbyist can arrange a lunch with a Senator or member of the House, discuss an issue that is important to the lobbyist and their industry, and even craft precise language for a rider that ‘our’ representative will then slip into bill with little fanfare. The industry has their needs met, ‘our’ representatives finds his or her campaign fund enhanced with a generous donation, and we are left out entirely. This is how America has functioned for at least 40 years.
The voices of people have been suffocated by this infusion of money into politics and the failure of the media to report in any consistent way on the issues that matter most to Americans, instead focusing on rumors, accusations, and personalities. This last campaign was particularly offensive. Instead of a serious public debate on meaningful issues: jobs, healthcare, Social Security, peace, our crumbling infrastructure, education, or our environment, we were buried in discussions of emails, Clinton and Trump Foundations, groping, preposterous walls, and idle threats. Whatever provocative tweet Trump sent out became headline news. But almost never were the needs of common people addressed in any substantive way.
Working people, common people, are left out of the civic process and many, if not most, are too busy working two jobs, going to school, and raising a family to raise their voices effectively. If they have time to watch the local news, they find out who was killed, what fire or traffic accident occurred, which team won, and what to expect from the weather. Seldom do they hear a discussion about anything that actually addresses their daily lives and their needs. While they do not always understand why it is so, they have the not-so-subtle sense that their lives are getting harder and that, very likely, life will be still harder for their children. But they have little information and little idea how to do anything about this. So they work harder.
Retake Our Democracy has been developed to provide information about the issues that really matter to people, in digestible formats, and with resources that make it easy for all of us to raise our voices in an effective way on an ongoing basis, despite being buried in other priorities.
At our November 20, 2016, Town Hall meeting and in scores of emails sent to Retake Our Democracy, people have most frequently asked two questions: What can I do on my own? What can we do together?
In response to these questions we have developed a Personal Action Toolkit that will be continuously updated and that summarizes actions that individuals can take. We have also formed ten Action Teams through which teams of individuals can work together to advance our collective goals and vision. Over 250 people signed up for roles in these Action Teams and we are now developing plans to activate their commitments.
The initial constellation of Action Teams is precisely that: initial. If you have ideas about how another team with a different scope of work might increase our effectiveness, please email in response to any of our blogs with suggestions, but for now, theses are the Action Teams we have launched.
Action Teams are volunteer-driven and conduct activities that are described in more detail if you click on the blue link after each bullet below. Action Teams include:
- Citizen Advocacy at local, state, and national levels including advocacy with city council, county, state, and national legislation;
- Reinvigoration of Ward Politics and reconnecting people to local and state political processes;
- Community Conversations through a combination of a new form of ‘canvassing’ that involves neighbors speaking with neighbors in non-partisan, and non-confrontational conversation: What is keeping you up at night? What could government do better? How do you feel government could serve you better?
- Research into a wide variety of issues and the development of issue-focused “Action Packets” that include 500-word summaries with links to video, other articles, info graphics, speaking points, and contact information for legislators and policymakers;
- Outreach & Engagement to expand involvement of under-represented populations and to expand our activity to communities throughout New Mexico and then throughout the US;
- Events Planning to coordinate an array of Town Hall, Action Team, House Parties, Meet-Ups, Trainings, and Conferences, and over time to expand the scope to webinars and video conferences that reach communities throughout New Mexico and the US;
- Social Media to expand our use of all forms of social media;
- Media to ensure maximum coverage in mainstream media through TV and radio coverage, community calendars, letters to the editor, op-eds and feature stories;
- Young Leader Recruitment & Development to develop a new generation of diverse leadership to run for school board, city council, and county commissions to inject their voices into a range of locally-based community initiatives; and
- Civil Disobedience to use historically proven practices to draw attention to the needs of the disenfranchised and to continuously magnify what is wrong in our country and what could be different.
Ambitious, crazy goals, yes. But the times call for ambitious, crazy goals. Join us in the next chapter. The one where we Retake Our Democracy and restore some semblance of sanity to this country. We can’t continue to operate as if all things revolve around profit. We need to heed the wisdom of our indigenous friends and neighbors and honor harmony with nature and with each other.
We can do this if we do it together.