People say: There are so many groups out there, what makes Retake Our Democracy different? This post will answer this and also serve as a call to action. Too many of our supporters come to meetings but are not consistently active. This post will challenge you to get more deeply involved and provide tangible ways to do so. Also a report on the weekend’s actions.
Before diving into what distinguishes Retake from other national advocacy groups, a few updates:
- Pyramid Cafe. Pyramid Cafe was victimized this weekend with “Terrorist” spray painted across their restaurant, apparently by a man struggling with mental health issues. Rather than a knee-jerk response condemning the perpetrator, how about we just show some love and support for Pyramid Cafe and during the next week, make a point of heading over and snagging a felafel or gyro — at 505 Cordova Rd. in Santa Fe. I’m a huge felafel fan, so I know my order. When you order, tell them you are from Retake.
- State Democratic Central Committee Results. A record-breaking turnout at the Santa Fe County Democratic Central Committee meeting and State Central Committee/County Chair elections resulted in a strong progressive slate from Santa Fe headed by Susan Popovich as Chair and Mike Archuleta as Vice Chair, and with a large number of progressives elected to the State Central Committee including Dan Cron, Katharine Clark, Tom Leatherwood, Julia Berman, Lindsay Conover, Dorothy Finnigan, Sara Hume, Django Zeaman, Tom Samuels, Greg Sonnenfeld, Richard Lawrence, Marlene and Paul Schwalje, Diana Orozco-Garrett, Susan Popovich, Mike Archuleta, Roxanne Barber, and myself. Apologies if I overlooked others, but this is a great start.
- KSFR–Exceeding $250 in matches from Les Lakind, Roxanne Barber, and myself, we were able to generate over $1,100 in contributions during our one-hour live show on Saturday. Scheduling permitting, I am hoping to do another one-hour show this Saturday with guests Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth and House Speaker Brian Egolf — Sat., April 1, from 11am-noon. I’ll keep you posted.
- Santa Fe Refugee Collaborative FundMe Campaign. By mid-day Saturday, we had met their $1,000 goal, thanks to our generous supporters. We’ll keep you posted on this group’s activities in the future.
- Public Banking Panel Discussion, Thursday, March 30. It’s time to add public banking to the list of local initiatives that Retake advocates for. Click here for more info on the panel and to RSVP. For those of you with only a passing knowledge of public banking, this is a great opportunity to expand your understanding of this incredible opportunity for Santa Fe and other cities and states. For background information on Public Banking, click here.
- Saturday, April 1, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. Higher Education Building, 1950 Siringo Road, Santa Fe. New Mexicans for Money out of Politics is offering an American Promise national webinar training that will provide information on how best to mobilize the political will necessary to ratify a constitutional amendment, establishing once and for all that corporations are not persons and that money is not a form of speech. Click here for more on the American Promise. For more information or to RSVP, write to BreakingBigMoneysGrip@gmail.com.
- Retake Outreach & Organizing Meeting. Thurs, April 4, 5:30-7:30pm. Ctr for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe. After reading about what distinguishes Retake from other groups and hearing of our outreach plans, I hope you decide to join us on the 4th. Outreach is where all the action will be over the next six months. Click here for details and to RSVP (please RSVP as it really helps us prepare).
- Retake Our Democracy Interfaith Panel. Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear: An Interfaith Panel on Finding Common Moral Ground. Thur. April 6, 7-9pm, Temple Beth Shalom, 205 East Barcelona, Santa Fe. Register and get tickets online at Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/2lXSmXA. We mean it: without a ticket you will not be guaranteed a seat.
So How is Retake Our Democracy Different?
I want to begin by saying that Indivisible, MoveOn, Progressive Democrats of America, Justice Democrats, Democracy for America, OurRevolution, and many other activist organizations with more of a national focus are all making tremendous contributions to engaging and organizing the millions of us who woke up on November 9th and knew we had to do more than we had in the past, who felt a deeply profound need to both identify with and participate in resistance. Not only do these organizations provide a meaningful source of community, they provide structured support to ongoing national advocacy.
So where does Retake Our Democracy fit in this picture? What differentiates our work from the work of these national groups? Just as most all of the national advocacy groups do, Retake Our Democracy engages, educates, and activates, and tries to make it easier for individuals to raise their voices. But a key distinction is that 75-90% of our actions focus on state and local issues, and only rarely do we promote national letter writing, phone calling, or petition signing.
Our Activism Focuses at a State and Local Level. Retake feels that while national advocacy can be important, even essential in some parts of the country, we are not as certain that New Mexicans represented by Udall, Heinrich, Lujan, and Lujan Grisham need to be calling or writing them all the time. At least for now, they have towed the line in opposing the current administration. We worry that folks could be lulled into feeling their activism is enough if they are signing petitions and making calls to our reps. Again, while this may provide our Congressional reps added incentive for standing strong for progressive values, we think there may be even more effective things we could be doing. Our emphasis on local and state activism, and on local, on-the-ground community organizing is the primary thing that distinguishes Retake from any of the national organizations. Our focus is New Mexico, the Roundhouse, the Public Regulation Commission, Bureau of Land Management, and increasingly at a local level. For example:
Lobbying at the Roundhouse. We fielded a lobbying team at the Roundhouse and from all reports from our lobbying partners, Retake was ever-present in its maiden effort during this session, and we expect to get stronger in coming years as we build our base. In future years this could be increasingly important, especially as we build a network with other communities in New Mexico.
Support for Local Initiatives. We have been active in support of the local sanctuary initiative, partnering with Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Santa Fe Dreamers. We provided information and speaking points about the Sanctuary resolution, contact information for all the city council members, and action alerts when the Council was deliberating on the resolution. We have also been active in support of Santa Fe’s Universal Early Childhood Initiative, again providing information, contact information for Council reps, and action alerts. This kind of information will be even more important now that the initiative will be on a special ballot, and with the Soda industry pouring in money with largely misleading information.
Advocacy on behalf of Expanded Utilization of Renewable Energy. We have been active in support of New Energy Economy and its efforts to oppose and expose PNM’s disregard for our health and the health of our planet, and its refusal to incorporate more renewable energy into its portfolio. Our work to build bases in the Four Corners and the South, East, and West regions of NM will increase our capacity to effectively lobby PRC members and to mount progressive challenges to Commissioners who continue to support PNM, despite all credible evidence to the contrary.
Support for Our Refugee Neighbors. Retake also goes beyond direct political involvement and advocacy. When Trump was first elected and hate messaging was occurring throughout the country, we organized participation in a local mosque’s Friday service with over 75 Retake members attending to show support. A follow up to our support for refugees was just this week when one of our supporters identified a pilot program sponsored by the Santa Fe Refugee Collaborative. It is working with the Islamic Center of NM to offer ESL classes to refugee parents while their children attend art classes. When we were told of their $1,000 GoFundMe goal, they had raised $120 in two weeks. We described the program in our post last Thursday, and by Saturday morning they had reached their goal with the vast majority of donations coming from Retake Our Democracy supporters.
Encouraging Tithing. To further incorporate the concept of financially contributing to progressive or activist organizations, Retake features a Tithe page on our website and encourages our donors to make contributions to organizations like Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Earth Care, Chainbreaker, and KSFR on a regular basis. What’s more, Retake is organizing a series of panel discussions designed to educate and to stimulate conversation. The first panel is an Interfaith Panel featuring representatives from six faith groups and a focus on finding common moral ground and opposing a politics of fear. This panel will be held on Thursday, April 6, at Temple Beth Shalom (see above for more info). These are not the kinds of actions that are part of any national advocacy group’s bandwidth.
A commitment to Training. Another distinction between Retake and most national organizations is our emphasis on training, capacity building, and grassroots organizing. We have volunteers who are being trained in the use of moral language, active listening, and framing techniques to help us better communicate with people who may be on the fence or with whom we may disagree. While to date this training has focused upon training Retake’s core leadership, toward the end of April more training will be offered to all of our supporters. We feel strongly that if we are going to be able to communicate well with others, we need to learn listening and communication techniques that build alliances. The past campaign was replete with individuals arguing with each other, advocating for their side, but not really listening. To advance this capacity building and to make it more accessible to others outside Santa Fe, we are organizing an integrated curriculum of readings and video to introduce concepts and practices related to communication, cultural awareness, and community organizing.
Local Community Organizing. This spring we are launching a citywide, block-by-block door to door campaign to reach out to every person on the block. We are not targeting Democrats or Progressives, we are targeting people, all people. The goal is to open up conversation about what is on the minds of our neighbors. What are their fears? What are their aspirations? How do they feel about the current political situation? The goal will not be to convince anyone of anything but to engage and organize blocks, to hold a block meeting where neighbors discuss their shared and differing concerns and hopes. To initiate stronger relationships among these neighbors, each block meeting will be used to identify and plan one community project together. This could be anything from a park clean-up to a school tutoring project, but something the block does together. Finally, at each block meeting, we will try to identify 2-3 folks who will commit to canvassing the four blocks adjacent to their block. In this way, the initial effort will reach 5 blocks. By repeating that process one more time, we can have those five blocks reach out to an additional 20 neighboring blocks. The first round of canvassing will be more about listening than advocating, but in second and third passes through neighborhoods, canvassers will begin to surface issues raised by those who were canvassed, introduce possible solutions, and solicit input. Canvassers will also notify neighbors of larger community meetings where these issues will be discussed further.
With a dozen or more canvassing teams, this approach can quickly lead to scores of blocks being canvassed, dozens of neighborhoods organized, and thousands of individuals engaged. Throughout this process we will encourage those contacted to remain involved, to sign up for the Retake blog, and to keep informed on other meetings and actions. As the summer unfolds and more neighborhoods are engaged, a series of City Council district-level meetings will be held where everyone, regardless of party, can meet together and develop a series of city priorities reflective of the priorities of their district. This process will also include an educational component where we will provide information about the funding base for the city, options for increasing revenues, and limitations on how funds can be spent and where they must be spent. With this background information, they will be better able to participate in a participatory budget development process. Then in the fall, we will hold a citywide meeting to create a people’s platform and a people’s budget for the City. Our next blog post will feature information on how participatory budgeting can be conducted, with examples of where it has been implemented successfully.
Statewide Network Development. Yet another distinction between Retake and most national organizations is that Retake also recognizes that to have an effective impact on the PRC, BLM, or the Roundhouse, we need to be able to activate people throughout the state. So we are launching an effort to work with Indivisible groups in 16 cities throughout the state to provide those groups with information on state and local issues and to provide tools to help them expand their local base. We will work with other organizations and individuals in these communities and forge a statewide network that is ready to lobby the PRC, BLM and the Roundhouse so that conservative Dems and moderate Republicans can hear from their own constituents on a consistent basis, with Retake providing background info on issues, speaking points, contact info, action alerts, as well as training opportunities.
Swing Left & an Emerging National Strategy. Lastly, Retake intends to significantly expand its encouragement of Swing Left activity. The collapse of the GOP effort to replace the ACA points to a significant weakness in their Party. To placate the extreme right wing Freedom Caucus, the GOP risks being very vulnerable to pressure on their more moderate GOP legislators. This challenge will not go away and will be manifest most immediately as the GOP now plans to tackle tax ‘reform’ (more accurately, wealth theft with still more concentration of wealth in the 1% at the expense of the 99%). Swing Left is a website where you can input a zip code and find a nearby ‘swing’ district where the legislator in that district could be susceptible to constituent pressure. We are going to expand our effort to recruit volunteers who will work together to identify a dozen more more ‘swing’ districts and then encourage our supporters to identify communities where they may have friends and family who could organize in their communities. Swing Left has an increasingly robust array of information, tools, and resources to facilitate mounting an effective advocacy effort in most any community in the US. Click here to check out SwingLeft. We are developing a complete guide to using SwingLeft and will have a break-out on this at our April 4 Outreach & Organizing Meeting (see above for meeting details).
These are all ways in which Retake distinguishes itself from the major national initiatives, and we feel we fill a special state and local niche that compliments the work of Indivisible, MoveOn, OurRevolution, and other national organizations. We don’t think our approach is better, more effective, or the only way to do this work, but we do believe it is important and that it can compliment the work of these other organizations.
Roxanne and Paul