Another Way of Looking at Rep. Lujan & the DCCC

We may have an incredible opportunity to move the Party in a new direction, but it won’t happen tomorrow or because a few hundred of us are furious that it isn’t changing quickly enough. Details on how we force that change and how that starts tomorrow night when the Santa Fe City Council votes on Ranked Choice Voting.

More On the DCCC, DNC and the Future of the Democratic Party

If we want democracy, we need to retake it. It won’t be given to us.

Since the post on Sunday about the national Democratic Party, the DCCC, and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s cultivation of corporate contributions, I have received almost universally positive responses with all but two of the 50+ emails affirming that the post resonated with their own concerns about the direction of the Party. But the thought occurred to me: what next?  Ok, the DNC and the DCCC are still raising money from the corporate sector. That likely surprised no one. But what do we do? 

First, Representative Ben Ray Lujan is one of the most powerful people in Congress, especially as relates to how the Democratic Party raises money, who they listen to, and what they do with what they hear. Very few communities in this country have this kind of leverage in Washington. We do.
Second, while Rep. Lujan’s seat is safe, his position being in charge of the DCCC does not afford him carte blanche to make wholesale changes in how the Democratic Party does business. If he walked into Pelosi’s office for a meeting with her and Tom Perez and said: “We are done raising money from corporate America. It is $27/month from millions or I quit,” he would no longer be in charge of the DCCC and NM would have lost a critical point of leverage in national politics.
Third, Rep. Lujan is largely an accessible and reasonable person. While he is not perfect, we could do way, way worse in who is representing us in Washington.
Fourth, just because there are a 1000 or more pretty strong progressives in Santa Fe and probably 5-10,000 more throughout the state, we are not well organized yet and we need to vastly expand our base if we want to have the power to really shift the conversation.
Lastly, I want to return to the first item on this list: Ben Ray Lujan has immense leverage in Washington, so we need to vastly expand the base of progressive support that helps him use that power to create change.  That is our opportunity and there are precious few states in this nation with that kind of opportunity. So let’s get started.

I bring encouraging and discouraging news. First the encouraging news. From a DPNM leader, I was given information about how Rep. Lujan has been working to shift the way the DCCC operates. Under Rep. Lujan’s direction, the national Democratic Party and the DCCC, has been working to cultivate more grassroots small donor funding, to train a grassroots local activists and initiate ongoing local outreach and education, and to begin identifying and grooming new leaders who could run for local, state and national office.  This is not throwing Wall St out of his office, but it is a very good thing.  Click here for a Washington Post report. In part, due to this shift in focus, the DCCC generated a significant increase in donations under $200 with the DCCC claiming: “268,000 gifts of $200 or less  received in January and February — a major increase not only over the same period in the last non-election year (125,000 in 2015), but also over the 2016 election-year numbers (146,000).”  And from the National Journal:  “The DCCC touted its online fundraising, which vastly outpaced its GOP counterpart. House Democrats raised a record $13.6 million online in the first quarter, compared to the NRCC’s $1.7 million online during that same time.”  According to a third source, Chairman Lujan and the DCCC have made it a top priority to improve how the committee works, reaching out to grass root supporters for their ideas–changing how the committee has raised resources from the previous election cycles. All of this is a welcome shift in the DCCC efforts.

The DCCC has also launched a national training program that is reaching out nationwide to build a democratic infrastructure of organizers.  To date more than 3200 people have participated in all 50 states. I was not aware of any of these efforts and am heartened to report them as it provides some indication that at top levels of the Party and specifically from Rep. Lujan, that the Party recognizes the value of a strong, progressive grassroots base and wants to cultivate it.
Is this the gold standard in eliminating the influence of Wall St. in the political process? No, but it is a clear indication of an opening, an opportunity to expand the conversation. But for NM progressives to take advantage of this opportunity, we need to become much better organized and significantly build our base. And that will not happen through more Retake blog posts, even if they are at times illuminating. It can only happen with you, the person reading these words. The only way we build our base of power is by your actually reaching out and talking to friends and neighbors and inviting them to get active. And here are some concrete things you can ask them to do with you.
  • Come to City Hall tomorrow night at 7pm. Ranked Choice Voting will not change the face of NM. But it is an important step toward demonstrating that progressive Santa Feans mean business, that we will do more than get angry and frustrated and that we will work with our local government to advance progressive change. It starts here at home. If we have 10-15 of the usual suspects at the meeting on Wednesday, that will say something, but if we pack the room, the message will be much, much stronger. So I challenge you. Reach out to 3-4 friends, tell them about RCV and take 90 minutes out of your lives to come to City Hall, testify in support of RCV or just show your support for others who testify. But be there. We don’t change things from our living room. And Wednesday is an opportunity to make a statement. Trust that if there are 200 of us there tomorrow night, Rep. Lujan will know. Click here for more information on RCV and contact information for your City Councilors. Let them hear from you today and let them see you tomorrow night. Maria Perez of FairVoteNM has done a tremendous job lining up speakers to advance RCV, now we need to have her back. Wear your Retake button and we will have some on hand for those who don’t have one. Show the Council we care about this issue and be there to celebrate an important win.
  • Share this post with your friends. Some of you routinely send out emails to a few dozen folks you know, others of you could. Share this post, tell those to whom you write that you are going to City Hall tomorrow and ask them to come with you. Again, we don’t have many opportunities to show our strength. Let’s do this. Send an email and include the link to this post.
  • Monthly Retake Town Hall. Sat. Aug. 19, 3-5pm, 1420 Cerrillos. Center for Progress & Justice. From now on you can calendar the third Saturday of every month, 3-5pm at 1420 Cerrillos. Retake will be there to continue the conversation, to plan actions, to present speakers, to build an activist community. Details on the 19th coming.
  • Identify an Action Team that Feels Right for You.  It has taken us some time to build the infrastructure to sustain our work, but we currently have the following ongoing opportunities for involvement and please do RSVP as this makes it MUCH easier for us to plan for each meeting.
    • Community Conversations Canvassing Begins Sunday, 4pm, 1420 Cerrillos. Community Conversations Canvassing is different. It is not trying to persuade anyone about anything. It is about listening to your neighbors concerns and talking. We have researched a number of approaches to canvassing and landed on this. We have piloted it with three teams of canvassers and each reports having remarkable, deep conversations, nothing like the robotic campaign canvassing where you ask two questions, click two boxes and move on. And you start with your own block, getting to know neighbors you have never really met or may barely know. You will be provided an easy-to-follow script, guidance as to how to do this well and a canvassing partner if you do not have one. After a brief orientation, you will be off meeting your neighbors. If we are going to build a base, this is one important way to start. There is a long-range plan to use this work to focus a growing base on a list of policy priorities we develop together and use those priorities to hold our local elected officials accountable. Again, building a base; growing our strength. Canvassing launches will be held every Wednesday and Sunday at 4pm and once oriented, you can canvass on your own schedule. Click here to RSVP on Facebook or email us at volunteer4retake@gmail.com
    • Activist Research Team. Aug 3 and Aug 17, 6-8pm, 1420 Cerrillos. We are using the Chainbreaker Collective’s ten-point People’s Platform as a point of departure. Participants have divvied up the platform policies and we are researching how other communities have successfully implemented effective models related to the goals in the platform. If we are going to lobby with our local elected officials, we have to come with solutions, not complaints. This team is identifying the solutions and writing up one-page summaries to share with you and our elected officials. Join us. Click here to RSVP on Facebook or email us at volunteer4retake@gmail.com. Click here for more on Chainbreaker, Equity Summer, and the People’s Platform.
    • Statewide Roundhouse Activist Team. Aug. 7, 6-8pm. DeVargas Community Center.  Details on the precise location in the mall in next post. Future meetings will be on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at 1420 Cerrillos. The team is starting by interviewing progressive lobbyists to find out more about what happens behind the scenes, how do bills move or stall and who are the key players. If we want to advocate effectively, we need to understand this. From these conversations we will identify the key GOP and Democratic legislators who are impediments to passing progressive legislation and we will reach out to activists and progressive Democrats in those districts and ask them to seek conversation with those legislators. We will work to build power in those communities, as we are in Santa Fe and we will use that power to encourage more responsive work on the part of elected officials or we will consider identifying more progressive candidates for the 2018 primary. From those conversations with lobbyists we will also identify the highest priority bills in their focus area and from this we will work with activists in other regions of the state to create a specific set of legislative priorities. We will work with DPNM to incorporate these priorities in its platform and we will work with our Democratic leadership in the Roundhouse to find a way to make these bills the focal point for a legislative agenda in 2019. Click here to RSVP on Facebook or email us at volunteer4retake@gmail.com

Retake has some other developing strategies related to food security, community gardens, and working in partnership with the City to improve our parks. But for now, the above represent some very important opportunities to translate your frustration, anger and fears into action.  Let’s build our base, let’s develop power and let’s do it together. Starting tomorrow night at City Hall.

That is the good news. But the discouraging news is that one of the two critical comments I got about Sunday’s post came from someone very important in DPNM. I don’t want to name names, but it was very disheartening to hear his response be that the post Sunday was based upon fake news and lacked any credibility. This is the same kind of knee-jerk, defensive, circle-the-wagons, you are either with us or against us mentality that has undermined any kind of thoughtful reflection within the Party. I have been told that this person has sent emails to others asserting that the post was based on unreliable sources. And since it appears that the mainstream DPNM response to Sunday’s post is that the report was false and based on fake news or sources that were not viewed as credible, I would point out that the thrust of the report is contained in the bullets below; that they were all derived from highly credible news sources and they are unambiguously true.

  • Quote from Pelosi indicating that the Party did not need to shift course after the Nov catastrophe;
  • Quote from Pelosi that Party leadership did not see Single Payer as part of the 2018 campaign as it didn’t have support from the base;
  • The lack of DCCC support for progressive candidates in Kansas and Montana;
  • The strong DCCC support for a centrist candidate in Georgia; and and most importantly
  • The unassailable truth of the Democratic Party’s loss of the House, the Senate, dozens of state legislatures and now the White House….suggesting that some kind of new direction is essential—despite Pelosi’s inability to see this.
Where I did err and what I want to correct today is that the Intercept report cited was actually a 2016 report so when it stated that the DCCC had raised $144M “so far this year,” that was for 2016. However, the other report cited yesterday was published by the International Business Times (a subsidiary of Newsweek) was from July of this year. IBT reported that the DCCC had raised $49M in Jan – May 2017, a figure I have verified. The IBT goes on to chronicle the large number of CEO donors (over 600) who are giving at the maximum levels to the DCCC. Far more importantly, there is abundant other evidence that the DNC has refused to take steps to get money out of politics. Recall that in February, the DNC voted down Resolution 33, which would have would have reinstated Obama’s ban on corporate political action committee donations and forbidden “registered, federal corporate lobbyists” from serving as “DNC chair-appointed, at-large members.” So instead of taking a strong stand against the influence of corporate lobbyists, the DNC threw open the doors. And when the DNC had the opportunity to elect Keith Ellison as DNC chair, Obama, Pelosi, and other corporate centrist DNC members lobbied furiously to undermine Ellison. So to call Sunday’s post false and based upon fake news is evidence of a refusal to acknowledge a problem and this has been endemic of DPNM for some time. We will continue our work building our base of progressive power to create a DPNM that welcomes constructive criticism and prefers reflection to blinders.
Far more important than squabbling with DPNM leaders, is the work at hand: building our base of power to create a sustainable, just Santa Fe, a more progressive, forward thinking New Mexico and a country we can be proud of. See you tomorrow night, 7pm, City Hall, 200 Lincoln. We will have Retake buttons for you. Let’s show them who is in the house.
In solidarity,
Paul & Roxanne

5 thoughts on “Another Way of Looking at Rep. Lujan & the DCCC

  1. Paul. Thanks for your aggressive work on this and other remake issues. As a long time decline to state voter, I see no way forward with the existing party system structure. The Rs walk/run back to the 14th century while the Ds slink along sideways like a sidewinder rattler. The handbasket is tightly woven with CYAF bouncers all around the rim. This movement Must create a fresh way forward, with almost zero time to do it. Know any willing avatars other than Bernie?

    Like

    • We should talk, Mick. In truth, I am not sure we have met and if so, you certainly are not often at our meetings. We could especially use your smarts with our Research team or with the Roundhouse activism group. I have to prep for Spanish right now with class at noon. If I don’t study, taking the class is useless. But do you have time for a conversation about your thoughts on alternatives to the Dem. Party. Write to me at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org and let’s set up a time to talk. I always enjoy your comments.

      Like

  2. To bad I didn’t get that letter from whomever in the DPNM, I would have given them the facts (not the alt facts) and asked if they had “gone Republican” on me. I can think of no worse insult at this juncture in time. Power to truth Paul and Roxanne. Many thanks. Debbi

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s