Over the last 10 days, Retake has published a number of posts critical of the national Democratic Party and Rep. Lujan. Today we pose the question: Are these posts divisive? Is there a better way to reform the Party? How can constructive criticism be encouraged in the Democratic Party? We want to hear from you.Tomorrow’s post will focus upon the PNM Rate Case and the critical need for all of us to provide input and support New Energy Economy. It will also feature how one ABQ candidate for Mayor is taking a meaningful stand to protect our environment.
How Can We Dissent & Not Divide the Democratic Party?
Dissenters within the Party want a voice and to have input into Party messaging and Party campaign and fundraising practices. But how do we do this constructively?
Over the past ten days, Retake has published a series of posts critical of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC,and Democratic leadership from Schumer to Pelosi to Lujan. While the first post about the DCCC was strongly stated, subsequent posts have sought more balance and dialog. Most all of the comments and emails I’ve received have strongly praised the commentary, most often underscoring that they felt the same way: The Democratic Party is making some very big mistakes that could cost them dearly in future elections. Trying to prevent those mistakes and avoid future losses is the entire purpose of researching and writing this running commentary. But the posts aren’t going to be effective if those who are part of the mainstream party only see them as divisive and unproductive. And this appears to be the case.
I have been seeking input from people in the mainstream of the party and have learned that some think the posts are ‘divisive’ and that they damage the credibility of the Party and of Retake. In one extended conversation, a party activist pointed how impactful Retake had been when working with the Party to retake the Roundhouse. Indeed at that time, we were rowing in the same direction. He went on to say that currently it feels as if we are only being critical. Another less charitable comment basically said we were losing credibility with labor and with many Democrats because of our criticism. I wondered: could the issues be raised by Retake in such a way that it is heard by those who may not entirely agree with us? Can we find a way to consider that input in a reflective, honest and empathetic way? If we can canvass together, can we converse together? Recall that in my last post I made the case that if we are going to reverse the damage done by Trump and the GOP, we will need to do it with and through the Democratic Party, and so it is in everyone’s interest to find a way for progressives to provide input without it being seen as divisive. But how?
I decided to call Richard Ellenberg, Chair of DPNM. While initially he was one of those who was most upset with criticism of the DCCC, Richard was far more appreciative of my second and still highly critical post on the DCCC, commenting publicly on the post with “You get the fair, balanced and constructive award.” So I called Richard. I told him that I felt a key role for Retake is to present information and input that we feel needs to be considered by the Party, that we are only trying to help the Party understand how much their current practices are undermining support among women, communities of color, the young, and many older progressives. I told him how some in the party were reacting as if we were traitors to the cause, that the posts were playing into the hands of the GOP and were divisive.
We spoke for about ten minutes and he was very clear: Your comments are important, welcome, and necessary to a healthy democracy and Democratic Party. He went on to say that the ideal is to exchange ideas with a goal not of necessarily agreeing, but of trying to understand each other’s perspective. While Richard found Retake’s reporting balanced after our first post about the DCCC, others in labor and the Party mainstream were not responding well. I then spoke with a labor leader and he said: “You have done such great work, but you are blowing yourself up. The tone of your rhetoric and the selection of some of your images can be inflammatory.” This was specific input that was most useful. After Trump’s election, Retake said we needed to do more listening and less shouting. The posts of late had been shouting. But by seeking conversation and by listening, I had obtained some insights into how to proceed. Here is what I pledge.
- When completing each post I will reflect on my use of language and images. Are they helpful? Are they encouraging reflection and dialog or are they just trying to make and remake a point.
- I will avoid incendiary language; this may play well with the convinced, but it turns off those we want to reach.
- I will continue to seek input from those with whom we disagree and ask about posts I’ve sent and their reaction. To be clear, there is absolutely no point to piling on evidence of ineffective Party practices if the only people actually considering that information are those who already agree with Retake. That simply replicates a process that is unhealthy and unproductive. On the other hand, there must be a way to present information on issues about which we are concerned.
- Retake will seek opportunities for conversations that span perspectives, beginning with our Aug. 19 Town Hall: Open Conversation Not Debate. (RSVP at the link below.)
- I ask those who have been most critical of our posts to share this post with some of their constituents and ask if they want to be part of this dialogue. We need to find a way to converse and ponder without dividing or in 2018 progressives will be blaming mainstream Democrats for advancing the same failed campaign strategies, and the mainstream will blame progressives for being divisive and not pulling their weight. We’ve been there for six months and it hasn’t felt very good. Let’s find a different path…together.
Sat., Aug 19, 3-5pm 1420 Cerrillos Rd.
Retake Town Hall: Open Conversation Not Debate. Let’s begin this exploration with an honest conversation. The format is still in flux and will be hashed out in conversation with both labor and the Democratic Party and with input through comments to this post. For now, we are thinking we will begin by brainstorming together the goals and values upon which most all of us agree. We will also explore policies where we have shared interests and use this as a common ground framework.
In advance of the Town Hall, Retake will identify 2-3 key campaign/fund raising reforms and 2-3 key policy priorities, present them briefly, and then facilitate open discussion. Where do we agree? Where do we disagree? I am thinking that at this point we could break into discussion groups with each focused on one of the priority topics and encourage mixing of groups, with Retake, labor, and DPNM represented at each table.
For this to work a few things need to be agreed to:
- While Retake is calling this Town Hall, it is really a community meeting, not ours.
- Norms for the meeting should include that we all try to listen empathically, consider all opinions thoughtfully, not interrupt, and share speaking time equally.
- In advance of the meeting, explore ways that facilitation could be shared by labor, DPNM, and Retake.
Most importantly, the purpose is not necessarily to leave in complete agreement, but to leave with a shared understanding that we are working toward the same things and that we are far more likely to be successful by working together. And working together doesn’t mean that progressives get all they want, nor does it mean that progressives need to be silent and good soldiers. What do you think? If you want to attend this Town Hall either click here to RSVP by Facebook or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
I am eager for comments.