How Can We Dissent Without Being Divisive?

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.

And Let’s Not Do This, Either!

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 DebateLet’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:

  1. While Retake is calling this Town Hall, it is really a community meeting, not ours.
  2. Norms for the meeting should include that we all try to listen empathically, consider all opinions thoughtfully, not interrupt, and share speaking time equally.
  3. 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  Thank you.

I am eager for comments.


Categories: Democratic Party Reform

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18 replies

  1. Resisting huge corporate “campaign contributions” may be devisive, but they’re essential to democracy

  2. Hi.
    I am very nervous about some of the rhetoric coming out of some of the more “progressive” wing of the Democratic party. While I would like nothing better than to see money out of politics, I’m a pragmatist. Our democratic senators and representatives are not perfect, but they have taken some positive actions. I seriously doubt we can take back the house and keep our senate seats without corporate monies, especially with the Koch brothers coming for Heinrich and others. Those that say it all needs to crash before there can be real change aren’t usually the ones that suffer when a Republican is in office.
    I was especially disturbed by some disparaging remarks made about Kamela Harris on another site. I worked in behavioral health when she was the DA in San Francisco. Her reforms helped keep families together, focused on prosecuting LGBT hate crimes and sent more people to treatment for their addiction instead of prison.
    To accuse an African American woman of sucking off the corporate tit and saying she should step aside for a more progressive candidate is more than divisive, it’s narcissistic and political suicide. Statistically African American women, who voted overwhelmingly for HRC, are the most reliable Democratic voters.
    I fear a split in the Democratic party along race and class lines. A third party would be great, but as someone who worked for the Peace and Freedom party in 68 and watched those votes help give Nixon California, I’m not willing to spend my time on such an endeavor.
    My goal is to unseat the tyrant and as many of his lackeys as possible. Perhaps then we can pursue the other goals.

    • Kamala Harris is a corporate Dem…She is meeting with Hillary’s buddies..She is not what we need…I like Ben Ray a great deal but NO to Kamala!

  3. Interestingly, i worked in behavioral health in SF when Kamela was DA. In the 90’s I was the lead facilitator in creating the first drug court, then a drug court for women, another for youth and then a mental health court. Harris was a fierce advocate for those populations. So I agree with you here. I hope you can make it to the Town Hall on the 19th. We need voices like yours in the conversation. Thanks for the comment. Paul

  4. Not at all interested in what the corporate funded DEM party likes or dislikes. This party historically has stood for the people, not the wealthy. This has changed. There is no deep commitment to reversing Climate Change, protecting environment, providing Universal Health Care, addressing inequality or justice. Most of all, this DEM party is way more interested in donors than the rights of in 51.5% of the population — Women. Its time to abandon this dying party and create something new that is truely progressive. Bernie showed the way, now we need to step up and honor the progressive platform rather than appease those who have abandoned us. The people lead, and the elected follow. The party structure is dishonest and obstructs change that is needed desperately for our planet and our people.

  5. I applaud your recent posts regarding the Democratic party and assure you that I find them neither divisive nor harmful to the credibility of Retake. Rather, I find the defensive posture of the Party to be harmful to its credibility but of course they have no sense of this. Their response (I am paraphrasing here) that ‘we don’t have to agree, we just have to understand each other’s perspective’ comes across to me as ‘we won’t change but we can listen to each other’. Consider the words of Ghandi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. They are now fighting you so you are close to winning your point.
    I personally will not give one more dollar to the top/down, tone-deaf, money-making machine the Party has become. That Democrats will now support anti-choice candidates is beyond appalling to me and I am on the verge of abandoning ship and registering as an Independent. While I appreciate that you and Roxanne are in a difficult position with the Party I greatly appreciate your courage and hope that you will not back down. If they won’t hear you and Retake I will hear that as a call to move on. Thank you for trying.

  6. GREAT perfect blog!

    “One of the most sincere forms of respect isactually listening to what another has to say.” ―Bryant H. McGill

  7. Like some of the others who have commented, I resent the Dems making decisions without consulting the general public. For example, the crowning of Kamala Harris as the next Dem presidential candidate. I have nothing against Kamala, but what is the purpose of a primary if the winner, like Hillary, has already been decided? The Dems are as guilty as the Republicans in sidestepping Democracy and that is the name of this organization, Retake Our Democracy, so bullying and ignoring the opinions of the voters doesn’t work for me. I am also angry that I read a post on Facebook asking me to say yes if I supported Bernie’s single payer plan. When I said yes a questionair popped up which half way through I realized was trying to get me to support the Democrat party. I thought I canceled it but now I have at least a half dozen requests for money and support from the Dems in my email. It was a trick to get on the email links of Bernie supporters. That really sets me against the party.

  8. Interesting, isn’t it, that with the exception of Paul’s response all of the comments regarding this post are from females?

    • Where are the guys? Our meetings are 75% women as well. Sad commentary on my gender, among many sad commentaries.

      • Excellent question, Paul!
        I have a suspicion that -with the exception of health care and climate change-many males consider themselves to be insulated from the core issues with which the Party is grappling.
        It is now fairly common knowledge that males generally earn more in the workplace than their female counterparts, and privileged white males, who are also more likely to have investments or own businesses, are generally unconcerned with the Fight for $15 campaign unless they outright oppose it. Ditto that for labor issues. Economic equity disproportionately affects females, and even more so single moms, who are more likely to raise children in poverty. Poverty, in turn, makes a good education more difficult to obtain due to inequities in neighborhoods, local schools and in the DeVos voucher system now being pushed by the Trump administration. Unequal access to education leads to low levels of employment and potential poverty and the beat goes on.
        So WHERE ARE the guys? If silence is the voice of complicity I do not like what I’m hearing.

  9. Paul, the Democratic party is fractured and broken, as you know. And at the national level refuses to listen to the people, to change course. We are all suffering because of this. Some people don’t like a healthy dialogue, they think we shouldn’t point out the flaws in the party. Because, I assume, they think it damages the party. But, in my opinion that’s what can strengthen the party. People like Shumer and Pelosi need to step aside and let progressive leaders in, only then can the party make some real gains. Clearly they have not guided the party well, their corporate politics have devastated America. It is theirs and the fault of many other Democratic elite that we have this Republican yoke on our country. And if this doesn’t change soon, then it’s not going to matter, because climate change doesn’t care about their need for power & greed. In their stupidity and need for power they are complicit with the Trump administration in this.

  10. Hi Paul. Gosh, golly, gee whiz? Someone sitting in the throne chair heard you n said, for reasons hidden in careful calculation, that you n us were n maybe are kinda ok, but whoa, we are not nice, n decisive, n imprudent, n counterproductive n therefore, if you want to have a spot on the bone to chew on you gotta get on ur knees n stand in line for the drama queens who hold onto the reigns of the dead horse to throw you on its back n carry you to Valhalla.


    I will skip the shame n genuflection, thank you sooo very much.

    The manicured forefinger with the jeweled ring wagginging in your rebellious face, clicking its tongue and ever so slightly shaking its head at your naive impudence.

    This drama is killing all of us. I will not lay my tired head in the lap of my surrogate mother while she sings the lullaby death song until it becomes the addictive meme that dictates what my pragmatic ID MUST live out so it can reintegrate with what she is now singing to me.

    Dude, what have u been smoking?

  11. Something I’d like to share is that, on a personal level, no matter what the topic or opinion or fact expressed, if it is done in a way that is attacking or polarizing or self-righteous, and conversely when its rings false and disingenuous, I tend to stop listening. That’s the fine line – how to express genuinely with strength and courage and be heard? In my experience with whatever group or organization, sometimes those involved can come across as so angry and embittered and unable to listen themselves that it only creates more polarization. This is my frustration with the Democratic party as a whole – the inability to come together with a unified message and instead splintering into camps which blame each other.

    • Well said. And I can be guilty of being so outraged by many affronts to justice that I can be too strident. While almost all the posts I do are substantiated with citations, a more sober, thoughtful commentary on my part will be more effective. Now the hard part: containing my anger and frustration. Thanks for the comment, Karen.

  12. Friends, This discussion should include the recognition that Democrats, Republicans, non-party people and non-voters have some shared values. Political efforts to elect legislators at any level should focus on shared values. Shared values include: :We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with ceratin unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness——-.
    We often act differently but at some level most of us recognize these values.
    When there are discussions of the Democratic Party, a prominent thread should be the best way to elect legislators who will support these values as modern times change. Bernie Sanders raised a lot of money from small donners because he had a meaningful moral message. I looked at the Democratic Party platform and saw a comment of “Democratic values” and a very long list of policies but no defination of the values.
    The way to elect people who support the values of the Declaration and the Preamble of the US Consitution is to understand that moral values are more persuasive that economic issues. That concept explains “Why do people vote against their own economic self interest?”
    A widespread moral values based political campaign is possible but . without a NM Bernie Sanders, can it be done in NM? We should try. Write me at for an idea. Spreading efforts over 50+ issues is not working.

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