We continue to explore how progressives can advocate for key principles and priorities without compromising our opportunity to retake Washington. A difficult challenge: How do we do move Party from the center without rending it in two?
Over the past few days I have sought dialog with others from the progressive and the more centrist wings of the Party. I want to acknowledge that ‘progressive’ and ‘centrists’ are not the perfect terms but I think they convey the idea. I have heard how a ceaseless barrage of criticism could undermine the Party’s effort to retake the House and in New Mexico to regain the Governorship. No doubt, we need to regain power to begin repairing the GOP’s destruction of our state and nation. But progressives feel strongly that if the Democrats adhere to the same messaging and neoliberal policies that they have embraced for 40+ years, we fear still more election losses, even with the absolutely incomprehensible political bungling of the GOP. So our constructive criticism is being offered to try to prevent defeat and to help the Party recognize that by embracing more progressive principles and priorities, by returning to the Party’s historic FDR roots, it can galvanize and engage the support of huge numbers of young Democrats and people of color who did not turn out for the 2016 election. How can honest discourse lead to a better understanding and perhaps even to moving the party to embrace more progressive ideals? How can that input be delivered most effectively and where can it be discussed most productively? This will be the central topic for our Town Hall on Aug 19 from 3-5pm at 1420 Cerrillos, RSVP by writing firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking here to RSVP on Facebook.
In prior posts, I have presented evidence and commentary about how the Democratic Party needed a more specific progressive message and needed to loosen its ties to corporate donors. Today, I want to present an article that takes a different perspective: that progressive efforts to reform the party are too strident and wind up undermining the Party. If we want Party leaders to listen to us, we might profit from trying to see things from their perspective.
Democrats: The Party That Eats Itself
In his Esquire piece, Charles Pierce begins by summarizing our current situation: “Presented with a legitimate national crisis in the White House, and presented with the golden political opportunity that said crisis is almost entirely the fault of the Republican Party, which has demonstrated that it is wholly incapable of handling it, the Democratic Party has a chance to realign the electoral map over (at least) the next four years. All that’s required is shrewdness, patience, and the ability to resist cannibalizing themselves long enough to watch the dry rot collapse the other side entirely.” His assessment is that it is entirely likely the Democrats will not succeed.
Pierce goes on to blast the “leftier than thous” for being so inflexibly purist that they are willing to attack most anyone who is not named Bernie or Elizabeth. And while it is one thing to prefer either of those candidates to Harris, Booker or Patrick, he asserts that it is quite another to begin shredding them or to dismiss any candidate who has ever taken money from major corporations (92% of members of Congress accept PAC funding). “There is only one way to break the money power that’s corrupted our politics and intensified the performance aspects of them, and that’s to elect enough members of the national legislature to overturn CU and return sanity to what is now a rigged casino gone mad. Or, you can elect a president who will appoint judges who will revisit the issue with a critical eye. Is there anyone who thinks Kamala Harris wouldn’t do that? Or Cory Booker? Or Deval Patrick, who’s the current punching bag for the leftier-than-thous?” Click here to review Pierce’s piece.
But is the choice for progressives either to be silent or to be viewed as ‘leftier than thous?” Of late, Retake has challenged Rep. Lujan over Wall St. money, choice of candidates supported by the Party, and the statement that the Party will support candidates that oppose abortion, but it is one thing to criticize. It is easy to articulate how we would want Lujan to work to change the Party, but what is the best strategy for actually achieving some level of change in Party direction? Lobbing ongoing posts critical of the Party and its leadership hasn’t worked in the past. So just as we hope that Party leadership will recognize that past messaging and policy priorities have led to 40 years of election defeats, we need to recognize that our approach to advocacy within the Party hasn’t led to the changes to which we aspire. What can we do differently to help Party leadership see things differently? Your thoughts are welcome on this.
Debbi Brody sent along an excellent resource for sustained activism: The National Women’s Law Center, offers an easy to use toolkit for how to advocate with your Congressional representative, how to create effective letters to the editor and other strategies for raising your voice. I have included links to the kit in Retake’s Personal Action Toolkit. If you haven’t reviewed it lately, it has been updated a bit. Click here to get to our personal action toolkit where you can find a link to the NWLC toolkit.
Community Conversations Canvassing. I want to remind people that we are conducting our Sunday Community Conversations Canvassing launch at 4pm today at 1420 Cerrillos. This is a key Retake strategy for broadening our base. To read more about Community Conversations, click here. Better yet, just write us at email@example.com and tell us your coming. Then call a friend and ask that they join you. By 4:45 you will be talking with neighbors and having deep conversations. Most importantly, you’ll be identify people who might want to get involved themselves. We need to grow our base to build the power to create change. And we won’t do that from our homes. Hope to see you at 4pm.
Statewide Activism. Lastly, a growing group of Retake folks are meeting on Monday night at the Community Room in DeVargas Mall from 6-8pm. We have been interviewing progressive lobbyists to identify how and where in the Roundhouse good bills die and who are the legislators on both sides of the aisle who are most responsible for this. Once we identify who are the legislators most at fault for stalling good bills, we will reach out to progressives and activists in their communities and form alliances to pressure those representatives and to build a strong base to support a Democratic candidates opposing a vulnerable GOP representatives and possibly to primary obstructionist Democrats. We are learning how the system works and from our conversations with these lobbyists we are developing a set of legislative priorities. Join us. If you can make it, please RSVP by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roxanne and Paul