The DNC has it wrong, MLG has it wrong, the Democratic Party has it wrong, so where does that leave us? Today’s post outlines a long-haul grassroots strategies to create participatory democracy and protect the planet.
On multiple fronts, progressives should be concerned about the state of the Party and its seeming unwillingness to stand for long-held Democratic values, fight for working people, us, and stand up to the corporatocracy’s ongoing assault on liberty, justice, equity and the planet. Whether you examine the DCCC’s ongoing support for centrist Democrats, DNC’s retreat on taking fossil fuel money, or Michelle Lujan Grisham’s rude disparagement of the progressive wing of the Party for daring to think that we need to pivot from G&O and move to a more sustainable renewable economy, you can’t be happy. This post offers up a plan borrowed from Europe for how we can build sustainable power and advance justice and equity……meaningfully.
Democratic National Committee: A Betrayal of Democracy
The recent decision by the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Executive Committee to reverse itself and accept donations–more accurately payoffs–from the extractive industries, says much about the character of the Democratic Party. The vote underscores the critical need for a transformation of how we are governed. Multiple parties and Ranked Choice Voting would be a step in the right direction offering an option to the dinosaurs who rule the Democratic Party, but whatever transformation is to ensue, for a number of reasons, it must be generated by a sustained local grassroots education and organizing campaign (see Somos above as one approach).
What is so bad about accepting donations from gas and oil? Take a look at NM Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham speaking about progressive Democrats Party who are seeking to severely restrict future gas and oil extraction. “They’ve lost their minds. We’re the third-largest oil producer in the country. I’m (as governor) going to get a benefit from that.”
In the same interview, she went on to say, ‘“I don’t believe everyone in oil and gas wants to pollute and kill the environment. Instead of having a conversation about banning oil and gas, why don’t we fix the methane leak problem?” While it is certainly true that NM is far too dependent upon G&O revenues, her comments suggest that she trusts G&O as a legitimate partner. The comment ignores the negative impact of continued use of fossil fuels, ignores the huge amount of water consumed in fracking and the toxins left behind. It also ignores the reality that G&O actually does want to pollute and kill the environment as revealed by their decades long misinformation about precisely how their extractive work is very clearly killing our environment.
How different it would be if Grisham had instead said: “I am 100% behind progressive goals for a just transition. In the very short-term our state economy is far too dependent upon gas and oil revenues. But from day one of my administration we will be exploring any and all strategies to lessen our dependence upon gas and oil. And those industries will not be part of that conversation and they will not be contributing to my campaign.”
But when Democrats get money from lobbyists for G&O they have conversations with those folks and they come away from those conversations feeling they can work with them, that they are reasonable, that there are parts of their reasonable sounding, but utterly unscientific white papers that just might make sense. And then you rudely dismiss progressives as out of their minds, because they prioritize the planet over G&O profits instead of aligning with what could be the core of your base.
One caveats. Despite my many misgivings about MLG as a candidate and governor, I would much prefer to be pressing her to do the right thing than Steve Pearce. And on many issues, MLG needs no pressure to do the right thing. When voting and when considering who to work for in the coming election, you are deciding about what kind of political environment in which you want to exist in the future and that, my friends, is not a tough choice. We need to elect MLG and then we need to pressure her. But it would be nice if she weren’t so dismissive of those to her left who history will judge to have been 100% correct.
Buit as was made crystal clear in an email yesterday from the Working Families Party, the corporate centrist Democrats are not going to give up their alliances with Wall St. and the gas and oil industries, not without a fight. From Working Families Party:
“Last month, a group of corporate Democratic elected officials, billionaire donors, and lobbyists gathered in Columbus, Ohio to strategize about the upcoming midterm elections and 2020.
No, they weren’t there to discuss how to turn grassroots energy into electoral victories and policies that would help working families. Instead, they were plotting how to use corporate money to stop our growing progressive wave from sweeping America in 2018 and 2020.
According to NBC News, the pro-Wall Street think tank Third Way hosted the summit to provide a “safe space” for corporate Democrats “to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement.” One attendee — a member of House Democratic leadership — described their outlook this way: “If you look throughout the heartland, there’s a silent majority who just wants normalcy.”1
Let’s be absolutely clear. Whether it’s a political system rigged for big donors, an economy rigged for the 1%, or the systematic perpetuation of white supremacy across generations, “normalcy” has failed working families — and we won’t win by advocating a return to it. But we believe there’s a different way.”
The DNC made a terrible decision in reversing itself and now agreeing to accept extraction industry donations. And as the email from Working Families Party makes clear, Democratic Party leadership just doesn’t get it.
What does that tell us we must do? One of the most important discoveries of our Road Trip has been how Jackson, Mississippi has learned from the municipalities En Comú movement in Europe and is organizing its Jackson-Kush strategy around an approach to grassroots organizing that has resulted in a number of European cities essentially being taken over progressives.
A core understanding of the En Comú movement is that you can protest and take the square, the streets and the social networks and still be left outside with your songs and signs, looking into the rooms of power where decisions are made despite you. To achieve significant and sustainable change, you need to take the institutions. And that is what has happened in Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna and numerous other European cities. But Barcelona has not stopped at taking over its municipality, Barcelona has published a ten page guide for other cities to use retake their institutions. Best of all, the guide is available in English and Spanish and will be translated into more languages over the coming months.
But a guide based upon a European movement that has succeeded in an cultural environment where grassroots political activism has thrived for many decades and where a multi-party system offers more options to express political diverse perspectives must be tweaked to be relevant to Santa Fe and to other cities in NM and the US. But, while modifications may be required, there are some concepts that are worth considering. Upon our return to NM, Roxanne and I will be eager to meet with leadership from impacted communities to discuss how some of these concepts could possibly be adapted authentically in NM.
- Organizing must occur at the grassroots, local neighborhood level and in these neighborhoods, conversations must occur through which community needs and the policies that could address those needs emerge. At the same time, relationships are formed, relationships that bind the neighborhoods.
- With neighborhoods throughout a municipality participating simultaneously a range of policies will emerge. The guide above describes a robust array of committees and subcommittees comprised of people from the neighborhood groups and how they synthesize ideas into a platform that is voted upon by all of the community, one person, one vote. In Jackson, they call these groups “assemblies” and they were responsible for generating Jackson’s Cooperation Jackson platform and its Jackson-Kush strategy.
- The platform generated becomes the unifying force of the municipal movement.
- Through the participatory democratic process leaders emerge from each neighborhood, leaders who embrace the platform, leaders who are trusted in their community, leaders who are groomed and supported to run for local offices on school board, county commissions and councils and all of the candidates that emerge run on the platform developed in the neighborhood associations or assemblies.
Through this process, Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna and other European cities effectively seized the local institutions and began approving and implementing the policies in the platform. At the same time, local elected officials, borne from the En Comú process are gaining experience, credibility and name recognition, readying them for running for regional and national offices.
Take this model to NM. In cities across the state, similar grassroots processes unfold led by leadership who has been working within impacted communities for years, leaders with credibility and respect. Neighborhood councils, committees or assemblies begin meeting and develop policies that ultimately are forged into a unifying platform for that municipality. As in Europe grassroots leaders emerge and they run for ward chair positions and county and state Democratic Party positions, they run for school board and city council and as they become ascendant, they have the power to assume control of the institutions that have failed us.
Over time, NM progressives could assume control of the Democratic Party and the councils and commissions governing a handful of NM cities, they could build a strong, unified base and they could begin to exert sufficient power to challenge historically ‘unbeatable’ elected officials. It is not an easy task or a quick fix, but it has worked in Europe and I’d ask you one question: Just how well are our interests being served by the DNC, the Roundhouse, the DCCC and our local cities and counties? Why do we have to organize to fight for sanctuary city policies, for ranked choice voting, for a Santa Fe Art & Design plan to addresses the needs of our impacted communities, to oppose PNM securitization policies developed by the gas and oil industry instead of by environmentalists? The answer is simple, we continue to elect the wrong people. We ask favors of our institutions rather than control them.
Roxanne and I are eager to return and begin meeting with folks from DSA, Somos, TEWA, Earth Care, New Energy Economy, Red Nation, the Progressive Caucus, Working Families Party, Indivisible, Ole. and others who ‘get it’ and see if there are strategies and structures we can construct that are informed by En Comú, led by established grassroots organizations, respect local cultures and communities and can help us seize the institutions that have failed to serve us and the planet.
Paul & Roxanne