In lieu of explaining his views in a Blue Folks post, Daniel gave me a thought-provoking paper by the Center for Community Change whose ambitious diagnosis and prescription echoes his own. Daniel works for Make the Road, a community organizing group present in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. He’s poised to implement the very things the paper calls for. The paper’s too long to post, but you can download it from Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1av5ckepebm6rgn/Memo.CCC%20and%20CCCA%20Situation%20Analysis.February2017.pdf?dl=0
Here are the bones of the argument, which is aimed at progressive community organizing groups.
Opening salvo: “The path forward starts with an honest and sober look at the proximate and deeper causes of the crisis …including the lack of power by millions of ordinary Americans to affect the conditions in their lives and the lack of a robust, alternative vision …Fundamental shifts in strategy and behavior are required.”
Main diagnosis – thank you Pres. Obama. Here’s what we’ve got to fix:“In his farewell speech, President Barack Obama highlighted five deep threats to our democracy:
- Growing economic inequality,
- Persistent racism and racial division,
- A post-fact media and social media environment,
- Increasing social distance and balkanization of communities, and
- Erosion of democratic participation and civic engagement.”
To paraphrase the rest of the diagnosis: People are increasingly atomized, and institutions of civic participation are declining. The Aspen/Davos types haven’t responded, but continue their merry, elitist, technocratic ways. This creates an opening for demogogues who tweet directly to individuals. Meanwhile, the liberals keep bickering among themselves about whether it’s about race or class. Blech. Unhelpful. And even worse, some of the activists seem to think that as long as they’ve got a “righteous analysis”– this “discharges their obligations to build organizations…mobilize people into action, and develop new leaders.”
Don’t think protesting is sufficient: “Outside disruption and protest divorced from a strategy to change power relations or affect agendas is more spectacle than strategy, more about therapy than winning.”
Now, start towards solutions: “There is no more urgent task than reinventing the modes of organization for the 21st century that can engage large numbers of people democratically, put people in relationship with each other across lines of difference, and link them together for sustained action, rather than one-time or “point-and-click” mobilizations. Without the development of a more robust civic infrastructure, every other strategy is likely to fail.
This means investing in local and state organizations to recruit new people, engage on issues, move people into elections and to experiment at the local and national levels relentlessly and rigorously with new modes of civic engagement that can build lasting mass organization….There is no substitute for going door to door, person to person, and inviting people into being part of democracy.”
There are unifying issues out there: “We can unify issues such as the economy, environment, education and racial justice that mobilize our base while commanding majority support….There is significant evidence that, notwithstanding the election results, there are popular majorities to be mobilized on most of the social justice agenda.” [Women’s march and anti-Muslim-ban protests show this.]
Focus on two key short run issues (paraphrase): Protect the safety net and work on immigration. These are both core social justice issues and they help build “progressive constituencies and organizations”.
But you gotta do it the right way: “These battles can and must … be a path for recruiting millions of new people, breaking through issue and constituency siloes, and telling powerful new stories that shift the dominant narratives.”
Mobilize around the safety net: “Experiment with the recruitment of new people who are not currently part of organizations by developing trusted social network and organizational channels to inform and mobilize recipients of social safety net programs. The scale and scope of our potential here is enormous: there are more than 70 million people who receive Medicaid and 43 million people whose food stamps are at risk (many of whom are white).
Here’s the immigration agenda:“1) Mobilization of the immigrant [and related ethnic] communities in huge numbers… and increase the perceived political costs of carrying out mass deportation plans; 2) Document the …harm of these proposals on immigrant families and the fabric of the country, humanizing immigrants so that the broad middle of the country recoils and rejects…mass deportation and harsh enforcement; 3) The mobilization of … non-immigrant voices from diverse sectors to create a circle of protection around the most vulnerable people. … faith groups and community groups with a multi-racial and non-immigrant constituency; 4) Mobilize local elected officials, promote non-cooperation with harsh federal enforcement agencies, and build a public consensus against mass deportation.
Bottom line: “Both of these short term fights—on the social safety net and immigration—present additional opportunities to change how our sector does business. We can build deeper cross-issue alliances to break through the issue and constituency silos that plague the progressive movement.”
A few longer term ideas (but c’mon this really peters out at this stage):
- “Strengthen and network black organizing groups, with a focus in the Midwest
- Connect electoral work to issues and to building organizations is essential if we are to rebuild public will on issues of social justice.
- Work in local communities—on child care, housing trust funds, creating jobs and quality labor market standards, and advancing racial equity.
- Invest much more deeply in the kind of sophisticated leadership that we need by identifying and supporting an emerging cadre of leaders in social justice movements to develop the generalist aptitudes, rather than the craft specialization, that will be required.”