Our VoiceNews & Politics

Video on Organizing for Inclusive Democracy

Jessica Acee • Nov 22, 2010

Click on the image to watch video

On July 30, 2010 I was lucky enough to hear a panel discussion on the resurgence of the right and how to successfully organize for an inclusive democracy.  Speaking were Suzanne Pharr, author, organizer and co-founder of Southerners on New Ground; Tarso Ramos, Executive Director, Political Research Associates; Eric Ward, National Field Director, Center for New Community; Marcy Westerling, founder, Rural Organizing Project; Rachel Carroll, Researcher, Montana Human Rights Network.

Combined, these speakers have been organizing against the right for almost 100 years.  While there are hundreds of Americans who could have sat at this table, these five did an insightful job of analyzing where we’ve been and laying out models for the future.

The panel opened by talking about the Right and what it looks like now versus the 90s.  The right (whether we are talking about the Militia Movement or the Tea Party) is not a monolithic thing, as Tarso Ramos put it.  They have competing agendas and they fight.  That said, there really has been a perfect storm for organizing the right.  Everything from 9/11 to the current economic climate to the election of our first Black president have galvanized people and made organizing easier for movements like the Tea Party.

More than one panelist talked about the necessity of talking to our neighbors and learning how to respect the basic truths they are dealing with.  “These are crazy times and people are having a hard time keeping their families going,” said Marcy Westerling. Genuine conversation means talking with people not talking down to them and it really is a skill.

While there is a lot of work to be done, community groups should not feel defeated.  Whether we are organizing for immigrant rights or food justice or affordable housing, “it’s important to fight these smaller skirmishes with the right, whether we win or lose, because it will help us to understand what it means to battle another social movement on the terrain of democracy,” said Eric Ward.

The idea that being an American means being white or Christian is a very exclusive one.  And as Marcy Westering so eloquently put it, “when we are making a final push towards [an inclusive democracy], we don’t want to do it in a police state.”  With so much at stake we can’t afford to ignore the lessons of experience organizers who have and continue to fight the right.  Check out this video from Western State Center to see highlights of the discussion.

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