Since November 8, there has been endless soul searching and debate on the left and in the Democratic Party about what went wrong in the presidential election. The post-mortems continue in the blogosphere, on countless Facebook pages, and in thousands of one-on-one discussions. Meanwhile, the victorious Republicans are moving ahead fast with a clearly defined 2017 agenda, and the Congressional majorities and new administration necessary to implement it.
How to respond to that upcoming threat is now a more pressing question than “what went wrong” last fall. Fortunately for the left—often plagued by infighting over priorities, ideology, and tactics—Republicans in the new Congress and the Trump administration are providing the answer for us. In the face of an all-out assault on the social infrastructure that has supported poor, working, and middle class Americans for over fifty years, our task is clear. We must unify across organizations—social and racial justice, environmental, labor, faith, and civil rights—to resist and offer an alternative to the Republican agenda of deregulation, privatization, corporate welfare, xenophobia, and racism.
Republican Congressional leaders and President-elect Trump have identified health care as a majority priority. Trump’s proposed Health and Human Services Secretary—House member Tom Price—and other Capitol Hill foes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan to resurrect House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 2011 plan for a Medicare voucher system and other proposals to restructure Medicaid, repeal the ACA, and privatize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
If successful, these efforts will jeopardize health care coverage for millions of Americans—disproportionately seniors, people of color, single parents, veterans, disability insurance beneficiaries, lower income workers, and the unemployed. Moreover, the Republican plan will put even more of the funding burden for social safety net programs onto already overstretched state budgets. (Seehttp://khn.org/news/millions-could-lose-medicaid-coverage-under-trump-plan/ for projections about the impact of this policy shift.)
You may have noticed since the launch of Rights & Democracy we have always managed to feature a flock of geese on our posters. We pride ourselves on putting out graphics and art that represents the beauty, energy and excitement about the movement we are trying to build for people and the planet. But you may be one of the number of people who have asked the question, “What’s with the geese?” over the course of our first year. Well, we saved the answer for our First Annual Membership Assembly held this past Saturday, December 10th in Lebanon, NH (See post about the assembly here, and see new board member Mary Gerisch’s blog post on the significance of Human Rights Day here).
I have always had deep reverence for geese as for thousands of years they have been making their annual migrations across the globe. In addition to being beautifully graceful animals, after watching a documentary detailing their amazing annual trips I have always marveled at their perseverance and teamwork. Being in New England, it is also awe inspiring to see them fly overhead sometimes in the hundreds (which they call a gaggle). Years ago I saw a presentation about the lessons of geese, and we adapted them to a poster that we released at the Assembly called “Movement Lessons From Geese.”
When introducing these new beautiful posters, I chose to read one lesson in particular that seemed special for the occasion of recognizing the work of our founding chair Michelle Salvador, who was taking a step back after playing a key role in RAD’s launch. She was able to pass the torch to new co-chairs Sylvia Gale (NH) and Brittany Nevins (VT). Along with the Sheila Reed (VT) and Janice Kelble (NH), the new co-chairs for the Rights & Democracy Education Fund, they will step up to lead this new grassroots power building formation.
Here is “Lesson # 4 - Empowering Everyone To Lead: When the lead goose in the front gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and allows another goose to take the leadership position.
LESSON: We are all leaders and have the capacity for greatness. Micro-managing and keeping tight control will demotivate people, while stifling creativity and growth. It will also burn out everyone. We all have unique skills, capabilities, and gifts to offer. When we all have the trust and a chance to shine, we will be surprised with the collective outcome.”
When over 125 leaders from across New Hampshire and Vermont came together for Rights & Democracy’s First Annual Membership Assembly, it was hard not to think back on how far we have already come. A little over a year ago we thought it was not only possible but necessary to build a new grassroots vehicle to advance the political revolution in 2016 across both states, but it is still incredibly empowering to actually pull it off. If you couldn’t make it on Saturday, here’s a recap of what you missed:
We had powerful panel discussions and skill building workshops that featured many of the elements of building the political revolution locally. This included:
A panel on Race, Class and Gender featuring Ebony Nyoni of Black Lives Matter VT, Anthony Procik from RAD NH and the Transgender Organizing & Leadership Development (TOLD), State Representative Mark King of Nashua, NH - moderated by Maria Fitzsimmons, RAD’s Director of Organizing.
Three break out workshops to spend time building an array of leadership skills including: how to talk to the media, how to share our narrative, how to effectively invite people into our movement, and how to politicize our experiences.
A panel on the local political revolution featuring former Portsmouth Mayor and NH Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Marchand, recent candidate for NH State Representative Marcy Katz Rothenberg, and VT State Representatives Selene Colburn (Burlington) and Rachael Fields (Bennington) - moderated by Jessica Early, RAD VT leader.
We held elections for our Rights & Democracy Project Board of Directors, the leadership board comprised of members from both states. We had a few key folks take a step back from the board including founding chair Michelle Salvador, who played an integral role in launching RAD and will continue to stay involved in the the Vermont Leadership Committee. While we have great people stepping down, incredible folks also stepped up, including Sylvia Gale (NH) and Brittany Nevins (VT) our new co-chairs. Sylvia and Brittany headline a strong slate of leaders who are ready to take the organization to the next level.
“I’m honored be given the opportunity to help lead RAD in this next period. The challenges for our country and our communities are enormous, and we need this organization more than ever,” said Brittany Nevins, new co-chair and RAD founding leader from Burlington. “The truth is, we are just getting started and we know that the vast majority of people support the the political revolution and the changes we are pushing for. It’s up to us to help get our communities organized for the long haul.”
To read more about Brittany, Sylvia and our incredible leadership check out the board description here: radnh.org/board
Also, check out the Board of Directors for our the Rights & Democracy Education Fund (the 501c3 charitable organization focused on grassroots organizing and education) led by new co-chairs Sheila Reed (VT) and Janice Kelble (NH) here: rights-democracy.org/board
By popular demand, we released a whole bunch of new RAD gear at the Assembly including more hoodies ($27), long sleeve shirts ($20) and short sleeve ($15), bumper stickers ($3) and some very cool new winter hats ($15 or free to new monthly sustainers*). Check it out at www.radnh.org/gear