That Old Time Religion just ain't good enough for me

Pat Ryan


Last week I worked support for the ROP March for Truth Justice and Community. A huge undertaking involving hundreds of concerned rural Progressives as well as pastors, activists, and politicans from the counties and cities along the way. There were Quakers, Catholics, Anarchists, Greens, Democrats and Republicans, Straights and Gays. They shared a common sense of ugency about where we are and where we're going. We got some press, but as pointed out in a LTE by the Project's Mike Edera, we didn't get much ink in the Oregonian, I guess because we didn't throw any bricks through merchant's windows in downtown Portland.

Yesterday we had a House District meeting at Government Camp on Mt. Hood which was characterized by guest speaker Jenny Greenleaf as "the largest HD meeting she had attended in the state." We were looking for statehouse candidates and discussing rural tactics. Jenny gave us some great input regarding what Dems are doing all over the country and especially in The West, to fight smart.

This morning I got up too damned early and opened Blue Oregon. I felt compelled to respond to the piece on DPO chair Edmonson's remarks to the LA Times, but the thing got out of hand pretty fast and I decided to put up an article instead.

Edmonson got religion (in a limited way) at about the same moment that an insurgency within the DPO got together and elected Jenny Greenleaf as DNC committeewoman.

It's fun to watch. At the DFO seminar a few weeks back, you could see several distinct groups there.

Activists- Defined as people who do something more than stroke the traditional big donors and preen about their self importance. This group can actually take criticism as their egos are not yet sufficiently swollen as to preclude learning from it.

Recent Activists- That the DFO kids are cultivating to keep them motivated and bringing in to the DPO from the bottom.

Old Hacks- People who love Roberts' Rules of Order more than anything except for the contacts that they hoard rather than networking to other activists in the misguided belief that they become more important by this behavior. This group is (mostly) very intelligent depsite their urges toward exclusivity and are clear that they better get on the train before it leaves the station.

Old Contrarians- Who have clung tenaciously to the DPO organization while they've tried (with some success) to change it from within.


Both of the latter groups tend to be personally pragmatic but organizationally and ideologically dogmatic. Here's hoping that fear of Dean's ascendance will jolt them into thinking outside the boxes of their fiefdoms and definitions of acceptable progressive behavior. Heck, who knows, maybe they'll begin to understand that "inclusiveness" might extend beyond current accepted wisdom.

Hint: If someone disagrees with said conventional wisdom, a true "progressive" is at least willing to look for merit before dismissing the thought.

If they don't, that's OK too, because the rest of us will continue to experiment with new tactics and structures. We will work around them when they obstruct and with them when they're willing. We won't always get it right, but as members of the fact based community, we will remain open to changing our minds in the light of new information. Those who do not adapt will gradually (or rapidly) become irrelevant whether they reside in Washington DC or Blue Oregon.

Test Yourself: Are you willing to consider new information and tactics even if the source is someone whose worldview you find objectionable?

Edmonson's support for the combative Dean is an excellent indicator that the DPO is starting to get it. Other signs of healthy behavior will become apparent in DC when Democrats quit apologizing and go on the offensive against Republican lies and malfeance (sic), and in Oregon when they start sharing rather than hoarding information and strategy, and setting benchmarks and demanding measurable results from themselves and their fellow warriors.

Fund raising is vital, but a Grassroots Democrat is much more than someone with a little rectangular nametag that indicates a $25 a month financial donation. She is the lady from the House District meeting yesterday that doesn't give a damn about who I know or what meetings I've attended. She doesn't want to exchange conversations or emails with other fellow travellers about how stupid the voters are or how smart and enlightened we are. She wants to know what she can do right now, out on the ground, to fight for the values that we share.

I'm setting up a meeting.........

Thanks and apologies to the Texas Democrat Jeweler that desiged the pin that I modified for the picture for this article.

  • Suzii (unverified)

    Ok, DPO is Democratic Party of Oregon and DNC is Democratic National something-or-other (Committee?), but DFO? Pat, you keep talking insider alphabet jargon like that and you'll find those people with the boots on the ground are just nodding politely until you go away.

    In exchange for enlightenment on DFO, I can offer that LTE is a letter to the editor and ROP is the Rural Organizing Project, which provides a networking channel for local activist groups around Oregon.

    I can also point out that The O essentially never covers political demonstrations of any variety (the guy who swam the length of the Columbia is the one recent counterexample that comes to mind). They just don't have enough advertisers to support what would probably be a full extra page every day (bearing in mind that a newspaper adds pages in increments of four), since once you start covering such things you have to cover all of them.

  • Ruth Adkins (unverified)

    From the Democracy for Oregon FAQ:

    Q. What is the difference between DFO and the Democratic Party? Aren’t you just diverting volunteer energy and resources from the Democratic Party?

    A. Democracy for Oregon is multi-partisan; we welcome participation from anyone who shares our goals and is interested in citizen action, regardless of party affiliation. Moreover, each DFA Team is a group of individuals working toward the goals of DFA (a federal PAC), which are to take the country back by electing fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates who stand up for what they believe in. Many of us are also personally involved in local Democratic Party organizations (not in our DFO roles) and are working hard to transform the party from the grassroots up. We believe DFO fills an important role that complements the work of the Democratic Party:

    * Being non-partisan, we provide a “home” for active citizens who are not, and never will be, members of the Democratic Party.
    * We are not beholden to any special interests, therefore we can support and promote policies favoring ordinary citizens
    * Our organization works in parallel with Democracy for America, which continues to play a key role in national progressive politics.</i>

    Hope that helps, and thanks for asking!

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