Systemic progressive change will only come if those who champion it develop a new way of bringing political decision-making to the community.
In the era of Citizens United, progressives will never be able to equitably compete for campaign resources, but we can organize the community in ways that corporate politicians will never sincerely accomplish. Neoliberal Democrats win elections by throwing vast resources blended with an establishment taste for the status quo at consultants and organizers who will never match the passion of progressive activists.
Meanwhile, progressive candidates suffer from the greatest relative liability that could result in a change of public perception. The greatest strengths in electability of progressive candidates are their tendency to seek the moral high ground while also serving the largest pool of citizens, if not voters. The problem is that the slightest mistake on that candidate's or their campaign’s part in maintaining that perception of ideological high ground can totally destroy a candidate, and sometimes all progressive hopes for that seat in that cycle.
Revolutionaries Organizing Communities for Kids! (ROCK!) is attempting a groundbreaking new model of community organizing by making candidate campaigns an extension of the community’s will, simultaneously building a grassroots army of people power and tying perceptions of the candidates’ progressiveness to a perpetual community process, thereby providing a shield of integrity.
This Saturday at the “Corky” Gonzales Library (1498 Irving St., 80204 in Denver), all Denverites at least 16 years old who support a community-driven model of public education are invited to take part in a groundbreaking new process through which they will each have a single, equal vote in choosing a slate of candidates for this Fall’s Denver Public Schools Board of Education elections. In exchange for that power in creating the slate, voting-members will be asked to engage in grassroots voter outreach on behalf of ROCK’s eventual slate, after it has been selected.
Historically, elections in this country, whether local, statewide, or nationwide, consist of a pool of candidates who either have a well-developed platform from their campaign’s launch point, or who develop their platform over time through exposure to voters while campaigning. Sometimes the latter occurs in a more deliberate way, such as focus groups. While data collection and analysis have recently made this far more of a science than it once was, candidates are still essentially left to hope that a large enough slice of voting members of the community will find appeal in their respective platform to get them elected. This means of platform development is, at best, a response to the community, not a partnership with it.
By partnering candidates with the community early in the process, progressive candidates can mitigate their reliance on intangible perceptions of their sincerity and progressiveness by creating a narrative, a history of genuinely progressive behavior. The community is not left to guess whether the candidate is a true progressive because they take part in a process designed to put a progressive stamp on candidates they collectively determine deserve so. Suddenly, progressive campaigns become defined by their partnerships with the community, and enjoy a massive boost of integrity.
Rather than experience elections as a test of how much an individual’s social vision might be reflected in a portion of the community, ROCK is seeking to elect progressives by beginning with the community’s vision and then backing candidates who the community believes have the most reflective vision.
Be a part of this revolutionary new movement on June 29 and help Denver make the progressive leap forward that public education and the many underserved neighborhoods of our city desperately need. This is not a movement of faceless leaders, but a community of equal members engaged side-by-side in a transparent process that needs your voice to create an equitable Denver.
Nicky Yollick has led grassroots outreach for a number of Democratic local and federal campaigns in Colorado before running for the state House from central Denver in 2018. For more information on this Saturday's summit, go to www.Facebook.com/ROCKDPS2019