Progressive Bill of Rights in the Democratic Party


Today, more than 100 scholars who study democracy issued a letter warning that “our entire democracy is now at risk.” The letter explains that the new election laws in Republican-led states . . . are turning “several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”     –Heather Cox Richardson, 6/2/21

President Biden has sounded the alarm about the threat to our democracy posed by the voter-suppression bills being passed by Republican state legislatures all over the country, calling them “attacks on the sacred right to vote.”   As progressives, we have worked for many years to protect and expand that right to all Americans, regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, party affiliation, or any other marker of citizen identity.  We applaud the president for naming the threat to our democracy posed by a Republican party now operating under the spell of far right authoritarian extremists who stop at nothing.  We will work with him in the cause of democracy on every front.

At the same time we regretfully find ourselves in the position of having to fight for our own rights within the party we loyally serve.  Even though progressive policies like Medicare for All enjoy the support of the vast majority of Americans and even though progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders have brought a much needed infusion of new blood into the Democratic Party, the neoliberal power brokers who run the party have done everything in their power to prevent progressives from claiming our fair share of Congressional seats and from occupying other influential party positions as well.

This can clearly be seen in the make-up of the Democratic National Committee.  The misuse of neoliberal power is also on full view in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s denial of funding to candidates and political consultants involved in campaigns that challenge centrist incumbents, regardless of how out of step these incumbents are with what the people of this country need and want in a time of multiple national crises.

Unfortunately, in New Mexico progressives recently got a taste of such neoliberal maneuvering for covert control during the race to fill the Congressional District I seat that Deb Haaland vacated when she became Secretary of the Interior.

CD1 is a minority majority district that is so markedly progressive, all eight candidates for the Democratic nomination presented themselves as supportive of a progressive agenda.  The clear frontrunner was a highly qualified Latina with a long public record of working for social justice who planned to join ranks with The Squad in the U.S. House of Representatives if elected.  With eight candidates running, it was no surprise when she fell short of the required 50% + one vote on the first round of State Central Committee voting.

What happened next tells the story.  NM Senator Martin Heinrich and several prominent state party leaders stepped in from on high to lobby on behalf of the runoff opponent of the widely known and trusted progressive candidate.  Even though he hadn’t voted in the first round, Senator Heinrich also made sure to vote in the runoff.  Together, he and his influential centrist allies succeeded in changing enough SCC votes to ensure that the challenger won the nomination, by a mere six votes (five of which had originally gone to the progressive frontrunner).

We in the New Mexico progressive community were dismayed at this intervention to prevent a tried and true New Mexico progressive of color from replacing Deb Haaland as our US House Representative.  Nonetheless, we pulled out the stops to get the Democratic nominee elected and she was, by a landslide.

With that behind us, we New Mexico progressives now step forward to let it be known that we are resolved never to stand by and allow our internal party political process be pre-empted in such a way again.  We hereby commit to call out any neoliberal moves of this sort at the time they occur, to do so publicly, and to do so in no uncertain terms.

When it comes to saving our democracy, progressives are on the front lines.  Whether it be inside the Democratic Party of which we are an ever more vital part or outside it in the heightening battle for the soul of America, we intend to show up and do what it takes to ensure that a government of, by, and for the people will in the end prevail.

Yours in dedication to this cause,

Paul Stokes, New Mexico Co-Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America
Laura Stokes, New Mexico Co-Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America
Lisa Franzen, Leader, Progressive Democrats of America Central New Mexico, Chapter
Cheryl Harris, Chair, Democratic Party Adelante Progressive Caucus
Debbi Brody, Vice Chair, DP Adelante Congressional District 3 Chapter
Jerilyn Bowen
Scott Lake
Karen Bentrup
Lloyd DeWald
Deborah Marez-Baca
Lora Lucero
Sally-Alice Thompson
Ted Cloak
Francesca Bluher
Kathleen O’Malley
Charles Powell

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