By Javier Benavidez and Andrea J. Serrano for NM Inclusive Democracy Project
In today’s current political climate, grassroots organizations have become the standard bearer of shaping progressive policy and working toward creating a true democracy. In New Mexico, several organizations have joined together to create the New Mexico Inclusive Democracy Project, a partnership of grassroots community-based organizations rooted in Indigenous and Communities of Color.
The Inclusive Democracy Project (IDP) began in summer 2015 when Demos, a public policy organization, convened organizations from various parts of the U.S. that are working toward increasing community power through organizing across many different areas, but whose work is rooted in racial, gender and economic justice.
Conversations around participation in New Mexico’s democracy typically don’t begin with much of a focus on the historic and structural exclusion of underrepresented voices in our state. Latinos, for example, are often referred to as a “sleeping giant” or “lazy voters” – and are portrayed as being unaware of the power that our voices have.
New Mexico IDP insists on flipping this paradigm.
Our people are not morally flawed; our participation has often been intentionally obstructed by politicians who, on one hand, take our votes for granted and, on the other, ignore our needs once they are in office. Our trust in government has been traumatically damaged, thus creating a perception that our communities are not included in this democracy.
For many, not voting has become an act of resistance – the widely held belief is that politicians who have not proven themselves do not deserve our votes. Still, we believe in our collective power to solve our own communities’ challenges and create a democracy that is for us, by us. The cost of not doing so – allowing well-to-do corporate interests to continue to corrupt our elected leadership – is too much to bear.
We believe that the NM IDP is distinct from other approaches in 3 ways:
- The leadership of the project are grassroots community organizations, led by and rooted in communities of color.
- The particular focus of the project’s priority policy reforms are exclusively structural reforms. These priority structural reforms will transform our electoral system and move us closer to a true democracy. In other words, we seek to change the rules of the game, not just win the game as it’s currently played.
- These reforms must center racial, gender and economic justice in order to create true democracy reform.
The very people who are currently neglected or disengaged must be the constituency that leads this movement. We are not simply running issue campaigns that patch the failings of a system that keeps people in poverty, but rather working toward the betterment and liberation of all people.
Three organizations from New Mexico – CAFé, OLÉ (Organizers in the Land of Enchantment) and SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) – were part of that original cohort and have created the New Mexico IDP, which has expanded to include other organizations such as Equal Voices New Mexico, Center for Civic Policy, Partnership for Community Action, Native American Voters Alliance, as well as Strong Families New Mexico, Generation Justice, Young Women United and New Mexico Working Families Party.