PARTISAN, ACTIVIST, OR AGITATOR?
Alfonso Nevarez appears to have gotten an early start in the business of advocating for progressive goals and policies. In a comment to a Daily Kos diary of 20 April 2011, he noted that the teaching techniques used in his high school civics class “almost certainly sparked” his interest in politics. In a Daily Kos diary of 25 October 2010, Al presented a very heartfelt eulogy for a family friend who had passed away a few days before. This gentleman was Mauricio Vela, a well known community organizer in San Francisco who had for fifteen years managed the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. In fact, the very first political campaign in which Al participated was that of Mr. Vela in a run for the San Francisco school board. In his tribute to Mr.Vela, Al wrote:
“After many years, he finally taught me the simplest and most direct way to help struggling families was to fight those battles in the very communities that need them, where the members of said community could easily see how their lives would be impacted if the number of slots for local public child care was being reduced, or if important programs at the community center were being cut…I was a young idealist…I became an older pragmatist.”
Al has stated that, during those years when he was trying to find a career, he was not as active in progressive causes as he would have liked to have been. It appears, however, that he did join MoveOn.org and that he was associated with MoveOnSonoma while living in Rohnert Park and/or Petaluma. MoveOnSonoma is the MoveOn.org chapter in Sonoma County, California. While in Petaluma, Al was active in protests against the Iraq War: ”I know and am involved with many latino organizations that are doing much more than protesting the war in Iraq once a year. They are working every day to bring this injustice to an end.” [Yahoo!Groups; "Sonoma-organized March for Rights; 28 March 2006].
Al was also active on immigration issues. On Yahoo!Groups on 25 April 2006, he posted a message back to Petaluma which said: ”I’m in LA right now. I’ll be here until next Monday. It’s a business/pleasure deal. Meeting with some immigration organizers today and Monday…” In the March 2006 post on Yahoo!Groups, Al vented against a bill in Congress dealing with the illegal immigration issue:
“This bill will make it a felony for people to come to our country and work to provide for their families. A lot more people may find it easier, more lucrative, and less risky to participate in drug trafficking and other more corrosive activities to do what needs to be done….The bill would also make it a criminal act to assist immigrants. The hypocrisy in this knows no bounds. The most criminal congress in our country’s history will make criminals out of innocent people – people who give themselves to help the less fortunate. Charities and churches will face criminal prosecution for assisting our most marginalized population. My great-grandmother, nearly one hundred years old, has been renting out rooms in her buildings for over 50 years to immigrants, for under market value, in order to make it easier for some to feed their hungry families. Soon, my great-grandmother will probably be a criminal.”
As noted in an earlier section, Al, acting on a recommendation from MoveOn.org, attended the first two-week intensive training session of the New Organizing Institute (NOI) in February/March 2006. In a later survey of alumni, he gave a strong vote of approval to the program.
What is NOI? It is a birth child of MoveOn.org. Its creation was announced in November 2005 by Eli Pariser, then the Executive Director of MoveOn and now a Senior Fellow at The Roosevelt Institute, as well as the founder of Avaaz.org, a global MoveOn-style group with a claimed membership of three million. The task of organizing NOI was given to MoveOn Organizing Director Zack Exley, now the Chief Community Officer for the Wikimedia Foundation. Exley had been a union organizer and a computer programmer. He directed the MoveOn campaign against the Iraq War, was Director for Online Communications for the 2004 Kerry campaign, and, in 2005, Director of Internet Operations for the Labour Party in Britain. He was joined in the NOI effort by Judith Freeman of the AFL-CIO and several other progressive activists.
The initial purpose of the NOI, a non-profit, was to assign graduates to 2006 Democratic Party campaigns in key roles. After that, NOI would help participants to find another job in the world of Democratic Party politics or in progressive organizations. The principal tactical role of NOI was to take young progressives and sharpen their skills in politics and organization, with special emphasis on their online skills. The current NOI website carries this as their declared goals:
“We develop the practice of engagement organizing and leaders who are great at it…We want to build an organizing culture and set of practices that not only wins campaigns and improves people’s lives in the short-term but builds stronger communities, people, and democracy in the longer term…Engagement organizing is a way of working that is consistent with deep American and progressive values. It is also the best way to kick ass [sic] — to win and to keep winning change that improves people’s lives.” To this is added: ”NOI trains, convenes, and gives voice to a special breed of social change champions.”
Briefly stated, NOI has a number of key programs: CANDIDATE PROJECT
– a progressive, non-partisan effort to empower activists and new leaders to create change one neighborhood at a time through local elections; NEW ORGANIZING UNIVERSITY — an online extension course to teach organizing skills; NOI YOUTH PROJECT — organizing and equipping youth to solve their societal problems; NEW MEDIA BOOTCAMP — to create a media advocacy capability (such as that used to help the anti-Walker protests in Wisconsin); ISSUE CAMPAIGN BOOTCAMP: teaching leadership for organizations working on issue-based campaigns and turning issue-based passion into electoral power; and CIVIC ENGAGEMENT RESEARCH — providing voter registration data, voting pattern studies, and similar information to selected progressive political candidates.
Once Al had finished his NOI bootcamp and, with the help of Judith Freeman, had secured AFL-CIO employment in May 2006, he appeared to embark upon a greatly enhanced blogging avocation. In fact, Al began blogging so much and on so many varied sites that he literally wore out the author in a chase through the internet. One site, Niner Cap Hell, congratulated Al in 2010 for reaching 2000 posts on their site alone. Al seemed to be all over the map on this. If he wasn’t slamming George W. Bush or praising Obama, he was discussing the 49ers or the SF Giants or food or movies or music — on and on until the author’s eyes began to swim.
On 23 June 2006, Al joined the Daily Kos, one of the most “progressive” blogs in the blogosphere. He became a “Rescue Ranger,” one of those “Kossacks” who not only publish frequently but also monitor and guide others who wish to post. Between June 2006 and February 2011, Al published 45 articles or “diaries.” Between June 2006 and August 2011, he also posted 2,393 comments. Al likes to write, and he is rather good at it.
On 14 July 2006, Al also announced via Yahoo!Groups that he had joined the organization ColorofChange in an effort to join the fight against Southern politicians who might want to amend the Voting Rights Act. He called ColorofChange “a powerful political force to protect voting rights” and asked others to join him. ColorofChange is an African-American group which advocates for Black causes and which, unfortunately in the author’s opinion, also surfaces from time to time the view that Republicans and conservatives have racist motives. It is also in alliance with politicians such as Mayor Bloomberg of New York who seek significant changes in the gun laws. ColorofChange was formed shortly after Hurricane Katrina. One of its founders and now a former leader was Van Jones —- a name which should be familiar.
In a Daily Kos diary dated 9 March 2010 and entitled “Come Join Us for Lunch — And Get Arrested,” Al revealed his involvement in a street rally at Dupont Circle and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to support the Obama health care reform bill and to protest a meeting of members of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), whom Al referred to as “rich pricks.” Arrests were expected, much to the dismay of another Kossack who stated that he didn’t need that kind of stuff so close to his own apartment. Al assured him that not everyone would be arrested. Al’s post-protest assessment was that it had gone very well.
Finally, Al has also been active on the labor agitation front. In a Daily Kos diary dated 23 February 2011 and entitled “OHIO: The Next Wisconsin,” he revealed that he was responsible for coordinating street protests in Elyria and Lorain, Ohio, against Governor John Kasich and Ohio Senate Bill 5. Al also encouraged readers to sign up for MoveOn.org statehouse rallies all across the country on 26 February 2011. So, it does look to the author like Al’s job at the AFL-CIO may not be limited entirely to data analysis and formatting.
As late as January 2008, Al was blogging out of Baltimore, Maryland, where he then lived. Soon thereafter, he moved to Sterling Park, where he bought his home and has subsequently rented office space in his effort to “reclaim” Sterling. In the Daily Kos diary of 23 February 2011, Al said: ”I have a plan to get Democrats to the polls that includes building relationships with community leaders from our diverse district, getting local MoveOn and OFA [Obama For America] activists engaged, and a LOT of data driven field work.”
In Part V we will present some background information on a very talented lady named Jeane.