SLO Progressives aim to spur grassroots activism

Mar 7, 2017

In the months since the 2016 election, progressive organizations around the country, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have been holding seminars to provide information about becoming an activist. Many are modeling their efforts on the grassroots Tea Party playbook that made that movement so effective in 2009.

KCBX attended a seminar held last Saturday by the newly formed organization San Luis Obispo County Progressives

In the parking lot outside Trinity Hall, a community gathering space in the small agricultural town of Edna, you can see cars, like any old parking lot. But this particular lot has a high number of cars stamped with sassy political bumper stickers, like “Fossil fuels are for dinosaurs”. Many are adorned with the now outdated “Bernie 2016” and the blue capital H with an red arrow across its horizontal line. One truck sports a large Hillary sticker now covered with a smaller sticker saying “Resist” in all caps.

Last June, SLO Progressives members came together to promote what they see as progressive values. There’s been a push for more educational outreach on how to become an activist and become more involved in campaigning.

Co-Chair Nick Andre says the number of members has risen from around 100 to about 1,500 since November.

“A lot of these people have never been active in politics before. Never been active in a political party. Not even in non-profit spaces or anything. So we’re bringing them a little bit of direction,” Andre said.

That’s why the group is holding this ‘Activism 101’ training. Sandy Dexter came here with her daughter 

Sandy Dexter, left, and her daughter, Lauren Platte, attend the "Activism 101" training in Edna on Saturday.
Credit Bree Zender / Bree Zender

Lauren Platte. Dexter says she was somewhat active in local campaigns in years past, but this is the first time she is seriously getting into activism.

“So many things have opened my eyes to how the political process works. And it feels personal.. And I think that for my daughter and granddaughter and grandson, I would feel bad if I didn’t stand up for the things I believe in,” Dexter said.

During the seminars, local politicians, lobbyists and congressional staffers speak about how to get in touch with representatives and how to lobby for agendas they believe in.

Former 24th District Congressional Candidate Bill Ostrander spoke about how to appeal to people who who have differing opinions.

Former Congressional Candidate Bill Ostrander speaks to a crowd of nearly 150 people on Saturday.
Credit Bree Zender / Bree Zender

“But if I came up here and said, ‘You’re all a*****es! Give me five bucks!” Where are we going to go with that? Nowhere. So as much as we dislike and are disgusted by things that will cause harm, things that where people are getting hurt, you must reserve yourself to find the belief system of the person you’re talking about,” Ostrander said.

Andre said the group is trying to do more to reach out to the more conservative areas of north and south San Luis Obispo County.

“And what we want to do is go in there and spread our message. Talk to these people and convince them that the goals and policies that we’re bringing forward are going to benefit them economically, socially, and every part of their life,” Andre said.

KCBX asked Andre about the some of the stereotypes of modern liberals. Some locals have expressed attitudes that progressives are condescending towards people working in blue collar industries and don’t do enough listening to others who don’t agree with them.

“That was a big difference in the Bernie campaign. I think Bernie was one of the few high-level Democratic

Nick Andre is the co-chair of San Luis Obispo County Progressives along with City of San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon.
Credit Bree Zender / Bree Zender

politicians that really hammered in a working class message. It’s all about income inequality. In helping unions, unionizing people. So I think there’s a way to win that crowd back,” Andre said. “And it’s through Bernie’s message.”

Here are some resources to start getting more politically involved in your community, no matter which candidate you checked on your ballot: