Celebrating Hellraisers: Gary Delgado

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


A founder of both the Center for Third World Organizing and the Applied Research Center (ARC), Gary Delgado has spent the past 25 years paying attention to conservative movements. Specifically, he organizes minority communities against them. Even so, he says he is awed by the right’s current political muscle–flexed most recently during the 1994 elections. “If you look at the right over the last five years,” he explains, “you’ll see they’ve opened up over 200 research institutes. They’ve built a number of grassroots organizations that use the same techniques we used in the 1960s. Look at their infrastructure, their ability to do research and develop new leaders, their ability to place people in key positions.”

Part of the right’s success can be blamed, Delgado believes, on the left’s unwillingness to take firm political stands. “I was trained in the ‘go do it’ tradition of community organizing and believed one should not be ideologically attached. That was a mistake,” he says, “because when right-wing groups blow onto the scene with a clear message, they look visionary.”

Delgado points to the 1994 passage of California’s anti- immigrant Proposition 187. “I think any community can be disrupted by the intrusion of an issue that’s been defined by the right and not discussed in community organizations.”

After seeing how effective proponents of Proposition 187 were in pitching the anti-immigrant message, even among immigrant communities, Delgado’s Oakland-based group led workshops to broaden the discussion to include economic, racial, and political perspectives.

It’s just a part of what Delgado has accomplished since 1981, when he founded ARC to help grassroots groups develop an educational infrastructure of their own. Like many think tanks on the right, ARC distills the latest academic and political research into a usable form for activists.

Delgado criticizes mainstream research groups for failing to focus on grassroots policy education. “We are going to have to get public universities accountable….Right now they do not provide information that helps a community understand how a particular policy proposal is going to affect their lives.”

Delgado would like to see universities and other research groups sharing and developing policy with community groups. “We need the benefit of not only the best thinking of the people in the community, but also information from the experts about the economic and political impact of certain kinds of decisions.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest