Tag Archives: social change

Role Of Youth In The Coming Transformation 

10 Apr

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance

| , NEWSLETTER

The eruption of youth protests over gun violence in schools and other issues is another indicator that the 2020s could be a decade of transformation where people demand economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace. Students who are in their teens now will be in their twenties then. They will have experience in how protests can change political culture.

Some view the youth awakening in these protests as reminiscent of youth movements in previous generations, others are less optimistic. We cannot predict the role this generation will play, but throughout the history of mass movements, youth have been a key factor by pushing boundaries and demanding change.

One of the slogans in the actions against gun violence is “adults failed to solve the problem.” The truth is, as many youth are aware, those currently in power have failed on many fronts, e.g. climate change, wealth disparity, racial injustice, never-ending wars and militarism, lack of health care and more. These crises are coming to a head and provide the environment for transformational changes, if we act.

Beware of Democratic Party Co-option

One of the challenges youth, and older, activists face is the Democratic Party. Democrats have a long history of co-opting political movements. They are present in recent mobilizations, such as the Women’s March and March for our Lives, which both centered on voting as the most important action to take.

Big Democratic Party donors, like George and Amal Clooney, provided massive resources to the March for Our Lives. The corporate media covered the students extensively, encouraged attendance at the marches and reported widely on them.

As Bruce Dixon writes, “It’s not hard to see the hand of the Democratic party behind the tens of millions in corporate contributions and free media accorded the March For Our Lives mobilization. 2018 is a midterm election year, and November is only seven months away. The Democrats urgently need some big sticks with which to beat out the vote this fall…”

Democratic politicians see the gun issue as an opportunity for the ‘Blue Wave’ they envision for 2018, even though the Democrat’s history of confronting gun violence has been dismal. When Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency, they did not challenge the culture of violence, confront the NRA or stop militarized policing that is resulting in hundreds of killings by police.

Ajamu Baraka writes, “Liberals and Democrat party connected organizations and networks have been quite adept at getting out in front of movements to pre-empt their radical potential and steer them back into the safe arms of liberal conformism.” Indeed the history of the Democratic Party since its founding as a slave-owners party has been one of absorbing political movements and weakening them.

For this new generation of activists to reach their potential, they must understand we live in a mirage democracy and cannot elect our way out of these crises. Our tasks are much larger. Violence is deeply embedded in US culture, dating to the founding of the nation when gun laws were designed for white colonizers to take land from Indigenous peoples and control black slaves.

When it comes to using the gun issue for elections, the challenge for the Democrats is “to keep the public anger high, but the discussion shallow, limited, and ahistorical,” as Bruce Dixon writes. Our task is to understand the roots of the crises we face.

Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz describes this in her new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. The culture of violence in the US goes beyond the horrific shooting in schools to the militarization of our communities and military aggression abroad. The US military has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since World War II.

One step you can take in your community is to find out if there is a Junior ROTC program in your local school and shut it down.

 

 

Potential for Youth to Lead in Era of Transformation

One of the reasons we predict the 2020s may be an era of transformation is because issues that have been ignored or mishandled by powerholders are becoming so extreme they can no longer be ignored. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report writes the gun protests present an opportunity to highlight all the issues where Democrats (and Republicans) have failed us.

Youth are already involved, often playing leadership roles, in many fronts of struggle. Rev. Jared Sawyer, Jr. writes that when racial violence arose at the “University of Missouri in recent years, student athletes and scholars united in protest, prompting the administration to take action. Organizations like Black Youth Power 100 have arisen in the wake of police” violence against black people. Youth are on the front lines of the environmental movement, blocking pipelines and carbon infrastructure to prevent climate change. Youth are leading the movement to protect immigrants from mass deportation.

This week, Hampton students took to the streets over sexual violence, housing, food and other problems on campus. Students at Howard University started HU Resist, to “make sure that Howard University fulfills its mission.” They are in their third day of occupying the administration building.

At March for Our Lives protests, some participants saw the connections between gun violence and other issues. Tom Hall reported that those who “attended the rally had far more on their minds than gun control and the midterm elections—the issues promoted by the media and the Democratic Party. Many sought to connect the epidemic of mass shootings in American schools to broader issues, from the promotion of militarism and war, to poverty and social inequality.” Youth also talked about tax cuts for the rich, inadequate healthcare, teacher strikes, the need for jobs and a better quality of life. He noted those who attended were “searching for a political perspective,” and that, while it was not seen from the stage, opposition to war was a common concern.

Robert Koehler writes, “This emerging movement must address the whole spectrum of violence.”  He includes racist violence, military violence, mass incarceration and the “mortally sinful corporate greed and of course, the destruction of the environment and all the creatures.” What unites all of these issues, Koehler writes, is the “ability to dehumanize certain people.” Dehumanization is required to allow mass murder, whether by a single gunman or in war, as well as the economic violence that leaves people homeless and hungry, or for the violence of denying people necessary healthcare and to pay people so little they need multiple jobs to survive.

 

 

Movements are Growing, Now How Do We Win?

We have written about the stages of successful social movements and that overall the United States is in the final stage before victory. This is the era of building national consensus on solutions to the crises we face and mobilizing millions to take action in support of these solutions.

Protests have been growing in the US over the past few decades. Strong anti-globalization protests were organized under Clinton to oppose the World Trade Organization. Under the Bush administration, hundreds of thousands of people took the streets against the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. The anti-war movement faded under the Obama administration, even though he escalated US militarism, but other movements arose such as Occupy, immigrant’s rights, the fight for 15, Idle No More and black lives matter. Erica Chenowith posits that current youth activists “did their first activism with their moms. It’s a quicker learning curve for kids.”

At present, large drivers of mass protests are reaction to the actions of the Trump administration and the Democrats using their resources to augment and steer anti-Trump anger into elections. To prevent what happened to the anti-war movement under President Obama, people will need a broader understanding of the root causes of the crises we face, not the shallow analysis provided by the corporate media, and will need to understand how social movements can be effective.

To assist in this education, Popular Resistance is launching the Popular Resistance School. The first eight week course will begin on May 1 and will cover social movement theory – how social movements develop, how they win and roles people and organizations play in movements. All are welcome to participate in the school. There is no cost to join, but we do ask those who are able to donate to help cover the costs.

For more information on the school and to sign up, click here. Those who sign up will receive a weekly video lecture, a curriculum and an invitation to join a discussion group (each one will be limited to 30 participants). People who complete the course can then host the course locally with virtual support from Popular Resistance.

The next decade has the potential to be transformative. To make it so, we must not only develop national consensus that issues are being mishandled, that policies need to change and that we can change them, but we must also educate ourselves on issues and how to be effective. We have the power to create the change we want to see.

 

 

Sign up for the NEW Popular Resistance School, starting on May 1. More information below.

Source: Role Of Youth In The Coming Transformation | PopularResistance.Org

 

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Top DOJ Civil Rights Lawyer Resigns So She Can Battle DOJ’s Attack on Civil Rights

31 Mar

“You are seeing a brain drain out of the DOJ that is not normal, and it is a reflection of how aberrant this attorney general has been, with not only reversal of positions but targeting of communities.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer

 

Diana Flynn has worked for the Department of Justice since 1984. (Photo: Diana Flynn/BuzzFeed)

 

Diana Flynn has worked for the Department of Justice since 1984. (Photo: Diana Flynn/BuzzFeed)

A top civil rights attorney who has spent her entire law career at the Department of Justice is leaving to work for the nation’s largest LGBTQ litigation group, Lambda Legal, in a move that will likely mean fighting against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ efforts to fortify the Trump administration’s attacks on LGBTQ rights.

“It appears to me—at this crucial time for LGBT rights—to make the arguments I want to make and take positions I want to take, I would be much better situated at Lambda Legal than I am at Justice,” Diana Flynn, who is a transgender woman, told BuzzFeed News.

“I see attempts to roll back specifically LGBT rights in the courts and society,” she said, “and I want to be in the position where I can aggressively resist that and make the arguments that I think will be most effective.”

Although Flynn declined to discuss her experience working in the Trump administration as it rolls back policies meant to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination—she said she sees “a danger to some of the principles that have been established in the civil rights arena generally”—others were quick to make the connection.

“From the first day Sessions came to the DOJ, he has been dismantling decades of work that Diana Flynn had been doing,” asserted Lambda Legal’s strategy director Sharon McGowan, who left the department in February 2017. “You are seeing a brain drain out of the DOJ that is not normal, and it is a reflection of how aberrant this attorney general has been, with not only reversal of positions but targeting of communities.”

Vanita Gupta, the former chief of the department’s civil rights division, said that with Sessions “at the helm, rolling back civil rights progress on so many fronts, it comes as no surprise that the federal government continues to lose incredibly talented attorneys like Diana. Jeff Sessions’ loss is the civil rights community’s gain.”

Flynn went to work for the department in 1984, after she graduated from Yale Law School. While turnover at all federal agencies is common between presidential administrations, Flynn has led the Civl Rights Division Appellate Section for more than two decades under six presidents—two Democrats and four Republicans.

“I never really expected to leave,” Flynn admitted. Faced with the prospect of fighting against her former DOJ colleagues in the courtroom, she said, “it would be strange, but it’s something we could deal with.”

“Lambda Legal has been at the forefront of every major legal advance for our community,” Flynn added in statement on Thursday. “I am excited for this incredible opportunity to bring my passion and skills to the effort to ensure the rights of queer and HIV+ people.”

Others who defend LGBTQ rights in court and beyond celebrated Flynn’s move to Lambda Legal, which is currently challenging the President Donald Trump’s attempt to bar transgender individuals from military service.

 

Source: Top DOJ Civil Rights Lawyer Resigns So She Can Battle DOJ’s Attack on Civil Rights

 

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The Two-Party System Is Facing Its Biggest Challenge In 70 Years

24 Mar

 

From Maine to Missouri, states are bucking the establishment to push radical electoral reforms.

MARCH 19 | APRIL ISSUE – In These Times

WE ARE IN A MOMENT OF NERVOUS, SEMI-PANICKED REFLECTION ABOUT THE HEALTH AND PROSPECTS OF THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM. Take The Atlantic’s March essay, “America Is Not a Democracy.” It begins with the story of how a private water company in Oxford, Mass., apparently derailed a public buyout pushed by locals who were angry about high rates and poor service. The plan was voted down at a town hall meeting mysteriously packed with people who had shown little previous interest. “Even in this bastion of deliberation and direct democracy,” writes Yascha Mounk, “a nasty suspicion had taken hold: that the levers of power are not controlled by the people.”

With good reason. Polling shows that Congress is profoundly out of tune with the will of the people on almost every issue, from gun control to single-payer healthcare to action on climate change. In a Gallup poll released this past fall, only a third of respondents said the two major parties “do an adequate job of representing the American people.” Sixty-one percent thought a third party was needed—the highest number in eight polls taken over 15 years.

One path forward is to engage each issue and press for change within the existing dysfunctional system. But if there is a game-changing and achievable solution that solves some of the most profound problems at once—ending the stranglehold of the two major parties, multiplying the representation of minority voters, decreasing polarization and boosting voter engagement—doesn’t it deserve serious attention from progressives?

Such a solution—proportional representation (PR)—is already used in 94 democracies around the world. In those countries, there are more parties to choose from. Elections focus more on issues and less on individual candidates. The power of money is diluted, because coalition building takes priority over personal attacks. And there are more women and minorities in office.

In the United States, a semi-hidden history attests to PR’s transformative power. Introduced into the New York City Council elections in 1936, PR unleashed a wave of democratic engagement and diverse representation. Communists and other minority parties claimed 50 percent of the seats and broke the Democratic machine’s monopoly. In Cincinnati in 1951, PR put an African-American attorney, Theodore Berry, on the cusp of becoming mayor, until the establishment closed ranks and shut him out. A total of 24 cities adopted PR in the early decades of the 20th century.

The Red Scare, coupled with racism, squashed those experiments. New York City abolished PR in 1947, largely because it empowered Communists. Cincinnati did so in 1957, to block the rise of African Americans on the city council.

Now, in response to growing the glaring failures of our democracy, PR is being advanced at the local level from Maine to Missouri to California.

 

 

HOW IT WORKS

The biggest barrier to PR today may be inertia. Polling shows that its appeal transcends ideology, but the two-party tug-of-war is so ingrained that it’s hard to imagine a different way.

PR also has a marketing problem. Its name seems designed to make eyes glaze. And there are endless variations on how it could be implemented.

But set aside the marketing problems and the mechanics, and briefly consider PR’s basic claims.

The case for PR holds that the maddening things about American democracy are built into our legislative maps and our voting procedures; dysfunction and disenchantment are features of our electoral system, not bugs.

The basic principles of reform are simple. The first is that a legislative district need not be the domain of a single representative, but should be represented by multiple people—a reform called multi-member districts. The second is that voting should be about ranking the candidates, not choosing the single best person—a reform called ranked-choice voting (RCV).

Multi-member districts can create space for racial and ideological minorities, who may have trouble winning more than half the vote but can attract a loyal bloc, enough to come in second, third or fourth and earn a seat. Multi-member districts also defy gerrymandering. In a single-member district that’s split 60-40 along party lines, the 40 percent minority gets no representative. A ruling party can game the system by creating many such slim-margin districts in its favor, disenfranchising a sizable portion of the opposing party’s voters. But in a multi-member district, the 40 percent gets a share of the seats.

RCV breaks the grip of the two-party system in another way, by solving the problem of spoiler candidates and boosting voter engagement. In RCV, a voter’s second-choice candidate receives her vote if her first choice is eliminated. The same is true for her third choice if the second choice is eliminated. And so on. If the 2016 presidential election had been non-partisan and ranked-choice, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voters could have been at peace, knowing that by marking the other Democrat as their second choice, they would still be casting a vote against Donald Trump—even if their first choice didn’t win.

These two ideas can be applied independently, but they’re more powerful in combination. Alone, multi-member districting has some risks. For instance, under certain circumstances, it can actually suppress rather than increase minority representation (if “block” voting allows one party to win all the seats). Ranked-choice voting corrects that. Used together, multi-member districts and RCV dissolve the two-party monopoly and give outsider candidates a real chance.

 

 

A perfect storm of dysfunction, corruption and diminishing democracy is driving the recent revival of support for PR. The GOP’s radical gerrymandering of legislative districts, and the flood of corporate dark money since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, have spotlighted how our political system is rigged against democracy in favor of wealth and power. (That’s in addition to Donald Trump’s constant laments about the rigging of the system and his incessant efforts to rig it for himself.)

In that grim context, PR’s bold and hopeful vision for how our system can work better is gaining traction and winning converts. It’s a solution well suited to this moment of democratic dysfunction and a flowering of local experiments.

“We’re in a crisis whose depth is not fully understood yet,” says Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, a national advocacy organization working to promote PR. “People are hoping they can fix it with Band-Aids, and I don’t think they can. And as that sinks in, more and more people will see that PR bends things toward the changes that we need to make.”

 A CRUSADE IN MISSOURI

Several cities and states are now exploring one or both reforms. On June 5, Santa Clara, Calif., (pop. 126,000) votes on a measure that would establish both multi-member districts and RCV for city council elections. On June 12, Maine votes on a referendum that would establish RCV for state and federal offices.

The Santa Clara bill would mark the first time a city has adopted multi-member districting and RCV since the 1950s. Only Cambridge, Mass., currently elects its city council using RCV in multi-member districts.

The elections in Maine and Santa Clara are bellwethers that proportional representation is gaining momentum. A nascent effort in Missouri captures the kind of passion and faith it can inspire.

In late 2014, a retired high school economics teacher, Winston Apple, drafted a ballot petition that would create a PR system for Missouri’s state government. It didn’t get enough signatures the first time around, and he filed it again in late 2016. Since then, he’s been working to build support for it by coordinating with progressive groups around the state. They need about 160,000 signatures by May 6 to put it on the November ballot.

Apple is a member of Our Revolution and a self-described “political revolutionary.” He’s also a candidate for Congress in Missouri’s 6th District.

He originally wanted to put seven reform measures on the ballot this fall. When his coalition partners asked him, for the sake of simplicity, to choose one, he chose PR. “If we can get that on the ballot and passed this year, then in 2020 we will elect a genuinely democratic legislature that will pass all the rest of the ballot measures,” Apple says. “It’s a gateway to getting all the rest of the good stuff done.” His coalition partners include several chapters of Our Revolution and members of minor parties that would benefit from a PR system, including Greens and Libertarians.

 

 

Most reform initiatives, like the one in Maine, push for only ranked-choice voting rather than full PR, because RCV is more familiar and less disruptive. Apple’s petition does the opposite. It would create eight larger state legislative districts, each with 10 representatives, cutting the total number of House seats approximately in half.

Apple proposes a “list” system similar to the parliamentary democracy of many European countries. Voters cast their ballot for a party, not individual candidates. Parties fill their share of seats in the legislature according to the results of their primary elections. If a party wins three seats in a district, for example, the party’s top three primary vote winners are seated.

Apple, who’s from Independence and bears a bit of a resemblance to Harry Truman, says he designed it that way because it puts the focus on issues, not personalities. He has a Midwestern earnestness, and he approaches his role of political revolutionary with the energy of a convert. He’s written “a manifesto for the reform of public education,” Edutopia, and he’s working on a book about Keynesian economics that argues the federal government should become the employer of last resort.

For his mission to change Missouri’s electoral system, he’s created a website, GovernmentByThePeople.org, with two short videos that explain the basics of proportional representation, in addition to essays that describe it in painstaking detail. And he takes his cause on the road. In early February, he went to a three-day summit called “Unrig the System” at Tulane University in New Orleans. The summit’s goal was to “convene the brightest minds from the Right and Left to fix American politics.” The slate of speakers included both Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, and Steve Hilton, a Fox News host.

People not formally scheduled to speak at the summit had a chance to pitch their ideas for a brief talk. Attendees voted on the pitches, and the winners got to speak at an event on the last day. Apple was among the winners.

“I think I convinced a whole lot more people that if we can only make one change, proportional representation is the one we should make,” he says. “It’s just a numbers game. The vast majority of people have no idea what it is or how it works. I’ve found that if you say, ‘This will break the two-party monopoly, and independent candidates will have a fair chance of getting elected,’ they say, ‘Where do I sign?’ ”

MAINE LEADS THE WAY

FairVote expects that the Missouri initiative will be a hard sell, especially the idea of voting for a party’s slate rather than individuals. “I tend to be skeptical that a list system will be successful in the U.S,” says Drew Spencer Penrose, FairVote’s law and policy director. “We’re used to voting for candidates, and we’re also used to big tent parties.”

Penrose and Rob Richie believe the path to victory for PR is a series of city and state-level reforms that evolve into a movement for federal PR over the next decade or so. A bill already in the House, the Fair Representation Act, would implement both multi-member districts and RCV. It currently has only four co-sponsors but serves to keep the item on the agenda for a future, more progressive Congress.

The referendum in Maine would establish ranked-choice voting for all state and federal elections, which is a more modest and less disruptive reform than combining it with multi-member districts. Think of RCV as the gateway to full PR.

 

 

RCV has strong appeal in Maine because of the spoiler problem that’s plagued its recent gubernatorial elections. In the most recent election in 2014, Democrats and Independents split their votes between two candidates who got 43 percent and 8 percent of the vote, respectively. The result was the re-election of the radical right-wing Republican governor, Paul LePage, with 48 percent of the vote. LePage, known for spouting racist paranoia about out-of-state drug dealers (“half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave”), comparing the IRS to the Gestapo and telling the NAACP to kiss his butt, earns consistently low approval ratings. He almost certainly would have lost under a ranked-choice voting system, since he likely wasn’t the second choice of people who voted for his challengers.

San Francisco adopted RCV in 2004, and three more California cities followed in 2010. A FairVote analysis found that the percentage of people of color winning office in those cities rose from about 41 percent prior to implementation of RCV to nearly 60 percent afterward. In all, 12 cities nationwide now use RCV in municipal elections. Santa Fe, N.M., used it for the first time in March.

The path to RCV in Maine shows how its establishment-busting power both threatens the two parties and galvanizes grassroots support. Maine voters first approved the system’s use in 2016. Republicans and some Democrats in the legislature joined forces (citing a complicated Maine Supreme Court ruling) to delay implementation until 2021. But in Maine, voters can repeal recently passed legislation through a “people’s veto.” Advocates for RCV used that provision to put it back on the ballot in June.

All the drama around RCV has likely helped its chances in Maine. As FairVote’s Penrose points out, “We’re not only seeing people who want ranked-choice voting, we’re seeing people outraged at the state legislature for trying to thwart the will of the people.”

A June win in Maine would take effect in November, making it the first instance of RCV’s use in Congressional elections, and establish a state-level model for how the United States can begin moving toward a better system.

“The first statewide use would be a sea change,” Penrose says. “You’d be able to point to a place that’s already using it. I could just say, ‘It’s the Maine system.’ I think we’d start seeing the impact right away.”

 

 

GERRYMANDER NO MORE

It’s curious bordering on bizarre that proportional representation doesn’t attract more interest and resources from progressives. It cuts the Gordian knot of entrenched problems in U.S. politics, achieving many of the movement’s most cherished goals, notably by increasing representation among minority populations and by making votes for third-party candidates more relevant. In an era that’s been defined by playing defense, it offers a realistic plan for democratic revitalization that flips the script on the GOP’s anti-democratic impulses.

Gerrymandering is a classic example. Progressives and Democrats have been doing triage and playing catch-up on this front since the electoral tidal wave of 2010, when Republicans won control of a majority of state legislatures and used that power to gerrymander districts and dominate every level of government.

Some hope is on the horizon: Courts have ruled recently that the GOP-drawn maps in several states—Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina—are unconstitutional. And Barack Obama and his U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, have turned gerrymandering reform into a high-profile issue.

But for supporters of proportional representation, the problem is deeper than the way districts are drawn. The problem is that single-member districts are inherently vulnerable to deck-stacking. And the solution isn’t simply to redraw them.

“There’s so much simplistic analysis of the problem, because people want it to be fixed easily,” FairVote’s Rob Richie says. The attitude is that “we just need to fix gerrymandering, and the two party system will be fine. And we don’t have to really change things. We can just kind of pretend. But that’s fake. We’re in a moment where this is an inescapable conversation. We just have to prepare for that, and show the path.”

The June votes in Santa Clara and Maine will indicate whether the push for proportional representation is gaining traction. Whatever happens with those votes, though, and even if Winston Apple’s effort to get his initiative on the ballot in Missouri falls short, PR is beginning to sink roots in America. That it will grow and flourish isn’t inevitable, but it may offer our best hope for tapping the kind of transformative democratic energies we’ve been searching for.

“I’d like to reform the government by tomorrow afternoon and be at 100 percent renewable energy by 4 o’clock,” Apple says. “But we’re going to have to be more patient than that. And I think proportional representation, honestly, is the biggest issue that we can deal with right now. In the states where we can get it passed, those states are going to have genuinely democratic elections. And be the envy of the rest of the country.”

THEO ANDERSON, a Chicago-based writer, has contributed to In These Timessince 2010, covering the progressive movement’s engagement with electoral politics and the history and development of the Right. His doctoral dissertation at Yale traced the early 20th-century origins of the progressive and conservative movements. 

Source: The Two-Party System Is Facing Its Biggest Challenge In 70 Years

 

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