Defend and Expand Democracy

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Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) condemns the partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder that threatens four decades of gains in the protection of voting rights and rights to representation of citizens of color. Hundreds of thousands of civil rights activists put their lives on the line to win the expansion of the suffrage. We must not allow five Republican justices to overturn the right to vote, a civil right which underpins the defense of all other rights.

An almost exclusively white Republican Party is turning to undemocratic means to maintain political power.  DSA views the fight to overturn this Supreme Court decision as part of a larger struggle to restore democracy to the United States, which includes placing strict limits on the role of money in politics, providing an expeditious path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and enacting a constitutional right to vote and to be fairly represented. 

The court’s decision has already accelerated reactionary efforts to limit the franchise by means of restrictive voter ID laws, elimination of early voting, gerrymandering, and felony exclusion.  Within hours of the decision’s announcement, Republican attorney generals in Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi stated that they would immediately institute restrictive voter ID laws and gerrymandering schemes, legislation that might have been overturned by the now-gutted enforcement procedures of the Voting Rights Act.

We reject Chief Justice Roberts’ claim that present realities no longer merit Section 4 “preclearance” procedures for changes in electoral laws in the affected states. Since Congress’s reauthorization of Section 4 in 2006 the Justice Department struck down thirty-six electoral law changes in these jurisdictions, including two restrictive voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas, as well as a state legislative redistricting plan in Texas that severely limited representation for Latino voters.  These previously proscribed laws will now likely take effect.

Chief Justice Roberts’ majority decision claims that Section 4 “sharply departs” from the principles of states’ rights. The Republican majority on the court would return to the tradition of states’ rights trumping federal guarantees of civil rights. Despite the claim of conservative jurists to defer to legislative decisions, the Court overturned Congress’ commitment to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, a core provision of Reconstruction’s second bill of rights. As Justice Ginsburg said in her stirring defense of Congress’s legislation, continuance of Section 4 “would facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and second, continuance would guard against backsliding.”

Backsliding on civil and political rights for minorities is indeed the goal of the Republican court majority and of many Republican governors and legislators even in northern states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. To rebuff these reactionary attempts to restrict democracy, DSA will join with the broad civil rights, labor, immigrant and progressive community to push Congress to revive Section 4 preclearance provisions by expanding them to all states where electoral rights have been threatened.

As DSA Honorary Chair Frances Fox Piven argues, American political elites have long worked to restrict access to the ballot for working class and poor people of all races through burdensome registration requirements and the refusal to hold elections on weekends or on a national holiday. Although electoral politics is only one form of civic participation and grassroots social activism also plays a central role in political life, we must preserve and expand democratic rights in the electoral arena as well. Only if the electorate is fully reflective of the nation’s economic and racial diversity can the people rebuff elite efforts at undemocratic rule.

Statement on the Voting Rights Act Supreme Court Decision by the National Political Committee of DSA.

Sign up to receive more information about joining the DSA contingent at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington here.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 53 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 20 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 5 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.