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: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 25 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 29 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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 13 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 5 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 9 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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.