Defend and Expand Democracy: Statement on the Voting Rights Act Supreme Court Decision

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.

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 57 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 95 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. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 27 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.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-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. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 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 Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.