Democratic Left

Shut Out from Democracy

By Bilal Dabir Sekou

The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gave all male citizens the right to vote regardless of “previous condition of servitude,” and the 19th Amendment extended the franchise to women, but an estimated 5.85 million ex-felons have been disenfranchised by restrictive legislation in 48 states and the District of Columbia that prevents people convicted of a felony from voting. Only Vermont and Maine allow prisoners to vote, even though every state counts their bodies in apportioning congressional districts. According to the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy project, some 75% of disenfranchised citizens are people who are no longer in prison but on probation or parole supervision. In some states, ex-felons who long since completed their sentence are still barred from voting. Let me emphasize that last point: some 2.6 million people who have paid their “debt to society” are not allowed to participate in the most fundamental act of a democratic country because they live in the 12 states that deny ex-felons the right to vote.

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The Greek People Reject Austerity

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) National Political Committee celebrates SYRIZA's victory in the Greek parliamentary elections of January 25, 2015. Greece.jpg

The Greek People Reject Austerity: Now the Rest of the World Must Join Them

SYRIZA’s coming to power represents not just a rejection of the socially destructive austerity measures European elites imposed on the Greek people against their will.  It also represents a new hope for democratic and socialist electoral alternatives across Europe and the rest of the world.

 

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The Legacy of Occupy Wall Street

Three years ago this fall, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) set up its tents in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and hunkered down for a long stay. Occupy has yet to receive the in-depth historical examination it deserves, but one thing that the movement’s chroniclers will almost certainly agree upon is that it “changed the conversation” about income inequality and Wall Street’s economic and political dominance.

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Young Democratic Socialists prepare to march on October 5, 2011, the day Occupy Wall Street and its labor allies shut down the Brooklyn Bridge
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She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry: A Film Review

 

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International Film Circuit, Inc.

By Christine Riddiough

The year 2014 witnessed an upsurge in activities related to violence against women. From Elliott Rodgers to #YesAllWomen to sexual assault on college campuses, there was a heightened awareness of the ways in which women are still denied a full place in society. On December 31, "Morning Edition" host David Greene talked with author Roxanne Gay about how Americans have dealt with race and gender issues in the past year. Toward the end of the interview Greene asked Gay, "Does that suggest that some of the movements from the '60s and '70s on these very issues, I mean, did they fail in some way?" Gay’s response was, "No, they did not fail. There was just work still to be done, and we're continuing that work now."

This exchange highlights how important understanding our history is to informing our current activism. One movie released in 2014 and now coming to theaters around the country does this. She's Beautiful When She's Angry is a fascinating documentary detailing the beginning of the women's liberation movement in the United States.

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The Civil Rights Movement's Impact on Our Lives: Part 2

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 Getty Images

DSA activists remember how their lives were impacted by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.

 “You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of the slums. . . . There must be a better distribution of wealth . . .And maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speech to the SCLC staff, Frogmore, S.C., November 14, 1966

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The Civil Rights Movement’s Impact on Our Lives: Part 1

DSA activists remember how their lives were impacted by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.

MLK-

 “You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of the slums. . . . There must be a better distribution of wealth . . .And maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speech to the SCLC staff, Frogmore, S.C., November 14, 1966.

Part 1, By Minnie Ruffin

I have been a social activist since 1960. I was inspired by the four freshman students at my school, North Carolina A & T State University, who initiated the student sit-ins at a Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. In fact, the majority of the student body was inspired. Many of us joined this movement and others supported it, including many of our teachers. 

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Obama Care Report Card: Mixed Results for Year One

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By Steve Max

The second full year of health insurance coverage under President Obama's Affordable Care Act kicked off on Jan. 1, 2015. In light of this anniversary, here is an article by Steve Max examining the role that the Act played in the elections last fall. - Eds.

Unlike in past years, the Affordable Care Act was not a major factor in the 2014 elections. When asked what the most important issue in the election was, only 25% of voters told a CNN poll that it was health care, and of those, 59% were Democrats who probably supported the act. 

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Eye of the Beholder: Religion, Liberty, and Violence

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(Battle of Nandohrfhervar/Wikipedia)

By David Wheeler-Reed

After the recent terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store in Paris, France, by men who claimed to be al-Qaeda militants, it didn’t take long for Twitter and the blogosphere to reignite the old debate about whether religion leads inexorably to violence. This debate calls to mind Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek's take on what he calls the “pseudo-revolutionary critics of religion,” who attempt to denounce the tyranny of religion while creating their own kind of totalitarianism. “In fighting religion,” he says, "they are compelled to forsake freedom itself, thus sacrificing precisely that which they wanted to defend.” In other words, people often become the monster they wish to destroy.

As someone who spent a decade in graduate school studying religion, I would be the first to admit that it has what Carl Jung terms a dark, shadowy side. Christianity had the Crusades; the pograms against Jews; the Inquisition; and, in our own country, the theocracy of Puritanism. Islam has political Islam, a perversion of the teachings of the Quran, which inspires in some of its followers the kind of atrocious acts carried out most recently in Paris, France or every day in countries in its thrall. Judaism has its radical adherents who will murder co-religionists or assassinate an Israeli prime minister to bend other Israelis to their philosophy. Hindu nationalists in India have slaughtered Muslims, most infamously, perhaps, in Gujarat, and the leader of the nationalist party, who was chief minister of the Gujarat state at the time of the riots, has been elected president of India. Buddhist monks have been in the forefront of attacks against Muslims in Burma. The shadow side of even the most "peaceful" religions is not hard to find.

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Upcoming Events

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

February 07, 2015 · 35 rsvps
Webinar, RSVP required for sign in information

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table for Bernie Sanders.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 3:00pm Eastern, 2:00pm Central, 1:00pm Mountain, noon Pacific, 11:00am Alaska, and 10:00am Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

• Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

• Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.

• Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.

• Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.

• Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism. 

Training Details:

• Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.

• If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.

• Or, you can follow the webinar visuals by internet but get sound via phone conference call, which may mean long distance charges.

• Or, you can request the slides in advance and listen via phone.

• You can participate in every workshop, since each one builds on the previous ones, or just attend once in a while.

• Workshops will generally be on first or second Saturdays of each month.

• This training is at 3:00pm Eastern, 2:00pm Central, 1:00pm Mountain, noon Pacific, 11:00am Alaska, and 10:00am Hawaii Time.

• Participation requires that you register at least 36 hours in advance.

 

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