This past Sunday, Voices for New Democracy joined our comrades at Convergence Magazine for a conversation with Linda Burnham and Max Elbaum around their new book, Power Concedes Nothing: How Grassroots Organizing Wins Elections, a collection of essays exploring grassroots mobilization as the key to electoral power. Burnham and Elbaum discussed their work with Convergence, pulled out key highlights from the book and examples of progressive organizing in action — including its pivotal role in ousting Trump — and emphasized the need for progressives to unify and work together to defend democracy while building grassroots power.
Join Voices for New Democracy and our comrades at Convergence Magazineon Sunday February 27th at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT for our next monthly political forum hosting Linda Burnham& Max Elbaum, co-editors of the new book Power Concedes Nothing: How Grassroots Organizing Wins Elections.
Burnham and Elbaum will discuss the new book, a collection of essays exploring grassroots mobilization as the key to electoral power, including ousting Trump in 2020. Now, with 2022 posing the greater threats to democracy, all progressives need to unify and work together to preserve it while at the same time building grassroots power. Join us.
Voices for New Democracy joins our friends across the country in mourning the passing of Lani Guinier, a tireless fighter for political and social justice.
As an educator, Guinier blazed trails as the first woman of color to be appointed as a tenured professor at Harvard Law School. As a legal scholar and theorist, she devoted much of her life to wrestling with thorny questions and innovative ideas around the structure of our democracy, the importance of social inclusion, and the centrality of racial justice in fighting for progressive change and broader social justice. And as an activist and friend, she touched many of us with her thoughtful and compassionate spirit.
As we remember Lani Guinier, we invite you to listen to her words about the lessons of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, which she delivered at an anniversary event in 1999. While her remarks are over two decades old now, the lessons about power and community are timeless.
Click the link here or below to watch the video and join us in honoring Lani Guinier’s memory.
On Sunday, November 14th, Voices for New Democracy hosted our monthly political forum on the importance of voting rights, the ongoing assault against them, and key insights for today’s Left as we work to build a more democratic country.
Moderated by civil rights lawyer and new Dean at Tufts University Dayna Cunningham, the discussion was led by longtime voting rights lawyer, Senior Counsel at Forward Justice, and national leader in the fight for voting rights Penda Hair. Throughout the wide-ranging conversation, Penda provided an important historical view of voting rights in the 20th century (including the Voting Rights Act of 1965) and highlighted the intimate links between voting rights and racial justice. She also gave an important update on the latest right-wing efforts to restrict voting rights, including SCOTUS rulings undermining the strength of the Voting Rights Act, redistricting and gerrymandering efforts aimed at securing Republican minority rule, and the dire implications these trends have for the Left, including in the 2022 election cycle. We also discussed signs of hope, understanding that the forces of reaction have been triggered by the real progress and momentum that the Left has made around the issue, and highlighted several promising bills in Congress that could strengthen our democratic rights.
This Sunday, November 14th, join Voices for New Democracy for our next monthly political forum discussing voting rights with civil rights lawyer Penda Hair.
The forum will be held on Sunday, November 14th, at 4pm PT / 7pm ET. Join the conversation at bit.ly/3b1xlp7.
Penda Hair is the Legal Director for Forward Justice, a law, policy, and strategy center dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic justice in the U.S. South. A graduate of Harvard Law School and former director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, she also co-founded the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization committed to building a just and anti-racist democracy. Under her direction, the Advancement Project spearheaded legal challenges to voting restrictions across the country, including a fight against the disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida during the 2000 election. She has also led more recent campaigns for the restoration of voting rights for people with felony convictions, and against voter ID restrictions and other discriminatory voter suppression tactics.
The forum will be moderated by Dayna Cunningham, civil rights attorney, founder and executive director of the Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) at MIT, and Dean of the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University.
On Monday, July 19, nearly 100 women were arrested with the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C. while protesting the filibuster and demanding full voting rights and living wages. These women—a multiracial group of leaders from major labor unions, religious denominations, national organizations and grassroots communities that represent millions of people—demanded action from Congress and the president by August 6, the anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The attack on democracy currently playing out in D.C. and in state legislatures like Texas is the worst we have seen since Reconstruction. Since January, there has been a wave of voter suppression laws across the country—while in the Senate, members of both parties continue to use the filibuster to block the political will of the majority of Americans. At the center of this crisis are poor women, especially poor women of color, who are facing increasingly unlivable conditions, none of which will change without a democracy that works for them.
History has circled back in the most wicked of ways, forcing a new generation of women to step into the breach to save this democracy. 173 years ago, on July 19, 1848, hundreds came together in Seneca Falls, New York, to denounce the outrage of second-class citizenship for women. Seneca Falls is often remembered for the issue of suffrage. At the time, though, it was too radical for some. But others including leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who attended the convention, urged the women to make voting rights a key priority, knowing that their struggle was connected to the fight for what W.E.B. Du Bois would later call “abolition democracy.”
Indeed, the demands in Seneca Falls largely echoed the unheralded efforts of Black women stretching back decades, and their rising discontent under the leadership of women like Sojourner Truth. Three years after Seneca Falls, at a women’s convention in Akron, Ohio, Truth famously said:
On Monday, we carried the spirit of all of these women into the streets of D.C. We reminded the nation that unshackling our democracy from voter suppression and procedural rules like the filibuster is inextricably linked to the work of building a nation where every person’s needs are met. At this critical crossroads, we cannot let up on the demand for racial and economic justice, including the raising of the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, which would immediately lift the pay of 32 million people, disproportionately poor women of color.
The following Monday, on August 2, we will converge again en masse in D.C., fueled by a growing movement of women and others who are willing to move beyond calls for quiet conversation and compromise, and into bold action.
In the wake of the 2020 election cycle, there has been renewed attention among progressive electoral activists to Sun Belt states where people of color are a large part of the electorate in a region that for several decades has been dominated by conservative whites. The Biden electoral victory resulted not just from his winning three northern states Trump won in 2016 (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin), but also from victories in Georgia and Arizona, where Democratic candidates were unsuccessful for decades. Similarly, the narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate arguably rests on Georgia and Arizona, where Dems flipped four seats in 2018 and 2020. There has also been significant attention given to North Carolina and Florida, where the GOP eked out a series of narrow victories in the 2018/20 electoral cycles, and Dems won the NC governor’s race. Dems now control the state government in Virginia, as well as a majority of that state’s Congressional delegation. A coalition of Hispanic, Native American and progressive white voters have delivered Dem majorities in New Mexico for several cycles.
Through much of the South and Southwest, however, the GOP retains an electoral majority, and progressives have been working on how to extend the successful experience in states like Georgia and Arizona to other areas. Major states like Texas have drawn the attention of progressives for several cycles, but remain locked in the hands of the GOP. Stronger candidates have come forward in places like Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama, but all of these states continue to be dominated by the right, despite large African-American populations. With few exceptions, Republicans dominate the border states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia as well.
The South and Southwest have become centers of demographic diversification in the U.S. Much of the growth in Latinx voters has been in the region, and AAPI communities have become a major component of urban centers like Houston and Atlanta. The region remains the largest concentration of African-Americans in the country. Given this, we ought to continue to look closely at the opportunities for progressive political power in this region, while acknowledging that demographics doesn’t automatically confer success. Rather, we should be asking, and acting upon what it will take. I believe the successes in Georgia and Arizona point to the importance of prolonged grassroots organizing to breaking the conservative white lock on the Sun Belt. For this reason, I hope to post occasionally on the intersection of grassroots and electoral organizing in my native region, and highlight emerging examples of how these movements are striving for political power. I will look to both electoral contests as well as community campaigns, help amplify regional voices, and try to identify the lessons as they’re being tested and learned. And I would like to hear from others living and working in the region, and your perspectives on the current situation. Please comment on my posts, and feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.