2021 Elections Post-Mortem: SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY

By Patty Friend

If you had the profound misfortune of having been inundated by mainstream and cable news coverage of the 2021 elections, you would have thought that the Democrats had suffered a national wipeout.  But believe it or not, the United States is comprised of states other than Virginia, where Democratic hopeful Terry McAuliffe lost to Republican Glenn Youngkin in his bid to become Governor.  McAuliffe, an old Bill Clinton crony, offered nothing but the usual centrist mix of fiscal austerity and liberal identity politics. Less attention was paid to New Jersey where, for the first time in 44 years, a Democrat won back-to-back terms as Governor, and Phil Murphy did so by campaigning on a progressive platform with the help of Bernie Sanders. While the corporate media gloated about socialist India Walton’s loss in Buffalo, it was much quieter about the much larger city of Boston, where the unabashedly progressive Michelle Wu became the first woman and person of color to become its mayor.

New York City is not so fortunate in its mayors. Mayor-Elect Eric Adams’ disdain for the Left is well-known, and he has made it clear that he will oppose fundamental progress toward addressing the worms in the Big Apple. But as the city went to the polls on November 2, it elected progressive Democrats like Brad Lander as Comptroller, re-elected Jumaane Williams as Public Advocate, and elected 17 new City Council candidates who openly campaigned for Defund the Police, immigration reform, closing Rikers Island prison, sex work decriminalization and other badly needed urban remedies. Two of those City Council candidates, Tiffany Caban and Alexa Aviles, are open socialists (Caban was endorsed by SDUSA). So, there is going to be a significant check on Adams’ ability to do as he sees fit.

However, there was one new progressive Democratic City Council candidate who won her primary but lost in the general election: Felicia Singh. Centrist Democrats and Trumpists have joined together to say that Singh, running to represent Council District 32 in Queens (Ozone Park, Belle Harbor, Howard Beach, Woodhaven), lost because her agenda was too radical, too out of touch with New Yorkers. Of course, this is absurd, since the same campaign platform she ran on was victorious in dozens of other city council districts. But Singh’s supporters have been mostly quiet, except to offer occasional mutterings about white supremacy being the cause of her defeat. And what a defeat it was: she lost to Republican Joann Ariola, 67% to 32%, in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 3:1 and where the Republican incumbent, Eric Ulrich, had to step down due to term limits.

A difficult conversation needs to be had on the Democratic Left, focusing on what happens when things don’t go quite as well as we had hoped for after the odds looked to be in our favor. We need to own up to mistakes our side made, so that they don’t get repeated!  For instance, pointing to the bogeyman of “White Supremacy” as a one-size-fits-all explanation is a bad habit that needs to be broken. White supremacy exists in every city council district, yet the incoming council class of 2022 is the most progressive, anti-white supremacist one in NYC’s history. Felicia Singh defeated Mike Scala, a white man, to win the Democratic primary last June, and was endorsed in the general election by the most powerful white elected officials in the state, Governor Kathy Hochul and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, each of whom knocked on doors for Singh.

SD USA officially endorsed Singh and published its endorsement – “Awake and Singh!” –  on this blog on October 18. (Previously, we had committed resources to her campaign in the form of phonebanking and social media promotion). At that point, her campaign was riding high and it felt like Singh could actually take the district. But the next day, we received a call from Singh’s campaign manager, Stephanie Caballero, who asked us to take down our endorsement. While she liked the endorsement, Caballero stated that because SD USA is an openly socialist organization, Singh being linked to any such organization or individual would hurt her campaign by making it impossible for her to have a dialog with, say, the more centrist residents of Howard Beach, who would then stampede en masse to the Republican side. Caballero added that the Singh campaign had also turned down endorsements from Julia Salazar, Tiffany Caban, AOC and other elected socialists for fear that their presence would spark a right-wing backlash against Singh (Ironically, Caballero is a member of Queens DSA). SD USA subsequently withdrew both our endorsement of Singh and our resources from her campaign, seeing this strategy as doomed to failure. Sadly, we were proven right.

Down the stretch, the Singh campaign exuded fear. The Republicans undoubtedly noticed the unusual absence of prominent leftists from the roster of Singh endorsers, smelled blood in the water, and pounced. If anything, THAT may have triggered the right-wing backlash that led a crowd of Ariola supporters to threaten to shoot Democrats and cause Schumer to cancel a campaign appearance with Singh. And, by pushing away popular, charismatic socialists who are effective in winning over skeptical working-class Democrats, combined with its public embrace of mostly establishment Democrats, the Singh campaign gave registered Democrats in her district the impression that, if elected, she would be just another machine Democrat, certainly not one to provide inspirational leadership. It also might have struck some voters as odd that Singh was not embracing the support of socialist politicians while at the same time campaigning on the very same platform they use. Hence, a critical mass of Democrats who could otherwise have been persuaded to vote for Singh wound up voting for no one.

Shamefully, a great chance to turn a city council district blue went up in smoke. Social democrats understand that progressives can not win races tethered to the vices of respectability politics or the “White Supremacy” bogeyman. We can – we must – do better!                   

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

2021 Elections Post-Mortem: DON’T WRITE-OFF BUFFALO!!

By Michael Mottern

On the first day of early voting for the general election, AOC came to downtown Buffalo in Western New York to stir up up the base: the DSA/SDUSA base, that is! It was Saturday morning 10:30 am and as I was riding the bus, abiding by Covid restrictions, there was one thing on my mind – AOC’s 11 am talk and the future of the Democratic Party and our democracy in America!  And, when the time came, AOC gave a great speech and even danced on the stage. India Walton followed, but it was Luz Velez, a Latinx organizer from one of the city’s poor and disenfranchised areas who got the biggest applause. But the problem was while everybody in the crowd came for AOC, most of them did not live in Buffalo.

Walking up the street along Buffalo’s Theater District, I got the sense that there were just as many suburban people at the rally as there were registered voters in the entire city. In Erie County, New York, only registered voters in the city proper can vote in the Mayoral race, but in the suburbs and in the working-class areas of the city like the hip Elmwood Strip, Allen Street, Grant Street and the fruit belt we were all strong for India and change in the City of Buffalo. The rest of the city, alas, did not. In total, India got 41% of the city proper, gained support in pockets of the suburbs, and got support financially from both the Working Families party and national contributions across the country averaging over $50 for her small donors of Bernie Bucks enthusiasts and other small contributors.

Whenever Katie Couric came to town in the last few years, she has highlighted the revitalization of Buffalo and how good we’ve been doing compared to the 90s. This is the complete opposite of what the Guardian posted a week later, saying how naive her story was, completely overlooking the rest of the city and its poverty, highlighting  several neighborhoods across the west side and east side of the city. At the current moment, Buffalo is probably the 4th poorest city in the nation and ranks in the Top 10 in underemployment for African American youth, but some of this constituencyhas been frightened away from India by scare tactics in the corporate media. While she won the  working-class areas of the city, she did poorly in the more affluent parts of the city like North Buffalo and Millionaires Row along Delaware Avenue and in the central area of the city, where voters showed up in big numbers for the four-term incumbent Byron Brown as a write-in candidate. If you look at a map published by for the Buffalo News after India’s general election results, Millionaires Row (North and South Delaware Avenue) was completely for Brown, surrounded by India territory.

In the end,  the Brown campaign vastly outspent the Walton campaign. India’s campaign made no mistakes and was very powerful on the ground but was hurt by the absence of support from the state Democratic establishment, smear campaigns and red-baiting. Walton stuck to the issues while Brown avoided them. During my stint as a pollwatcher, a Brown supporter who was also a Trump supporter screamed, “You voted for Biden! You voted for Biden!”  I told the Buffalo News that I pointed to Brown’s people, most of them Democrats, and said, “So did they!”

There is no question that some of us India supporters expected to win because, after all, who loses to a write-in candidate?! That pain doesn’t go away so fast. And that’s a reason why I will never forget this race for as long as I live. But you know what? That’s a good thing! The fact that a African-American woman socialist got 41% in the mayoral race in Buffalo after defeating a machine hack in the Democratic primary really shook up the system! In other words, the Establishment was clearly s******* in their pants! And that’s also a good thing. Perhaps India Walton should run next for city council from a district where she did well against Brown. She would do a fantastic job and she’s already scored national attention.

We need to keep pushing because, as Luz Velez said at the rally, we are all organizers for justice.

Michael Mottern is First Vice Chair of Social Democrats USA.

2021 Elections Post-Mortem: OUR WAY FORWARD

By Susan Stevens

We at Social Democrats USA are elated at the victory of our endorsee (and member) Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman in her race for a seat on the Monroe County Legislature, and grieved at the shocking loss suffered by our equally compassionate and hardworking endorsee India Walton, who defeated the incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Buffalo, only to be pushed out in the general election by his write-in campaign.

Prior to her death in 2006, radical feminist and leftist writer and activist Ellen Willis had been pondering the deeper reasons why so many Americans kept voting against their own well-being and happiness. Out of this concentrated study and research, a book was emerging titled “The Cultural Unconscious in American Politics: Why We Need a Freudian Left,” selections from which her daughter Nona Willis Aronowitz placed at the end of a book of her mother’s writings she edited, titled “The Essential Ellen Willis.” Willis asserted that the radical right has been more in tune than the radical left with the human unconconscious and its continual grappling with the drive to pursue joy and pleasure on the one hand, and the repressive fear of the excesses of that pursuit on the other.

This ties in with something I learned from Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles” — that every emotion is really just an expression of love or fear, and fear is nothing but a lack of awareness of love’s presence. Our natural gravitation towards pleasure is our natural gravitation towards love. When we have a delicious feast, there’s nothing naturally pleasurable about taking it to a park in the poorest part of the city, and eating it while children and homeless people hungrily look on. Joy comes from experiencing life’s pleasures in communion with one another.

Fearmongers, who see promoting a scarcity-culture as their path to personal gain, try to sell the masses on the self-righteous pseudo-pleasure illustrated in Aesop’s fable The Ant and the Grasshopper. After working hard all summer to store up resources for the winter while the carefree, lazy grasshopper pursued pleasure and laughed at her for slaving away, the ant relaxes comfortably in her warm house with a full pantry, smugly lecturing the now cold and hungry grasshopper, who shivers on the other side of her locked door begging for mercy.

The radical right, lacking trust in ordinary people, fears the growth of democracy because of how it leads to a more and more equal distribution of power and the ability of all people to pursue their own idea of happiness. Thus the Right has, through the ages, busted up every movement towards working class unity by playing on our fear-based drive to find someone beneath us to dismiss as an undeserving grasshopper. However, as power becomes increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people (which also happened in pre-WWII Germany), those who define themselves as full-on hardworking ant are finding that they’re just one major medical expense, job loss, or other hardship away from waking up just as cold and hungry as those they disdain. Donald Trump has, like Adolf Hitler had, a knack for playing people by playing on their fears, and persuading them that a particular marginalized group — yesterday the Jews, today undocumented immigrants — has caused their poverty by swarming in like grasshoppers, taking over their house and raiding their pantry.

Willis argued that the Left made a wrong turn by abandoning its original embrace of progressivism, and the sharing of wealth, as a happier way to live. We reacted to the reactionary right by deciding that we couldn’t let them claim the moral high ground. We had to become every bit as moralistic and repressive. As Willis pointed out, the Right doesn’t share our rational compulsion for moral consistency. They can be Biblical Christians one moment, and crack racist jokes the next. This freedom from the need to be morally consistent also frees them to be more inclusive towards anyone they feel like including. Anyone who spends much time on the Internet is probably familiar with the tales of former progressives being driven by so-called cancel culture into the surprisingly warm and accepting embrace of the Right.

While we shouldn’t fall for the hype around this “culture”, those who’ve joined together around the cause of loving humanity and freeing every human to live joyously must get better about staying a family through thick and thin. A friend recently messaged me about my friend and SDUSA endorsee (and member) Kansas House Rep. Aaron Coleman. She said Aaron had the right message but was the wrong person to give it — that because of the personal issues he had to deal with, he was damaging the message. My response here is that rather than the question being, “Is this the right person?”, the answer that holds up to all questioning is that WE are the right people, and NOW is the right time. Aaron’s the right person because he got up off his couch, knocked doors, ran for office and got busy serving his constituents.

This is our path forward, into a successful future for social democracy: refusing to fearfully repress our natural drive towards the joy of loving, accepting and believing in one another; without forgetting that love’s inseparable from justice and accountability. We hold each other up and rejoice at the growth we see. And from there, we win.

Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of Social Democrats USA.

BE IT RESOLVED…

Left to Right: National Chair Patty Friend (holding Ramses), Zachary Kihm, Chris Hawley. Jason Sibert, Kansas State Rep. Aaron Coleman, SDUSA Kansas Chair Susan Stevens, Special Projects Director Sheldon Ranz, First Vice-Chair Michael Mottern, Professor Joe Ryan, Monroe County Legislator Democratic Party Nominee Carolyn Hoffman

Our recent national convention, held at the Eugene V Debs Hall in Buffalo, New York (September 24 – 26) was an exciting gathering of SDUSA leaders and activists from coast to coast. Among other things, we unanimously passed the following resolutions:

  1. RESOLUTION THAT SUPPORTS VETERANS’ RIGHTS
  2. RESOLUTION THAT SUPPORTS EXPANDING ELIGIBILITY FOR SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME TO THE POOREST AMERICANS
  3. RESOLUTION THAT SUPPORTS RAISING THE AVERAGE TAX RATE FOR THE WEALTHIEST IN THE UNITED STATES
  4. RESOLUTION THAT OPPOSES ALL EFFORTS TO END PUBLIC EDUCATION ON WHITE SUPREMACY, PATRIARCHY, AND CLASSISM IN THE UNITED STATES.

VETERANS RIGHTS

Authored by Michael Mottern

For decades, the legitimate needs of our veterans have been put on the back burner. With the latest withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan, their needs must be addressed.

Robust benefits for our veterans must be provided, such as mental health treatment, vision care, prescription drug benefits, dental care, shorter deployments (i.e., no back door draft), better facilities at VA hospitals and shorter wait times for veterans who are on fixed incomes, and more!

These are our demands!

Stop wasting our time and energy by simply promoting veterans’ rights in NFL sports games to “Salute the Troops…” at the request of the Pentagon, costing taxpayers millions of dollars!

Provide our veterans with dental care, vision care, and hearing aid care!

Provide our veterans with suicide prevention and crisis intervention services, mental health treatment, housing, and assistance for veterans’ families!

No back door drafts!

No cuts to the Veterans Affairs Administration!

Lobby the United States Congress to not privatize the VA or the Veterans Affairs Administration. They say cut back. We say fight back!

Handle the care and placement of veterans, interpreters, and beneficiaries in far-away outposts like Afghanistan by requiring a smoother transition when they arrive home, especially for those who are afflicted with PTSD and struggle to cope with everyday life!

Ensure civilian contractors do not get better treatment (i.e., more pay) than soldiers who have to stay in the field!

Take care of veterans and their families, not just their hospital needs but also their educational needs! Provide family members with thorough training in dealing with veterans who experience PTSD and other mental health issues.

If not, then a nation that forgets its veterans will itself be forgotten!

EXPAND ELIGIBILITY FOR SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME

Authored by Zachary Kihm

WHEREAS, the poorest 60 percent of Americans earned less total income, altogether, than the total income earned by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans in 2016. [1]

WHEREAS, income inequality has increased in the United States since the 1980s. [2]

WHEREAS, supplemental security income eligibility in the United States is limited to the blind, the disabled, and those 65 or older. [3]

WHEREAS, a robust welfare state in the United States is paramount for all Americans to thrive, especially the poorest Americans.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Social Democrats USA supports expanding supplemental security income eligibility to every American who earns less than the real U.S. median personal income.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Social Democrats USA supports a universal basic income for the poorest Americans.

Figure 1.

https://equitablegrowth.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/032119-wealth-tax- ib.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1-ed3MN29UcMF6wI7lm-jv9OGDMcVxgVbhYA9T-2Ly4NX_lmReB75nnQs

RAISE THE AVERAGE TAX RATE FOR THE WEALTHIEST IN THE UNITED STATES

Authored by Zachary Kihm

WHEREAS, the average tax rate for the top 0.1 percent income earners in the United States was 55 percent during President Eisenhower’s two terms, declining to roughly 30 percent in 2018. [1]

WHEREAS, the effective tax rate for the top 1 percent income earners in the United States was a range from 40 percent to 70 percent in 1950, declining to a range from 23 percent to 33 percent in 2018. [2]

WHEREAS, the top marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans declined from 94 percent in 1944 to 37 percent in 2020. [3]

WHEREAS, the poorest 90 percent of Americans had less total wealth, altogether, than the total wealth the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans had in 2021. [4]

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Social Democrats USA supports an average (or effective) tax rate of at least 45 percent for the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Social Democrats USA supports a wealth tax.

Figure 2.2.

Saez, Emmanuel, and Gabriel Zucman. 2019. The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make them Pay. New York: W. W. Norton.

OPPOSE ALL EFFORTS TO END PUBLIC EDUCATION ON WHITE SUPREMACY, PATRIARCHY, AND CLASSISM IN THE UNITED STATES

Authored by Zachary Kihm

WHEREAS, conservatives are fearful of public education on white supremacy, patriarchy, and classism in the United States.

WHEREAS, white supremacy, patriarchy, and classism in the United States is well- documented and is fundamentally part of U.S. history.

WHEREAS, open and free discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), critical race theory (CRT), feminist theory, and theory critical of capitalism are necessary for a fair and just United States.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, Social Democrats USA opposes any effort to end public education on white supremacy, patriarchy, and classism in the United States.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, Social Democrats USA supports public education that teaches Americans about the dominant and oppressive structure(s) in U.S. society.

FORCED CHILDBIRTH WEARS A TEN-GALLON HAT

By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend

Citizens in all 50 states are talking about Texas’ new abortion law. Signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, it took effect this month. The Supreme Court refused to take any action against the progress of this law. The new law prohibits abortion after six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. Abortion rights advocates have called the law the most extreme in the country.  President Joe Biden called the law “extreme” and said it “blatantly violates” the constitutional right to abortion, adding that his administration will do all that it can to protect and defend that right. He promised an (all government) approach to abortion rights. The law refused to make an exception for rape, incest, or the life or health of the mother.

The law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion, including those who give women a ride to a clinic, advice or counseling, or any financial assistance in obtaining an abortion. This could include Uber drivers, Greyhound bus drivers, public transit drivers, or anyone (including friends or relatives) who gives a woman a ride to a clinic. Private citizens who bring these suits don’t need to show any connection to those they are suing or that they have been damaged. If they prevail, the law entitles them to a minimum of $10,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees. There are no consequences whatsoever if they lose, and they don’t have to pay legal fees or damages of any kind. The opportunity for grievance settling and other mischief and payback abound. Law enforcement is not involved in any of this; thus, it makes bounty hunters out of private citizens. 

Abortion providers say this prohibits most of the abortions in Texas. Socioeconomic status is also an issue in the law, as some don’t have the money to travel out of state and all that that means. Biden acknowledged this fact. “The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes,” Biden said in a statement. “And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual.”

Clinics in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico are reporting that a large portion of their clientele in the last week has been from Texas. Social Democrats USA opposes the Texas abortion legislation. Social democrats believe in gender equality and reproductive freedom, and both are at stake in this law. In a true democratic republic, everyone participates in the political process and economy – including women! We support the efforts of the Biden administration to roll back the law, especially the lawsuits launched by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice.  We also support the efforts of any in the Texas legislative branch to overturn the law. We support efforts in the Congress of federalize Roe vs. Wade.  Our organization also supports efforts to keep similar laws from passing in other states.

Politicians in Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Ohio, South Dakota, Kansas, and Florida have already committed to at least working to implement a version of the Texas abortion ban in their states.  Just two days ago, Missouri legislators said they might adopt a similar law. When these politicians are done with passing these terrible laws, abortion will be illegal in almost half of the U.S.  

The abortion issue has been a hot button issue in our country for decades. However, 75% of the country is pro-choice, mostly due to younger generation. However, lawmakers at the state level are still campaigning to criminalize abortion and control women’s bodies. Let’s score some victories and put the issue to rest by making abortion rights the law all over the land!

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.