During difficult economic times it shouldn't be surprising that many people have gone back to borrowing books instead of running down to B&N to spend $30 on the latest best seller. photo by Bernadette Kazmarski One of my assignments as borough councilman is to hold a seat on the board of our local public library. It is a duty I sought out not only because of my belief in the importance of libraries, but also because of my fond memories of spending time in this special place as a youngster. Our library, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, is also an ...
Mass transit is the life blood of any city. An increasing number of workers can't afford cars and depend on public transportation to get to and from work. Likewise for college students. In Pittsburgh, severe transportation funding cuts are likely forthcoming in the next state budget and both workers and employers are very concerned about how they will manage. Transit workers will be furloughed. And non-bus riders are worried about the impact on traffic congestion as commuters switch from bus to car. Last week, a downtown employer (Dial America) announced it was expanding its operations— somewhere else. Bill Griffin manages a ...
[caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignright" width="300"] Rick D'Loss (left) SD National Chair and Michael Mottern, Chair of YSD[/caption] Each year the Coalition for Economic Justice holds a dinner to celebrate the efforts of various groups and individuals. The CEJ is an amalgam of groups who work together on the behalf of workers, the poor, the disabled, immigrants, and the environment. I was pleased to attend along with Michael Mottern, our local leader in Buffalo. Admittedly, it is an easy drive from Pittsburgh to Buffalo (a little less than 4 hours). The weather was great. Mid week, mid day travel presented no traffic obstacles except for ...
In the wee hours of Saturday morning I readied myself for the long day trip to Washington. I talked Debbie into giving me a ride downtown because I wasn't sure if there would be a bus at 5:15 AM on a Saturday. Fortunately, because it was Saturday, that drive downtown was only 10 minutes. Close to 180 union members and supporters gathered at the United Steel Workers headquarters building on the Boulevard of the Allies in the chilly, 48° darkness. Our group was mainly comprised of USW and UWUA members, but there were some college kids there who, I believe, ...
It was a Wednesday evening in July and I managed to find a good parking space at the Teamsters hall in Lawrenceville. Inside the union hall all the windows were open; it was very hot and humid that night and there was no AC inside the meeting hall. I guess the climate was appropriate considering that our topic that night was organizing workers in Vietnam. [caption id="attachment_753" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Jackie Bong-Wright"][/caption] Amnesty International was the driver of this particular get-together because they have been publicizing the case of three union organizers who have been jailed in Vietnam. Their names are Tran Quoc ...
[caption id="attachment_1515" align="alignright" width="300"] SD officers at the March (from left): YSD Chair Michael Mottern, Treasurer Patty Friend, National Co-Chair Rick D'Loss[/caption] Yesterday, the SD tabled at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a beautiful day— bright sunshine, pleasant temperatures; God did not rain on our parade. Patty said that her angels were taking care of things for us. Patty flew in from LA and joined Michael and Peng in Buffalo. Together they drove down to Pittsburgh on Friday to pick me up and get some some rest before the early morning Saturday drive to Washington. We got ...
Each year, after the sun sets on the 14th day of Hebrew month of Nisan, Jews retell the story of the Exodus at an annual family feast. The transition from slavery to freedom, orchestrated by God's hand, is a great story with universal appeal. I never grow tired of telling it. Last week I received in the mail a Passover appeal from the Jewish Labor Committee. The headline read, "Pharaoh refuses to negotiate; hundreds of thousands of Israelite workers walk of job site." While catchy and humorous, it none-the-less reminds us of a simple fact about slavery— it's all about ...
Next week it will have been one year since SDUSA endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. A lot has happened in the intervening 12 months. Bernie went from zero name recognition to being a real threat to the status quo within the Democratic Party. Although he had never run as a Democrat, the 75 years old Sanders captured 43% of the Democratic vote nationwide. And whether we cry foul over DNC partisanship or the inconsistencies in state primary vote tallies, the reality is that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. At the convention, realizing that Hillary wanted his endorsement, Bernie was able to negotiate platform planks that his constituency demanded. Those included: $15 minimum wage, a public option for the ACA, a “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act” to reform Wall Street, paid family leave, elimination of private prisons, expansion of Social Security, and end of the death penalty. After the negotiation of the platform, which Sanders called the “most progressive” in Democratic Party history, he gave his endorsement to Clinton. And we should do the same.
I understand that disgruntled Berniecrats may wish to vote for Jill Stein or even Gary Johnson. But in the words of Bernie himself, “This is no time for a protest vote”. While the presidential campaign may resemble a tv reality show like America’s Got Talent, the hard work of winning a campaign means assembling a coalition of various, sometimes divergent, constituencies. In his 1965 essay From Protest to Politics, former SDUSA Chair Bayard Rustin wrote, “We need allies. The future of the Negro struggle depends on whether the contradictions of this society can be resolved by a coalition of progressive forces which becomes the effective political majority in the United States. I speak of the coalition which staged the March on Washington, passed the Civil Rights Act, and laid the basis for the Johnson landslide—Negroes, trade unionists, liberals, and religious groups”. As an SDUSA member, you must work to build a progressive coalition that becomes the MAJORITY in electoral politics. Otherwise, you’re just a protester.
The National Committee of SDUSA endorses Hillary Clinton for president. We also ask that you vote for a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. And we further ask that you support Democratic candidates down ticket at the state and local level. Building a coalition starts in your neighborhood. But it does not stop there. After we elect Hillary Clinton, we must hold the Democratic Party to its new platform. Electoral action is work, and that work never ends.
No SDUSA members attended the Democratic National Convention as delegates, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t present. SDUSA was represented among the thousands who gathered at FDR Park in Philadelphia to mount various rallies and protests. Our Vice Chair Michael Mottern (in the photo, on the left) tells me about the experience.
Rick: It sounds like FDR Park was the rallying point for all the various protest groups. Tell me about that.
Michael: Actually the meet-up location was City Hall. All the visiting groups were coordinated through philly.fyi. The field organizer was Jamhar James and he did a great job. The big march was on Sunday, from City Hall to FDR Park. FDR Park is across the road from Wells Fargo Center where the Democratic Convention was held. It was about a 3 ½ mile parade down Broad Street. The march included many different groups: socialists, environmentalists, black lives matter, legalizing pot, etc. Black Men for Bernie surprisingly had a very large presence. Altogether, I don’t know how many people were there; I’m no good at estimating crowds, but many thousands of people were there. The newspaper would give a better estimate.
Rick: The press liked to focus on some of the outlier groups, like the ones burning the US and Israeli flags. What was the general tone of the rallies?
Michael: I didn’t see any flag burning. It may have been a small group. There were so many people there, it would be easy to miss something. Overall, it was very peaceful. The police were very good. Polite, easy going. Based on what I saw at FDR Park, I would even say many of them were supportive.
Rick: We heard that hotel rooms were costing into the thousands of dollars during the convention. Protesters don’t have that kind of money.
Michael: I stayed at a cheap hotel on the other side of the river in Camden. Not a very safe area. But the hotel was full of protesters and we traveled on a bus to and from the hotel to Philly each day. We didn’t have any trouble and I met a lot of great people. Philly.fyi had bottled water to keep everyone hydrated and they had porta-johns everywhere. Maybe the city gave them the money to take care of the protesters? Philly.fyi did a great job. There were a lot of people that were trying to overnight in the park, but they weren’t allowed. Police had to evict them, but I didn’t hear of any violence or serious incidents. There were lots of food trucks for people to get something to eat, and Food Not Bombs was giving away hummus sandwiches and fresh vegetables. I and everyone else appreciated it.
Rick: How were your interactions with other socialist groups?
Michael: I spoke with some DSA people. They are kind of “cliquey”. They think highly of themselves. One said to me, “You guys are still around?” in a smart ass way. I also spoke with a member of Socialist Alternative. She asked me how we could have a Hillary voter as a member. I said, “We’re a democratic organization. We try to influence how our members vote, we don’t mandate how they vote”. She smirked and walked away. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of democratic centralism on the left.
Notes: Here is the website for philly.fyi.
It’s probable that portions of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention were lightly rephrased versions of passages from a Michele Obama speech. If this was done by a speech writer, Melania is not really guilty of anything. If it was done by Melania, it suggests that maybe her view of the Obamas is more favorable than that of her husband, i.e., if she drew from the speech so much, she must have really liked it on some level. In either case, Hillary would be advised to cut her some slack by, say, issuing a statement that she doesn’t doubt that the speech expresses the sincerity of Melania’s belief in her husband.
The key point has already been made–that this incident is yet more evidence that the Republicans and the Trump campaign are in disarray. To keep the issue alive serves no useful purpose. I say this not because I have a fondness for models (even a model from a former non-Stalinist Slovenian communist family), but because it’s the smart thing to do–it helps to show that Hillary’s the adult in the race who wants to keep things focussed on what matters.
Bernie has been saying that he wants to start a grass roots political revolution. Most of his followers aren’t listening.
Our cult of celebrity culture makes it appear that there is only one election in America— the presidency. Thousands came out to see Bernie at rallies all over the country; like a rock star. And now that he’s lost the Democratic primary, they are disgruntled and angry. Bernie, however, wants to keep the movement going. Having been in politics for most of his life, he knows that a movement is not just one election. He says that we need to harness that energy and put it to work in local and state politics. I am not optimistic that this will happen. Ask most Bernie supporters if they are willing to run for office, or even for a seat on their local Democratic Committee. It’s a 4 year commitment. Most people today cannot imagine agreeing to do something for 4 years, let alone 6 or 8. Most political activity today consists of FB clicking. Bernie will be very disappointed if he thinks he can channel that into a movement.
Regarding voting for Hillary and the concept of least worst candidate. As we live in a democracy, by definition we will always be picking the least worst candidate. There is no perfect candidate, there is only the candidate who best aligns with my policies and is most competent. The term “least worst” is just a sarcastic way of saying “none of the candidates is my ideal candidate”. Welcome to democracy. You will recall that many social democrats and progressives were turned off by Bernie’s position on guns. There is no perfect candidate. If Bernie had won we would be elated, but there would be millions of other voters who feel that they would be forced to pick the least worst between Bernie and Donald in November. That’s the way elections work. I will vote for Hillary, and I won’t hold my nose while doing so. I have listened to Jill Stein and in no way, shape, or form, is she ready to represent America on the world stage as diplomat and be commander of our military. The only political office she has ever held was Town Meeting Seat in the town of Lexington, Mass. Her only qualification for president is that she is not Hillary Clinton. I respect your right to disagree and that’s what elections are for.
And that brings us back to the fact that the presidency is not the only election. Congress makes the laws and appropriates money, and Congress is run by Republicans. They do a piss poor job and we the voters have allowed that to happen. We got to this point by thinking that only the president is important and ignoring Congressional elections. We must break that mentality! The majority of voters in my state are registered as Democrats. In 2008 there was a massive turnout to elect Barack Obama. But was weak turnout for the 2010 Congressional and State elections. As a result the Republicans took control of our state government and gerrymandered the Congressional districts in their favor. Consequently, we now have 13 Republican House Representatives in Congress and 5 Democratic Reps (in a majority Democratic state!). This is how people like Paul Ryan get to be Speaker of the House. All of that because democrats in my state didn’t show up to vote for their state legislator. I know that many social democrats believe the Democratic Party is unfixable and they want to leave. But if they are leaving just because Bernie failed to gain the top spot, they’re making a mistake. Creating a party large enough to elect a president is a huge undertaking. You have to become the majority party in a majority of states. Growing the Green Party to that size will take decades and I don’t believe there is political willpower amongst that masses to make that happen. However, a Sanders’ revolution in the Democratic Party at the local and state level could result in Social Democrats becoming a majority of the party in 5-10 years. And that is an achievable goal.