COUNTDOWN TO NOVEMBER

By Patty Friend and Jason Sibert

The results of the 2020 election will have an impact not only on our country but also on our way of life as a democratic republic. 

The right-wing populism of Donald Trump has counterparts in leaders such as Recep Erdogan in Turkey, Viktor Orban in Hungry, Andrzej Duda in Poland, Narendra Modi in India, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and Vladimir Putin in Russia. The People’s Republic of China under Xi Jinping represents an even more strident form of authoritarianism. Authoritarian leaders don’t want democracies to succeed in other parts of the world because they don’t want a swell of opinion favorable to democracy in their own countries. Some, such as Trump, Putin and Netanyahu, take a more active role in supporting authoritarian parties and leaders around the world to prevent more positive examples of democracy elsewhere.  

Social democrats believe in the validity of elections, the separation of powers, civil liberties, and anything else associated with the democratic way of life. Authoritarianism militates against all of these concepts. Social democrats also believe in expanding the democratic promise into the economic realm through the promotion of social insurance, social welfare programs, the right to form a labor union, regulation of business, and the efficient delivery of public services. This vision is also threatened if the democratic experiment goes by the wayside.  

Support for the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket is a necessary precondition for social democrats. Social Democrats USA has endorsed the ticket. While parts Joe Biden’s record is problematic for us, he certainly does not represent a core threat to our democratic republic like a second Trump Administration. In a democratic republic, we would have the right to push Biden to fulfill some of his progressive campaign promises like expanding Medicare coverage down to 60 years-of-age, expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage, and expanding collective bargaining rights. If he fails to work on those promises, then we can take action. 

But in the meantime, there are actions on these related matters that can taken before Election Day:

THE CENSUS: With all of the media attention on November’s election, it’s easy to forget how important the census really is.  The 2020 census will impact congressional districting. Heavily populated areas must be counted correctly if we are to be a true democratic republic. A correct count on the census will ensure that both urban and rural areas are counted. The Republican Party has been playing the gerrymandering game for some time and ensuring that those who live in urban areas are not correctly represented. The Democrats would have a larger majority in the House of Representatives if it were not for gerrymandering.  

Social Democrats USA supports the census and encourages everyone to sign up and be counted. As the name suggests, social democrats believe in a social form of democracy. We believe in the right to vote, be represented, as well as a wide variety of civil liberties, but social democrats also believe the free market should be tamed by quality delivery of public services, social insurance, social welfare programs, the right to unionize, and quality regulation of business.  

Social democratic ideas poll well with the public in general, but there is much support for these ideas in urban areas. Therefore, it’s important that as many people as possible register for the census as possible. We support the effort to extend the census field operation all over the country through Oct. 31 in opposition to the Donald Trump Administration’s efforts to cut it short. EVERYONE, DO YOUR DUTY TO GET COUNTED AND CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND DEMAND THE EXTENSION OF THE CENSUS FIELD OPERATION TO OCT. 31.  

THE SUPREME COURT: The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has received much media attention and generated a lot of political fallout. Ginsburg was a supporter of abortion rights and gender equality. As of the writing of this story, President Donald Trump will nominate Amy Coney Barrett, an opponent of abortion rights. However, it doesn’t really matter if it’s Barrett or anyone else – Trump will appoint a reactionary judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is determined to put a judge on the seat, despite blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016.  

Social democrats should be proactive in this fight. McConnell has the legal right to nominate a justice, and we have the right to oppose that nominee! Social democrats care about the right to choice, civil rights for people of color, the GLBTQ community, voting rights, the right to form a union, and several other issues. Barrett will be opposed on those issues we care about. Social Democrats USA urges putting off the naming of a new justice until after the election.  

SDUSA members, and others who enjoy the media produced by our organization, should consider it a duty to vote for Biden/Harris in November.  This is a team effort!

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

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

IN KANSAS, A VOTE FOR CHOICE

By Michael Mottern

The untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the swift nomination of anti-choice jurist Amy Coney Barrett by President Trump to replace Ginsburg has endangered Roe v Wade as never before. If Barrett is confirmed prior to Election Day, as is likely, she will be the decisive vote on the Supreme Court needed to overturn Wade, thereby ending the constitutional right that women have had since 1973 to terminate their pregnancies in consultation with their physicians.

Places in the US that have been starving for pro-choice representation will be especially hard hit. For instance, the constituents of Kansas’ 37th State House District have been poorly served by seven-term incumbent Stan Frownfelter, an adamantly anti-abortion neo-liberal Democrat who has used his stature as the #2 State House Democrat to campaign successfully against reproductive freedom for women.  Last April, Aaron Coleman declared his candidacy in the Democratic primary against Frownfelter. As a dishwasher and a student at Johnson County Community College, Coleman reflects the working class constituency of his district. He is a pro-choice Democrat and a Berniecrat. Among other reasons, that is why Social Democrats USA (SDUSA) endorsed him to better represent the 37th District.  And, as it turns out, he won the primary in a close race.

But then, the contest took an unusual turn which caused it to gain a national spotlight. It emerged in the press that Coleman had endured a difficult family life – one brother had committed suicide; he himself had been diagnosed with PTSD as a child – but also that, as a young teenager,  he had subjected three girls in middle school to various forms of cyberbullying (phone stalking, fat shaming, revenge porn). While he had apologized to them and offered to make amends at that time, the new publicity plus his father’s being admitted to the hospital compelled him to drop out of the race.

Coleman urged anyone in his district with a platform identical to his to take up the fight against Frownfelter, but two days passed and no one seriously took up the challenge. To his surprise, several women who had voted for him urged him to get back into the race, and he did just that. But what would prompt these women to push for Coleman like that, knowing what he did to those girls years earlier? Because, while 13 is an unlucky number, Stan Frownfelter has elevated that to an art form. Since 2007, he has taken these 13 actions on the following anti-abortion bills in Kansas, all of which passed:

  • Voted for HB 2006 (2007) Legal Status of an Unborn Child/Fetus
  • Voted for the Mah Amendment (2008) Abortion Reporting Requirements
  • Voted for SB 389 (2008) Partial Birth / Late-Term Abortion Law Amendments
  • Voted for SB 238 (2009) Pre-Abortion Notification Requirement Amendment
  • Voted for HB 2206 (2009) Partial Birth / Late Term Abortion Reporting Requirements
  • Voted for SB 218 (2009) Partial-Birth / Late-Term Abortion Law Amendments
  • Voted for HB 2115 (2010) Late-term / Partial Birth Abortion Reporting Requirements
  • Voted for HB 2218 (2011) Abortion Requirements
  • Voted for HB 2035 (2011) Amending Statures Regulating Abortion
  • Voted for SB 36 (2011) Licensing of Abortion Clinics
  • Voted for HB 2075 (2011) Prohibiting insurance coverage of abortion.
  • Voted for SB 95 (2015) Prohibiting D & E abortion.
  • Has not apologized for or made amends for any of the above votes.

Given the instincts of his female supporters and what is at stake nationally, Social Democrats USA endorses Democratic nominee Aaron Coleman for the Kansas State House of Representatives, District 37 on November 3. While his political record of achievement is scant – he just turned 20 – it is promising. Last January, Coleman was named precinct committeeman for his district and was formally elected to a two-year term in August.  In that time, he has appointed four pro-choice Democrats to his precinct committee. He has enthusiastically endorsed the Biden/Harris presidential ticket while Frownfelter, now running against Coleman as a write-in candidate supported by the Kansas Democratic political establishment, has not endorsed the ticket, even at this late date.        

Aaron Coleman is a member of SDUSA. So, some advice for Comrade Coleman: if you are elected, you don’t have to reach out, but as a statesmanlike gesture, you should convene an atonement summit to which the women that you cyberbullied as teenagers would be invited. They could introduce constructive proposals that you could act on in your capacity as State House representative, the fulfillment of which would demonstrate that your apologies to them were sincere and that you have indeed made amends. 

Michael Mottern is Vice-Chair of Social Democrats USA.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND THE ELECTION

by Jason Sibert and Patty Friend

The election of 2020 is grabbing headlines and most feel it will be the most eventful in recent history. Regardless of the outcome, the issue of nuclear weapons will be with us for some time to come. Nuclear weapons were identified in 1992 by the United Nations Security Council as “a threat to peace and security.” In the space of ten years, several multilateral treaties were implemented – the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty,  START I and START II. After a decade of progress (1987-1997), there were setbacks. First, the Senate failed to ratify Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. Our country withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 under President George W Bush and we withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the INF Treaty, and the Open Skies Treaty under President Donald Trump.

India and Pakistan are a problem when it comes to nuclear proliferation. Since the late 1990s, they have flaunted their nuclear arsenals, and therefore upset the spirit of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty which was signed by many countries – including the United States – in the 1960s with the idea of limiting the number of nuclear weapons in the world. However, there is also a problem in our country and that is the rejection of the idea of arms control by one of the two political parties – the Republican Party. Our country led the charge when in comes to nuclear arms control in the Cold War era, but the modern incarnation of the Republican Party seems to want to negate this history. Most Republican legislators believe that multilateral agreements infringe upon our ability to act freely in the world. At the same time, China and Russia are complicated in the matter of nuclear proliferation, as both benefit from the current arrangement of nuclear weapons anarchy.

Europe seems to be an outlier in this equation, as EU countries seem willing to engage in multilateral arms control. However, there are dark political movements on the horizon, as right-wing populism is infecting long-established democracies. Examples include the Alternative for a New Germany in Germany and the National Front in France. Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary and Poland President Andrzej Duda represent a similar trend. In these movements, Europe is becoming more insular and authoritarian in nature.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has addressed the need for our country to serve as an example of a democratic republic through domestic reform. He also said that he will host a summit of democracies in his first year in office to promote the political form against rising authoritarianism. These are relevant ideas considering our challenges. The democratic republic encourages problem solving via analysis and compromise. Arms control promotes the drawing down of arms via compromise and discussion. The existence of both democracy and arms control are fragile in our current political environment. What is our fate?  The citizens of our democratic republic and others will soon know the answer. Let us hope those who believe in both will take it upon themselves to try and write a better history than the one now playing out.    

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

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

THE HERTEL HURDLE

by Michael Mottern

As someone born into the privileged white-skin majority, I had to make my own journey to arrive at where I am now – in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement. You see, in the early 1990s, I was in a Special Education Class. At first, I hated being reminded that I was a member of a marginalized group, whether it was being called a “rump” or anything even similar to a cow’s ass; or as an individual that got services from the Office for Students with Disabilities in college. But now, over time, I have come to realize that it comes easy for me to embrace those causes that involve reaching out to those in my vicinity who are also marginalized, such as African-Americans.

Black Lives Matter(BLM) is under attack by the right wing and called a terrorist organization. It organized an event in Buffalo on Friday August 28 – the Hertel Hurdle. What I saw in the crowd that day was not a group of terrorists, but a diverse group of people from all races and backgrounds fulfilling what America should look like in reality. I was never more proud in my life!

#BLACK LIVES MATTER AT THE MARCH ON AUGUST 28

The march took place from Main Street on a major artery in North Buffalo called Hertel Avenue, beginning at the piano store. Everyone there was practically under 30, with a few middle-aged people as well. The news was there, covering an event that was held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The protest was very peaceful, even when people were interrupted by an array of idiots: hecklers, someone yelling the N word, someone else waving a knife. BLM yelled at them: “Racist! Go home!” and told us marchers, “Do not engage them; keep going”. That was good because, indeed why would you want to waste a perfectly good moment to get Black Lives Matter banners down in what used to be a very racist part of North Buffalo in Little Italy. The Black Lives Matter banners have to be seen.

Passing the intersection near my house that I grew up in as a kid, I joked with an individual that I used to live around that corner and I was proud to be here. When we got to the parkside intersection near a famous Greek restaurant in the Queen City, I was wondering if the march would continue further when told we were going all the way to the police station, west towards the Niagara River.  When the protest reached my old Roman Catholic Church St. Margarets, I was seeing that church in a different eye. That was where the organizers chose to speak on more black issues concerning Buffalo citizens and community. As we stood there for 15 minutes getting water and breathing the heat and warm air, I was sweating profusely but it was all for a good cause. In front of my old church, people talked about the systemic racism that was going on with the Buffalo Police department, the slogan being not only defund the police but put the money back into our community. Buffalo a couple years ago was named the 4th poorest city in America.

When we passed by the famous Buffalonian Romeo and Juliet’s bakery, all the old ladies on the patio were cheering us on. For moment, I felt proud to be an Italian-American. The March continued to the police station where the people stayed for as long as the police gave them the opportunity to which was several minutes to an hour before dispersing. I tell everybody in the suburbs like myself join the Black Lives Matter protest that sweeping across the Nation including in small towns and in the suburbs. Our Lives depend on it!

THE BLM MARCH BIG ENOUGH TO HALT TRAFFIC!

Michael Mottern is Vice-Chair of Social Democrats USA.