New generation of politicians

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Sharice Davids addresses her supporters at Breit's Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP)

Sharice Davids addresses her supporters at Breit's Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP)

Sharice Davids, center front, Democrat for Kansas' 3rd District Congressional seat, takes a selfie with the crowd of supporters at Breit's Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP)

Gay, Native American Democrat busts candidate mold in Kansas


Associated Press

Thursday, August 9

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas added her name Wednesday to her party’s increasingly diverse slate of candidates advancing to the November ballot.

Davids, who would be the first gay, Native American elected to Congress, narrowly won a six-way primary in her eastern Kansas district, shattering the mold for a congressional primary winner in conservative Kansas and embodying the range of ethnicities and sexual orientations of Democratic candidates running throughout the country this fall.

Notably, the 38-year-old lawyer and activist from Kansas City, Kansas, is among a wave of gay, bisexual and transgender candidates running — the vast majority as Democrats — including at the top of the ballot in key states.

“Voters in the third congressional district have sent a clear message to the nation: Fairness and tolerance are Kansas values,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, a LGBT advocacy organization.

Roughly 200 LGBT candidates are expected to be on the November ballot across the country for state and federal office, the most ever, according to Sean Meloy, senior political director of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a non-partisan political advocacy group. They include national figures such as Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the nation’s first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate, as well as Arizona Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, who is bisexual, and Jared Polis of Colorado, who could become the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S.

Davids also is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Native American tribe in Wisconsin, but is not alone among Native American women running for prominent political office this year.

Democrat Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, won the June primary for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, a Democratic-leaning district that includes the Albuquerque area.

There’s also Democrat Paulette Jordan of Idaho. A member of the Couer d’Alene Tribe, Jordan won the June primary for Idaho governor, but faces an uphill battle in the Republican-heavy state to become the first Native American governor.

In Michigan on Tuesday, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic primary in the state’s 13th Congressional District. With no Republican opponent on the November ballot, she’s poised to become the nation’s first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

In Kansas, Davids will face four-term Republican Kevin Yoder in the 3rd Congressional District, a Republican-leaning swath of urban and suburban eastern Kansas.

In their effort to claim seats in competitive districts now represented by Republicans, Democrats are targeting Yoder’s, where Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016 while losing the state overall to Republican Donald Trump. Democrats must gain 23 seats to claim the House majority.

Davids was overshadowed nationally by labor lawyer Brent Welder, whom Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed and campaigned for last month. Preliminary totals showed Davids edging Welder in the crowded field by 2,088 votes out of 61,321 cast.

“We were excited to talk with her, to fight for her, as others got national attention,” LGBTQ Victory’s Meloy said.

Though Davids represents a new generation of diverse candidates, the district she’s running to represent has little ethnic diversity. Johnson County, the district’s most populous, is 87 percent white.

Davids is a Cornell University law school graduate who worked as a lawyer for an Indian reservation in South Dakota before working as a White House fellow during Barack Obama’s presidency.

She also is a mixed martial arts fighter who introduced herself to voters with a video showing her in the ring, landing solid kicks to a large punching bag.

“You told me you needed someone who lives your struggles,” she wrote in an early Wednesday fundraising email to supporters that began with, “We did it!”

Davids was backed by abortion-rights advocacy group EMILY’s List, has called for treating gun violence as a public health crisis and has criticized tax cuts enacted by Trump.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, quickly tagged Davids as an “extreme” liberal and predicted she would vote in lockstep with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.


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The Conversation

A socialist’s primary win doesn’t herald a workers revolution in the US

August 13, 2018


Daniel Pout

Instructor School of Politics & Global Studies, Arizona State University

Disclosure statement

Daniel Pout has received funding from the Fulbright Porgram


Arizona State University

Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Anyone anticipating a golden dawn of Marxist-Leninist communism soon in the United States might have to wait a while longer – perhaps forever.

The surprise victory of socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over longtime Democratic New York Congressman John Crowley in a New York congressional primary has been featured prominently in the news. That was soon followed by headlines proclaiming the radical wing of the Democratic Party wants to take it over.

Both are noteworthy for a number of reasons. But they do not herald a workers’ revolution in the United States.

Despite the surprise around Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, of which Ocasio-Cortez is a member, is not an upstart on the American political scene. Part of a long history of socialism in America, the Democratic Socialists have had relationships with progressive Democratic Party candidates and members of Congress for decades.

I have conducted research in areas of the world once dominated by socialism. When I teach my political ideologies class, I point to the long history of socialism that has contained many and various voices.

Socialism, in the broadest sense, posits that since society’s wealth is created by its workers, its workers should benefit from the fruits of their labors and administer them as they please.

The DSA’s history of moderation and collaboration with the American establishment sets it apart in history against more radical and utopian socialist parties, both in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Socialism’s European history

Socialism, conservatism and liberalism constitute the three cardinal political ideologies.

Socialist ideas grew in importance as thinkers criticized the liberalism that has dominated the West since the Enlightenment in the 18th century.

Socialism is often associated with Karl Marx. For Marx, capitalism unjustly concentrated the wealth of the many in the hands of a few.

Karl Marx in 1875. Wikipedia

Marx and his intellectual collaborator, Friedrich Engels, saw the misery of factory workers in 19th-century England. They expected the lives of the working class to get ever worse. At some point, they believed, workers would recognize their misery and overthrow the governments in advanced capitalist countries.

Then, Marx and Engels believed, a dictatorship would rule temporarily while society was reorganized in the interests of the workers. Eventually, this workers’ state would wither away to leave self-governing, satisfied workers with plenty of leisure time to engage in fulfilling pursuits. Marx named this latter state “communism.”

But socialism is not just about Marx.

English martyr St. Thomas More is sometimes seen as the earliest socialist. Socialism’s defining principle of equitable distribution of society’s goods appears in his 1516 work “Utopia.”

One of More’s characters states, “As long as there is any property … I cannot think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily: not justly, because the best things will fall to the share of the worst men; nor happily, because all things will be divided among a few … the rest being left to be absolutely miserable.”

The misery and poverty of those without adequate resources is a central theme in socialist thought.

Robert Owen, an early 19th-century British industrialist, wrote, “The rapid accumulation of wealth created by the industry of the people … [is] in the hands of capitalists who created none of it, and who misused all they acquired.”

Socialism comes to the United States

While socialist ideology was developed in England, with the notable contribution of certain Germans, like Marx and Engels, it wasn’t long before the idea gained a following in the United States. Robert Owen himself brought socialist ideas to the U.S. in his experimental, utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana.

Eugene V. Debs is the political figure most associated with American socialism.

A railroad worker, Debs ran as the presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America five times from 1900 to 1920. Debs remains American socialism’s most successful candidate, receiving 6 percent of the popular vote in 1912.

Debs held that workers in the United States were denied a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. From the wealth that they create, said Debs, workers receive only about 17 percent.

Aligning himself with American workers links Debs, through Owen and More, to the fundamental tenet of socialism: a distribution of wealth that recognizes working people as the rightful owners of their product.

A poster from the 1912 Debs campaign. Wikipedia

Democratic Socialists of America

The Socialist Party of America, came, as socialist parties often do, to a crisis in 1972.

The Debs faction wanted to perpetuate his pacifist position and opposed the Vietnam War. The other faction, led by political activist and author Michael Harrington, supported the war as a means to check the Soviet Union, whose human rights abuses and repressive authoritarian government were seen by some socialists as a betrayal of their movement.

Harrington also saw this as a way to distance himself from the anti-Americanism many associated with socialism. By 1973, Harrington had taken his faction out of the Socialist Party of America and formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.

From the beginning, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) committed to working with the Democratic Party, labor, racial minorities and feminists.

Harrington adopted a pragmatic brand of socialism that he described as being “on the left of the possible.” It opposed Soviet-like concepts American socialists had once endorsed, such as centralization of the economy and public ownership of major enterprises.

The DSA was founded in 1982 by the merger of Harrington’s DSOC with the smaller New American Movement, a socialist group that had grown out of the student groups of the 1960s.

Socialism moves towards the center

Some long-held DSA policies are hardly distinguishable from today’s mainstream politics.

On important matters of international affairs such as trade and terrorism, the DSA has historically and consistently remained in touch with general American attitudes. The DSA’s platform since 1982 has included a national health service and reining in the power of multinational corporations.

Members of Congress, mayors and state legislators have been a part of the Democratic Socialists of America from its founding and throughout. By 1990, the DSA had 19 of its members in an elected office. That included two U.S. representatives – both from California – four state representatives and five mayors. This marginal success in elected office continues today as the party has 35 elected officials in its ranks.

While America’s most famous democratic socialist is Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate has not identified himself as a DSA member.

Ocasio-Cortez, who won the New York primary against an established Democratic party figure, espoused campaign positions that were right off of the 1979 DSOC platform – and recent Democratic Party positions. Her message was “economic, social, and racial dignity.” She called for single-payer health care and attacked the influence of large corporations.

Given her win in a safe Democratic seat, it appears likely that Ocasio-Cortez will be the 36th member of the DSA currently holding elected office in the U.S., thus extending the long history of socialism in America.

The Conversation US, Inc.

Opinion: If They Follow This Playbook, Democrats Can Win in the Suburbs This Fall

By Shelley Mayer

Earlier this year, we won a commanding, 15-point victory in a special election to the New York State Senate to represent a suburban swing district north of New York City. The race received significant attention because it was pivotal for Democrats to gain power after years of Republican control.

With so much on the line, wealthy conservative donors and special interests spent millions in attack ads to stop me from being elected. We beat them because we built a unique coalition geared to increasing turnout through intensive face-to-face contact, not because of an inexorable Blue Wave. While my experience was in a state senate race, it is one Democratic candidates for Congress should learn from to know how to win this fall.

Political analysts see Democrats’ best path to retaking the House of Representatives running through suburban districts that include communities much like the one I was elected to represent. To win in these districts, Democrats must focus on three essential strategies: mobilizing a broad coalition of grassroots supporters; taking a progressive, values-based message directly to voters; and consistently reminding voters of the personal stakes of the election.

Our campaign was powered by an army of more than 3,000 volunteers who knocked on tens of thousands of doors, made phone calls, attended rallies, and helped get the word out. We were able to knock on 60,000 doors over the last five days of the campaign.

What made this manpower possible was our campaign’s efforts to build a broad coalition of unions, Democratic activists, Indivisible groups, women’s groups and community groups. We called it a “Big Tent” because everyone did not have to agree on every issue. Pipe fitters and electricians worked alongside Planned Parenthood supporters; Teamsters and hospital workers canvassed together with members of Indivisible; teachers and bus drivers worked with community activists.

Many of our volunteers never knew someone in a union. And many union members were unfamiliar with the upper-middle-class, highly educated women that flocked to my campaign. The marriage of these groups and volunteers doesn’t just happen — it requires a specific degree of dedication to relationship and coalition building that often gets lip service but is rarely central to the campaign strategy because most consultants still favor media and mail, not mobilization at the grassroots.

A face-to-face program played a crucial role in getting our message to voters, because, as any candidate who has run for office in the era of President Trump can tell you, breaking through all the noise is an immense challenge That is why we complemented our canvassing with big investments in digital advertising, much more than state senate campaigns typically have.

We also ran a positive message in our campaign literature, advertising and — most important — direct voter contact. Voters got to know me and who I fight for, not just who or what I am against. A recent column in the New York Times wisely pointed out that populist progressive messages about “lifting everyone up” resonate with voters, and that’s certainly what I saw on the campaign trail. Sharing my vision for a political system that works for all of us and reflects our values, not just those of the powerful and well-connected, resonated while solely anti-Trump messages did not.

Voters know we are in the midst of extraordinary times, but it’s up to candidates to convince their constituents that voting is how they can produce change. Would we be a state that protects the air we breathe and water we drink in the face of the Trump administration’s slash-and-burn approach to regulating polluters, or would we be a state beholden to fossil fuel and chemical companies? Would we lose more of our friends and neighbors to opioid addiction, or would we make clear to pharmaceutical companies that their complicity in this crisis will not be tolerated? Would we be a state that ensures fair school funding so that every young person can graduate from high school college- or career-ready, or would we be a state that allows under performers to fall further and further behind?

Voters in my district answered these questions, and did so decisively. If Democrats in the suburbs consider this grassroots-focused approach, engage a broad coalition of labor, women and progressive activists with a positive message, their constituents may answer similarly.


Shelley Mayer recently won a special election in a swing suburban seat in the New York State Senate. She wrote this for

For universities, making the case for diversity is part of making amends for racist past

August 9, 2018


Juan Miró

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Urban Studies, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin

Edmund T Gordon

Vice Provost for Diversity, University of Texas at Austin

The Trump administration recently announced plans to scrap Obama-era guidelines that encouraged universities to consider race as a factor to promote diversity on campus, claiming the guidelines “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

Some university leaders immediately went on the defense.

Harvard University stated that it plans to continue to use race as an admission factor to “create a diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have an opportunity to learn from and with each other.”

Similarly, Gregory L. Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, noted how the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 “affirmed the University of Texas’ efforts to enroll a diverse student body.” He also stated that “diversity is essential” to the university’s efforts to provide the highest quality education.

But, why is diversity essential for the educational mission of U.S. universities?

Advocates for diversity in higher education emphasize a variety of reasons. They range from business oriented considerations, like the need for a diverse and well-educated workforce to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse marketplace or the belief that diversity fosters innovation and creativity. Another reason is based on the idea that diversity enriches the educational experience of all students on campus, not just minorities.

In addition to the reasons above, we believe that diversity is also an ethical obligation of American universities. We write not only as professors but as higher education administrators with a keen interest in diversity on campus. We believe that promoting diversity in our campuses helps fulfill the inclusive vision that gave birth to our nation. This vision became enshrined in the Declaration of Independence when it proclaimed that “all men are created equal.”

Sadly, the “all men are created equal” proclamation was not a guiding principle for our universities not so long ago. Quite the contrary, they fostered ideas that promoted racial disparagement and exclusion, causing great harm to the country in ways that we must still deal with today. For instance, black students were not admitted to the University of Texas and many other universities until the 1950s, and lack of black representation among students and faculty remains an issue. The pursuit of diversity now can help universities make amends for aggressive anti-diversity practices of the recent past.

Universities and eugenics

At the beginning of the 20th century, many administrators, alumni and faculty members from American universities were at the forefront of the eugenics movement, a pseudoscience that sought to improve the genetic qualities of human populations by selective breeding. The movement was led by presidents of elite private institutions like Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and also at public universities like Michigan and Wisconsin.

Eugenicists championed ideas of racial superiority. For them, the Nordic “race” – that is, people from Northern Europe, like Anglo-Americans – was the master race. Accordingly, they regarded Africans, Asians and even Southern and Eastern Europeans as inferior. They believed the immigration of these groups to the U.S. should be curtailed.

“The Nordic race will vanish or lose its dominance,” renowned Yale professor and economist Irving Fisher warned in 1921. Eugenicists were anti-diversity. They considered immigration and racial mixing a threat. They spoke of the “yellow peril,” the “flooding of the nation with foreign scum” and the arrival of “defectives, delinquents and dependents.” These views are not unlike President Trump’s recent complaints about Mexico sending “rapists” and “criminals,” or about admitting people into the U.S. from “(bleep) countries.”

Beyond teaching eugenics on campus – 376 American colleges were offering courses on the subject by the late 1920s – these academic leaders and their followers worked hard to take eugenics ideas mainstream – and did so “with considerable effect,” according to Harvard Magazine.

The eugenecists’ ideas may not have predated the racial prejudices and segregationist practices that existed in the United States, but they provided academic validity to help sustain those prejudices and practices.

Melville W. Fuller (1833-1910), eighth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1888 through 1910. The court decided in favor of racial segregation in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896. Everett Historical/

In 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court had paved the way for segregation when it ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that keeping races “separate but equal” was constitutional. Then in the 1920s, at the height of the racial caste system known as “Jim Crow,” the U.S. government embraced new policies promoted by eugenicists.

Those policies included new anti-miscegenation laws that criminalized interracial marriage. They also included forced sterilization programs. These programs affected all racial groups but especially targeted women, minorities and the poor. Eugenicists advocated effectively for forced sterilization in court cases that remained the law of the land for decades.

The eugenics movement also actively advocated in Congress for policies to prevent immigration by “undesirable” racial and ethnic groups. And the movement succeeded. With the Immigration Act of 1924, Congress implemented quotas that favored immigration from Northern Europe and drastically reduced arrivals of Eastern European, Jews, Italians and Africans. It completely stopped immigration from Asia.

These policies were developed to reverse fears of what President Theodore Roosevelt called “race suicide” or the dwindling of the Anglo-American “stock.”

Reversing a racist past

New York lawyer Madison Grant, a graduate of Yale and Columbia, was a prominent eugenicist and friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1916 he published “The Passing of the Great Race,” widely considered the most influential eugenics book. Grant attempts to use science to justify racism. The book was translated to German and after he became Fürher, Adolf Hitler wrote a fan letter to Grant thanking him and praising the book as “his Bible.”

It was only after the Holocaust that the U.S., rather slowly, abandoned its own eugenicist policies. Interracial marriage was still forbidden in 16 states when it was declared unconstitutional in 1967. Coerced or involuntary sterilizations continued to happen into the 1970s.

The fact that thinkers from prestigious American universities provided the intellectual foundations for Hitler’s racial cleansing policies is scarcely mentioned in our country. We believe it is time for universities to undertake a discussion about this disturbing chapter of their history – a time when their own community led the development of white supremacist ideologies.

It is also timely to reflect on the extraordinary impact universities can have in our nation and the world. A century after the misguided eugenics movement took a hold of higher education in the U.S., most universities now actively work to be inclusive and diverse. They must embrace their renewed values and help lead our nation toward a more just and equitable future.

The Conversation US, Inc.

Sharice Davids addresses her supporters at Breit’s Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP) Davids addresses her supporters at Breit’s Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP)

Sharice Davids, center front, Democrat for Kansas’ 3rd District Congressional seat, takes a selfie with the crowd of supporters at Breit’s Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP) Davids, center front, Democrat for Kansas’ 3rd District Congressional seat, takes a selfie with the crowd of supporters at Breit’s Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Davids, a Democrat, is running for a seat in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports