fresh voices from the front lines of change








Mehrdad Azemun

How We Can Breathe Life Back Into Democracy

Many people hate the word “politics.” They equate it with corruption, greed and the consolidation of unchecked power. And the U.S. Presidential race only magnifies these feelings and perceptions. Our sitting President, Donald Trump, has proven himself a master at lowering public conversation into the gutter, and below. His rhetoric, stunts, and now potential crimes only cause more voters to say “I told you so” and tune out of politics entirely. But what if politics, and the race for President in particular, could inspire us, and be a source for meaning? Or even joy? That’s what People’s Action wants, so we have designed our process to endorse a candidate for U.S. President with this in mind. Every day at People’s Action, we fight to maximize the participation of everyday people in the political process. That’s because we believe you belong at the center of the decisions that affect your lives. So we are now applying this radical zeal for people-centered politics in our own endorsement process by placing the maximum amount of power with our own grassroots leaders, from across our million-strong network of member-driven groups. People’s Action is trying to build the world as we want it to be. We practice radical democracy as we know it can be, and as we deserve it to be. The process will not be easy – no big, democratic decisions are, especially when we are trying to decide which leader can best initiate a progressive era and beat Trump. But by practicing real democracy at People’s Action, we are breathing life back into daily practices of participation we know can be beautiful when they fully incorporate the lives, hopes and dreams of the people they represent. And when we do, we make meaning together, build and deepen relationships, and take collective ownership for our country.

Week Two Of Impeachment Inquiry

Sondland testimony looms over impeachment hearings this week. The Hill:
"Dramatic testimony from U.S. diplomats working in Ukraine have significantly raised the stakes for this week’s impeachment inquiry appearance from Gordon Sondland, the mega-donor to President Trump who is now the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland is expected to come under tough questioning from Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday after shifting his initial statement in the inquiry to acknowledge it was his belief that Trump linked Ukrainian security assistance to that country announcing investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Testimony last week from William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, has also put a new spotlight on Sondland. Taylor testified that one of his staffers overheard Sondland speaking with Trump about the desired investigations into Biden and 2016 election meddling. The staffer, David Holmes, then testified about what he heard to House lawmakers in a closed-door deposition on Friday. In his opening statement, first reported by CNN, Holmes said that he heard Trump ask if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is 'gonna do the investigation,' to which Sondland replied that Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.' Tim Morrison, the top Russia adviser on the National Security Council, also revealed in closed-door testimony unveiled over the weekend that Sondland said he was getting direction from Trump to push for the investigations. He will take the stand the day before Sondland, adding pressure on the ambassador to clear up his side of the story."

Bloomberg Apologizes For 'Stop-And-Frisk'

Michael Bloomberg pushed ‘stop-and-frisk’ policing. Now he’s apologizing. NYT: "Ahead of a potential Democratic presidential run, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York on Sunday reversed his longstanding support of the aggressive “stop-and-frisk” policing strategy that he pursued for a decade and that led to the disproportionate stopping of black and Latino people across the city. 'I was wrong,' Mr. Bloomberg declared. 'And I am sorry.' The speech, Mr. Bloomberg’s first since he re-emerged as a possible presidential candidate, was a remarkable concession by a 77-year-old billionaire not known for self-doubt: that a pillar of his 12-year mayoralty was a mistake that he now regrets. It was also, in some ways, a last word on an era of aggressive policing in New York City that began a generation ago under former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — though the fallout on neighborhoods is still felt to this day. Speaking before the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center, a black megachurch in Brooklyn, Mr. Bloomberg delivered his apology in the heart of one of the communities most affected by his policing policies, and at a location that nodded to the fact that should he decide to run for president, African-American voters would be a crucial Democratic constituency that he would need to win over."

VA Governor Concedes To Democrat Beshear

After recanvass, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin concedes race to Democrat Andy Beshear. NPR: "More than a week after Election Day, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is conceding the Kentucky gubernatorial election to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear after a recanvass failed to significantly change the close final margin. 'We are going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people,' Bevin said at an afternoon news conference. After last week's bitter race came down to about 5,000 votes, Beshear declared victory, but Bevin pointed to unspecific and unsubstantiated instances of "significant irregularities" and claimed without evidence that "thousands of absentee ballots ... were illegally counted." The fact that Republicans won every other statewide constitutional office on last Tuesday's ballot also cast doubt on the idea that there was some type of conspiracy afoot. But now Bevin says he will not further contest the results, which could have thrown the contest into chaos. That option would have given the state legislature, where Republicans have the majority, the potential to decide the outcome of the race. The Republican incumbent's concession brings to an end an especially bitter race that was colored by Bevin's extreme unpopularity in the state after he picked fights with teachers unions and some GOP lawmakers. Beshear was able to capitalize on that with a focus on education and health care. An election-eve rally by President Trump in a state he won by 30 points wasn't enough to save the boisterous governor."

VA Victory Opens Door To Pass Equal Rights Amendment

After nearly 50 years, the Equal Rights Amendment finally has a chance. Thanks, Virginia. LA Times: "The blue wave that flipped the Virginia Legislature was a victory for Democrats in the commonwealth, who will now be in control for the first time in more than 20 years. But this milestone could affect more than just Virginia. It’s a potentially historic turning point for women and their equal rights. Because now that Democrats are in charge of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, the Equal Rights Amendment might finally be approved there, which would mean it has been approved by three-fourths of the states — the threshold set for changing the U.S. Constitution. The decades-long effort to amend the Constitution to explicitly outlaw sex discrimination seemed hopelessly stalled until 2017, when the Nevada Legislature unexpectedly voted to ratify — 45 years after Congress sent the amendment to the states for approval. Then, in 2018, the Illinois Legislature did the same, and suddenly it seemed that the ERA might actually reach the constitutional threshold. But efforts to get a 38th state to approve the amendment this year failed. A ratification bill in Virginia’s House of Delegates by Democrat Jennifer Carroll Foy was squashed by her Republican colleagues, who wouldn’t even let the proposal get out of a subcommittee. Crazy as it seems, Republicans continue to oppose an amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women even in the 21st century. But their argument has shifted from decrying its threat to traditional gender roles to claiming that the ERA is unnecessary because of past Supreme Court rulings on discrimination. Even if passing the ERA were only a symbolic act, and we think it would be much more than that, then what’s the harm in enshrining it in the country’s most enduring statement of values?"

Philly Domestic Workers Win Bill Of Rights

Philadelphia domestic workers win a new Bill of Rights. Truthout: "I have been a domestic worker my whole life. I work in other people’s homes, mostly as a nanny, but I’ve also been a home care worker, taking care of people who are elderly and need assistance, and have chosen to stay in their homes as they age. I’m a cook, preparing meals. I’m a teacher, reading stories to their children. I’m a nurse, monitoring medication. And I’m a companion, keeping someone company when it is too difficult for them to leave their home. Because of my services, parents can go to work and continue their careers even as they grow their families, and the children of parents who are elderly can be reassured they are aging safely and gracefully in their homes, without needing to leave the workforce to ensure they are taken care of in their later years. In Philadelphia, where I have worked for the last 15 years, nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers with the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance, part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, have been organizing for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights for more than a year. Last week, the bill was unanimously approved by Philadelphia City Council. This bill is a historic piece of legislation that extends rights and protections to the 16,000 domestic workers in Philadelphia, including requiring employers to provide benefits for domestic workers, so that people like me can take a day off when we are too sick to work, without suffering the financial impact of losing a day’s pay. When the bill goes into effect in six months, domestic workers in Philadelphia will have rights that they have never had before, changing the conditions of work for domestic workers for generations to come."

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