The Real Movers and Shakers

Nov 13, 2013Erik Lampmann

Instead of electoral politics, we should be paying more attention to the community-based movement building happening around the country.

There are actions, policies, battles ... and then there are movements.

Over the past few weeks I’ve grown increasingly concerned that episodic protests, press releases, and elections receive the lion’s share of our concern, while strategic movements to build strong, resilient communities are left by the wayside.

Instead of electoral politics, we should be paying more attention to the community-based movement building happening around the country.

There are actions, policies, battles ... and then there are movements.

Over the past few weeks I’ve grown increasingly concerned that episodic protests, press releases, and elections receive the lion’s share of our concern, while strategic movements to build strong, resilient communities are left by the wayside.

Take, for instance, the media’s flirtation with Russell Brand’s ‘revolutionary politics.’ It seemed as though pundits were bending over backwards to support Brand’s calls for the fair distribution of wealth in the UK, heralding him a radical leftist. This isn’t the space to examine the authenticity of Brand’s claims to radical progressive politics. It is worth noting, however, the power asymmetries of a media landscape that affords Brand unheard of attention for his politics while failing to ever address the work of undocumented, queer, youth, and student activists (sometimes together) across the country.

Similarly, I’ve seen reductive partisan politics engrain themselves in my state, Virginia, through this most recent gubernatorial campaign, pitting a particularly bigoted conservative Attorney General against a Democrat with no previous experience as an elected official and an endless rolodex of IOUs to call in. I’m sad that my choice as a queer person boiled down to whether to vote for a candidate that would rather overturn Lawrence v. Texas or an eventually-successful corporate Democrat with no grounding in public service. With such distinct lack of vision to choose from, it almost seems as though one should have ironically followed Brand’s advice and not vote.

This is not to undervalue the importance of electoral politics. Without federal legislation, programs as essential to the American social safety net as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP would be impossible. However, focusing on electoral targets is a narrow lens through which to treat issues like community revitalization, green jobs campaigns, and food security. These issues are complex; they are, by their nature, multidimensional questions that require coalition-based solutions with stakeholders from advocacy groups, direct service organizations, and elected officials to make meaningful progress.

The conversation should therefore shift to an analysis of whom we are leaving out of the discussion on movement-building. Let’s examine several community organizing wins from these past few weeks that weren’t covered in the mainstream media, amplified by elected officials or catalyzed by major national non-profits.

  1. Undocumented youth in California successfully pressured former Secretary of Homeland Security and current University of California President Janet Napolitano to invest $5 million in financial assistance for undocumented students.  Not only did these student activists succeed in securing much-needed financial support for their communities, they also compelled Napolitano to reverse her own immigration politics. The collective voice of these young people held an official from the administration with the highest number of deportations accountable to the needs of the communities she had previously helped marginalize.
  2. Youth in the Chicago Student Union launched a creative and strategic protest  during Halloween, dressing as zombies suffering the ‘death of public education.’ This youth-led action came after months of mobilizations of teachers, staff, students, and community members around Mayor Emmanuel’s attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union.
  3. Students at George Washington University – including members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network chapter at that school – are mobilizing around revelations that their admissions department had been secretly screening students based on their ability to pay. Despite marketing itself as a ‘need-blind’ institution, apparently GWU has used family wealth as a deciding factor in undergraduate admissions.

These struggles are not isolated, disconnected media headlines. Far from it. Instead, they represent the power of collective voices rising up to make demands on an establishment that has either attempted to quell their momentum, disenfranchise them, or otherwise push them to the margins of public discourse. They represent the power of community organizing to better our communities and create meaningful change at the grassroots level.

We speak often of the democratic experiment of the United States – of the on-going process of ‘making’ a nation. Yet our attention span for truly transformational struggles is so often limited to flashpoints in undoubtedly richer, more nuanced movement histories. As I embark on a capstone project within the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network to investigate best practices among fellow youth organizers, I’m taken by the importance of narratives that speak to the experience of those who devote their lives to movement work.

This week is already devolving into an endless series of gubernatorial recaps without much substantive analysis of grassroots organizing or movements that influenced the electoral landscape. It’s important that we reject pundits’ reductive understanding of social change as electoral change and affirm a more grounded understanding of the ‘real movers and shakers’ of our political landscape. They aren’t the Terry McAuliffes of the world who come to govern through a litany of party fundraising jobs, favors, and corporate savoir faire; they are the disadvantaged communities forging a better tomorrow through many small wins, and occasional big wins, and united under the banner of one movement towards justice for all people. These movements toward change are much more deserving of our concern, respect, and honor.

Erik Lampmann is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice. He studies political theory and French at the University of Richmond. 

 

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"The Kids Aren't Alright": Millennials Demand Economic Stability for all LBGTQ People, Now

Nov 8, 2013Erik Lampmann

Millennials struggle to comprehend why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act isn't law yet, but they shouldn't accept the version with religious exemptions being considered today.

Millennials struggle to comprehend why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act isn't law yet, but they shouldn't accept the version with religious exemptions being considered today.

Ask any college senior today what they are most focused on and they will reply with the same phrase: a job. Today’s young people grew up during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. They’ve seen their own government shut down over funding disputes, the student loan debt bubble top $1 trillion, and income inequality soar through the roof. According to reports, 41.3% of those aged 25-34 will spend at least a year earning less than 150 percent of the poverty line.

In short, young people – notably those without college degrees – understand that the fight for financial stability is an uphill battle in today’s America. Perhaps for this reason, it is downright inconceivable to even some of the most conservative Millennials that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people don’t have the same level of employment protection as other historically disadvantaged social groups.

This week, for the first time, it seems as though one of the ‘secondary’ issues of the LGBTQ movement is finally getting its time to shine. The Senate passed its version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) Thursday, voting 64 to 32 in favor of barring discrimination by “employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees ... on the basis of an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Some straight Americans may mistakenly believe that LGBTQ advocates would only have agitated for marriage equality after having secured workplace nondiscrimination for queer people. They would argue that, while marriage carries a certain religious weight, the idea of protecting LGBTQ people from wrongful termination seems like common sense.  It would surprise many, then, to know that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have no workplace protections in 29 states and trans* people remain vulnerable in 34 states.

Progressives are now attempting to capitalize on the Senate’s passage of ENDA to pressure House members to vote similarly when their version of the bill comes to the floor in the near future. Since 90 percent of Americans believe that LGBTQ people are already protected from discrimination, one would hope that liberals in the House would have an easy time sealing the deal on ENDA before the end of the month.

Say what you will about the movement for marriage equality in the United States, it’s at least been successful in its marketing. It seems likely that the average American could tell you that LGBTQ people are struggling for one thing: marriage. While the lion’s share of the financial, human, and media resources of the LGBTQ movement have gone towards the push for same-sex marriage at the state and federal level, it’s not accurate to say that LGBTQ Americans only care about marriage to the detriment of other pressing issues. In fact, a vocal minority of queer people have pushed the mainstream ‘gay’ establishment for years to shift their priorities toward other issues, such as workforce and housing protections, violence against queer communities, and the provision of inclusive healthcare to LGBTQ people.

It’s unfortunate that some of these organizations now find themselves up against a wall. Yes, ENDA has been passed by the Senate for the first time and seems destined for the same in the House. Yet many queer are concerned by religious exemptions negotiated into both the House and Senate drafts of the bill.  These strategic loopholes open the floodgates for religious organizations to continue to ostracize, harass, or discriminate against the queer movement family.

One of these queer organizations, GetEqual, announced its public opposition to the current drafts of ENDA. They were alarmed by the ability of these religious exemptions to undermine their goal of collective liberation for all queer people. Additionally, they were troubled by the idea that national LGBTQ religious exemptions might then be deployed against advocates working to expand women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services. GetEqual’s Co-Director, Heather Cronk, went as far as to say that, “Conservatives believe that ‘religious liberty’ should trump all other democratic constructs – including equal protection – and we must call out that they're wrapping bigotry up in shiny packages of religious liberty and hoping no one notices.” It’s clear to me, and the young people I work alongside, that equity with conditions (as articulated in the Senate’s version of ENDA) isn’t really equity at all.

To some extent, this conversation around ENDA and ‘compromise’ has evolved into a sort of motif of the LGBTQ movement. For years, grassroots organizers have found liberal elected representatives willing to sponsor nondiscrimination ordinances to protect ‘sexual orientation’ as a suspect class. But for many officials, the term ‘gender identity’ or perhaps ‘gender identity and expression’ has carried an entirely different political, or even radical, charge. Again and again, mainstream gay organizations caved to the demands of politicians to limit the scope of their work to ‘LGB’ populations – leaving the trans* community out to dry. Perhaps due to this storied past, the pressure on progressives to concede to the demands of the Christian right’s religious exemption seems ever so familiar and frightening.

In light of the failure of previous concessions to substantially decrease rates of violence against LGBTQ people and bring all queer people under the umbrella of legal protections, I’m hesitant to endorse a pre-conditioned draft of ENDA. Instead of accepting the religious exception as a fait accompli, we ought to pressure our elected officials to protect queer people from harassment, discrimination, and persecution everywhere from anyone. We must push them to see past the façade of religious fundamentalism to the continued oppression of LGBTQ people at home and abroad.

 

Consequently, young people must say with one voice: we demand access to economic stability for all people – including LGBTQ communities – without condition. We cannot allow our elected officials to carve out spaces where queer people are protected and other spaces where it’s legal to discriminate.

Erik Lampmann is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice. He studies political theory and French at the University of Richmond. 

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Daily Digest - November 6: Underdog Cities and Underfunded Agencies

Nov 6, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

San Antonio's Simple Appeal to Millennials: Diversity, Decent Jobs, and Cheap Living (Atlantic Cities)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

San Antonio's Simple Appeal to Millennials: Diversity, Decent Jobs, and Cheap Living (Atlantic Cities)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz continues her series on cities "Where Millennials Can Make It Now." San Antonio, she says, is a bit of an underdog compared to other Texas cities that attract Millennials, but many residents relish that status.

  • Roosevelt Take: Nona speaks about how Millennials' views on love and relationships have been affected by the Great Recession in the newest video in the Roosevelt Institute's explainer series, "What's the Deal."

How Washington Is Wrecking the Future, in 2 Charts (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien looks at the severe cuts to non-defense discretionary spending in the past few years with charts from the Financial Times. He argues that at these spending levels, government is only barely fulfilling its basic responsibilities.

Liberal Push to Expand Social Security Gains Steam (WaPo)

Greg Sargent speaks to Senator Sherrod Brown about why now is the time for Democrats to shift the conversation and go on the offensive for entitlement programs. The discussion should be about whether to make cuts to Social Security, not how much.

Shortchanging a Wall Street Watchdog (U.S. News & World Report)

Pat Garofalo argues that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's budget is eternally short because of intentional Republican strategy. An underfunded enforcement agency can't enforce much of anything, let alone new Dodd-Frank regulations.

Will ENDA Be the Next Casualty of the GOP’s Internal Crisis? (The Nation)

Zoë Carpenter considers why the popularly supported Employment Non-Discrimination Act is unlikely to even get a vote in the House. Boehner claims it's to protect business owners - but business owners aren't speaking up against ENDA.

Higher Wage Is Approved in New Jersey (NYT)

Patrick McGeehan reports on the results of the NJ constitutional amendment, which not only raises the minimum wage starting on January 1, but also indexes it to inflation. That annual adjustment is key, because without it low-wage workers essentially get wage cuts each year.

Bulldozing Homes and Civil Rights (MSNBC)

Adam Serwer reports on the upcoming Supreme Court case Mount Holly Citizens in Action vs Township of Mount Holly, which he says could give the Court's right wing an opportunity to collapse the Fair Housing Act, a pillar of civil rights law.

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Sister Simone Campbell Shows Us Freedom of Worship is a Bipartisan Value

Oct 10, 2013Jacqueline Van de Velde
On Wednesday, October 16, the Roosevelt Institute will present the 2013 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards, honoring individuals and organizations whose work exemplifies FDR's vision of democracy. Click here to RSVP for the free public ceremony.

On Wednesday, October 16, the Roosevelt Institute will present the 2013 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards, honoring individuals and organizations whose work exemplifies FDR's vision of democracy. Click here to RSVP for the free public ceremony. Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow Jacqueline Van de Velde weighs in on the significance of awarding Sister Simone Campbell the Freedom of Worship Medal and why religious values are bipartisan.

On January 6, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the annual State of the Union address to Congress, in which he presented an argument for American involvement in World War II. In assisting Britain, Roosevelt claimed, America was fighting to protect universal freedoms, shared by all global citizens. Roosevelt identified four freedoms that America would protect: the freedom of speech, the freedom from want, the freedom from fear, and the freedom of worship.

Today, the Roosevelt Institute recognizes these freedoms as the foundation of its own policy work through the Four Freedoms Center as well as the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and Pipeline, but it also honors the important work being done by others with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards. Among this year’s impressive group of laureates, the most compelling to me is Sister Simone Campbell, the recipient of the Freedom of Worship Medal.

Sister Campbell and her work with NETWORK and Nuns on the Bus remind us that the religious beliefs that individuals hold, and that influence their policy decisions and preferences, don’t belong to one side of the aisle. These values can be translated across the political spectrum. Sister Campbell’s Catholic faith motivated her decision to drive around the county to organize individuals around opposition to Paul Ryan’s budget and around support for immigration reform. She delivered remarks at the Democratic National Convention. She was interviewed multiple times on The Colbert Report. And, at the core of what she is doing, her Catholic faith informs her progressive beliefs.

Talking about “freedom of worship” in an explicitly progressive space can cause some to recoil. Many people associate religion with a more conservative agenda and assume that working to protect it is incongruous with progressive ideals. Others assume it’s an issue of the past, something our forefathers had to care about, but something that’s been long resolved. But I would argue that the freedom of – and from – belief is just as relevant today as it was when President Roosevelt identified it a freedom important enough for America to fight a terrible war to ensure its protection.

As teaching assistant for the Roosevelt Scholars class at the University of Georgia, I believe it’s important for my students to create policies that are founded on data. However, after they propose topics for research, we pause and take time to identify the values underlying their choices. The lesson that I want my students to learn is that no matter how much we attempt to separate ourselves from the policies that we are suggesting, the inherent beliefs that we hold in the core of our being will influence the kinds of policy change that we want to see in the world.

For many people, those core beliefs are influenced by their faith. In the United States, we have a Constitutional right to practice, or choose not to practice, religion as we see fit. Religion plays a huge role in American culture, politics, and society. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Forum’s Religion and Public Life Project, 83.1 percent of all American adults identify themselves as part of a religious tradition, while 16.1 percent identify themselves as unaffiliated with a specific religious tradition. According to the same study, Americans also exercise their freedom to explore religion; 28 percent of American adults have left the religion in which they were raised in favor of either another religious tradition or to no tradition at all. Thanks to the First Amendment, we are allowed to define for ourselves our core beliefs and values.

That right to define our own beliefs is also protected by international law. With assistance from Eleanor Roosevelt, religious freedom was first recognized as a fundamental human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Since then, it has been reaffirmed as a human right within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as within several other agreements and declarations. However, according to the Pew Forum, one-third of states restrict their citizens’ freedoms of religion to a high or very high degree. Seventy percent of the world’s population lives within the states with the highest restrictions on religious freedom. State restrictions on freedom of religion can range from apostasy laws to restrictions on missionaries to restrictions on worship, and individuals face punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment to even death for exploring their own beliefs. 

On the other hand, when states allow for religious freedom, they also tend to improve political liberty, prosperity, and economic development. According to Brian Grim and Roger Finke in The Price of Freedom Denied, “Wherever religious freedom is high, there tends to be fewer incidents of armed conflict, better health outcomes, higher levels of earned income, and better educational opportunities for women.” Improving freedom of religion means an improvement in the global economy, increased security, and better job prospects for women. And those are issues that I think everyone – regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on, regardless of whether you identify as progressive or conservative, or whether you identify as religious or not religious – can identify as important.

While the work that we do to address religious freedom abroad is construed as a protection of human rights, debates over religious freedom at home, from the construction of the Islamic Cultural Center near the World Trade Center to the requirement that religious employers provide birth control for their employees, should be viewed through the same lens. Religion and the values acquired through religion – or through a choice not to pursue religion – can inform either progressive or conservative policy.  Likewise, promoting freedom of worship should be a bipartisan issue, and it is gratifying to see an explicitly progressive organization like the Roosevelt Institute embrace that idea through the Freedom of Worship Medal.

Jacqueline Van de Velde is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy and a senior at the University of Georgia.

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The Shutdown Shows the GOP Can't Accept Defeat in the War on Women

Oct 2, 2013Andrea Flynn

When the GOP attempts to deny women access to contraception in the lead-up to a government shutdown, it’s hard to see how the party hopes to regain women’s support.

Yesterday the federal government shut down for the first time in two decades due, in part, to the GOP’s growing opposition to contraception. Republicans are intent on rolling back women's rights, and this time they are holding the federal government hostage in an attempt to advance their agenda.

When the GOP attempts to deny women access to contraception in the lead-up to a government shutdown, it’s hard to see how the party hopes to regain women’s support.

Yesterday the federal government shut down for the first time in two decades due, in part, to the GOP’s growing opposition to contraception. Republicans are intent on rolling back women's rights, and this time they are holding the federal government hostage in an attempt to advance their agenda.

With less than a day until the government would shut it doors, House Republicans put forth a spending bill that would enable employers, universities, and health insurance companies to deny coverage for contraception based on moral or religious beliefs. The bill would delay the “contraceptive mandate” – an Affordable Care Act provision that requires coverage of contraceptive and reproductive health services without co-pays – until January 2015. More broadly, the bill would delay the implementation of most ACA provisions for another year and would repeal a tax central to the law’s financing. Of course, delaying the law by a year is simply an attempt to overturn it altogether. Even Mitt Romney, who as Governor of Massachusetts implemented the very health overhaul on which the ACA is modeled, said a delay is the most strategic path to repeal.

The past few years have been an exercise in Republican tenacity as the party attempts to sink Obama's landmark domestic policy achievement. The fact that Obama won a second term in a decisive victory and that the U.S. Congress passed Obamacare into law and the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it constitutional is apparently meaningless.  

The GOP, hijacked by the right wing of its party, is redefining what it means to lose. Elizabeth Warren said it best on Sunday:

In a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t win fights through elections, can’t win fights in Congress, can’t win fights for the presidency, and can’t win their fights in the courts. For this right wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left: a last gasp for those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.

Since 2010, Republicans have voted 43 times to overturn the ACA. They have challenged the contraceptive mandate ad nauseam, have protested the employer mandate, and at the state level have refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion that would extend benefits to millions of uninsured, low-income individuals.

And President Obama, to the consternation of some on the left, has made concessions in hopes of advancing his overall agenda. Earlier this year, he compromised on the contraceptive mandate by enabling a broader group of self-defined faith-based organizations to qualify for a religious exemption, creating an accommodation where employees of those organizations can obtain full family planning coverage directly from insurance companies. He has responded to complaints from business lobbyists by agreeing to delay the employer mandate until 2015. (That provision requires employers with more than 50 full-time employees to offer affordable coverage for their workers, including children up to age 26.)

Republicans emphatically insist they are acting in the best interest of the American people. They aren’t. The ACA is good for women and for the entire nation. It has already expanded contraceptive coverage to millions of women, and within the next three years, approximately 13 million more uninsured women will be able to access affordable family planning and reproductive health services. The law will enable the majority of American women to access annual well-woman visits, screenings for cancer and STDs, maternal health care, emergency contraception, and pregnancy testing and counseling. Because of the ACA, individuals with pre-existing conditions will be able to get coverage and gender discrimination by insurance providers will be illegal. This law represents the most significant advancement in women’s reproductive health in nearly a century.

The unfolding debacle goes hand in hand with the reasons the GOP lost the women's vote in 2012 and is partly why they will not seize it back any time in the near future. Earlier this year, I wrote about the party’s self-reflective autopsy examining why and how Democrats carried the women’s vote by 36 points in the presidential election. They blamed their loss on a failed communications strategy but found little to be objectionable in the substance of their arguments. This week’s shutdown starkly illustrates the GOP’s inability to accept that the majority of Americans do not share their vision for the nation.

It’s becoming increasingly impossible for the GOP to argue that they care much at all about the women’s vote. Afterall, 69 percent of Republican women reported being opposed to a government shutdown, and 67 percent of registered voters believe that all workers should be allowed to access health care services regardless of their employer’s beliefs. And it turns out the only place contraception is controversial is in the halls of Congress; it is nearly universally accepted and used by Americans.

The GOP likes to say the "war on women" is a Democratic canard used to manipulate women at the voting booth. If only that were the case.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She researches and writes about access to reproductive health care in the United States. You can follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

 

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Challenging the 'New Normal' of Violence in the U.S.

Oct 1, 2013Erik Lampmann

The United States's culture of violence is tightly tied to the marginalization of some social groups, but the progressive movement is already doing social justice work that is anti-violence, and could do even more.

If these past several weeks have taught us anything, it’s that we live within a culture of violence.

The United States's culture of violence is tightly tied to the marginalization of some social groups, but the progressive movement is already doing social justice work that is anti-violence, and could do even more.

If these past several weeks have taught us anything, it’s that we live within a culture of violence.

Two weeks ago, a shooting rampage through the Washington, DC Navy Yard led to the death of more than ten people. In that time, we also learned of the death of 24-year old Jonathan Ferrell. Seeking assistance after a car crash, Ferrell knocked on the door of a nearby home. A startled resident called the police who, suspecting malicious intent, ended up shooting Ferrell ten times. In the same week, President Obama’s credible threats of military intervention and intercontinental ballistic missile strikes were argued as the only way for our nation’s diplomats to engage in ‘constructive conversations’ about Syrian President Bashir al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against opposition groups in his country’s on-going civil war.

No one can deny that the past several days have led to heart ache, distrust of others, and true fear. As we see endless media clips of armed responders, grieving family and friends, and panicked on-lookers, we feel destabilized and shaken.

At the same time, these traumatic episodes are but scenes in an ever-unfolding saga of American structural violence within which we are all embedded. This institutional violence is committed against marginalized social groups rendered ‘unworthy’ of the public’s concerns. Yet these groups are systematically harassed, over-policed, and beaten each day. I speak here of the thousands of undocumented immigrants incarcerated in privately-owned detention centers and subjected to dehumanization of the worst kind. I speak of the black and brown youth stopped, interrogated, and over-incarcerated arbitrarily by racially biased police forces. I speak of queer people trapped in the prisons of their closets, whose gender is policed on the street, and whose desires defy identity politics’ categorizations.

You see, the American style of violence is complicated. Over a lifetime or in the blink of an eye, these actions, policies, and institutions function to deprive individuals and social groups of their self-determination. Exercised through criminal justice policies and war, the use of violence as a display of authority and power is bent up in larger questions around American inclusion, exclusion, and exceptionalism.

It was therefore a breath of fresh air to see the President reflect an understanding of these interconnected systems of violence in his processing of the DC Navy Yard shootings. In his remarks last Sunday, President Obama observed, “Alongside the anguish of these American families, alongside the accumulated outrage so many of us feel, sometimes I fear there’s a creeping resignation. That these tragedies are just somehow the way it is. That this is somehow the new normal.” While it’s not clear whether President Obama will put these values to work through a robust policy agenda, it is heartening to see our chief executive strike out against widespread disengagement from nuanced efforts to understand and combat violence in American life.

This is not to say that many individuals, communities, and organizations are not already working on combating violence in all of its forms.  However, the progressive movement’s conceptualization of violence, the ways it manifests in communities, and its effects or results leaves much to be desired.

What the progressive movement must do is unite these issue-based voices under the umbrella of true anti-violence and peace building work. If we could unify these voices within one narrative of healthy, strong, and safe communities, we could leverage our collective voice more effectively at the national level, creating a groundswell of progressive energy. If we were to take, for instance, the dedication of the Immigrant Youth Movement to stopping deportations, GetEqual’s militancy on behalf of queer employment and housing nondiscrimination, and the Dream Defenders’ holistic critique of structural racialization in our criminal justice system, we would see that a variety of social justice efforts are, in fact, ‘anti-violence’ movements.

We need to acknowledge that violence rears its head every time discrimination manifests itself, every time someone fails to treat their fellow human being with dignity. Injecting an expansive understanding of violence into the debates on healing, safety, and security emerging after these crises is the only way we can hope to combat other targeted attacks in the future. In some cases, this poses the most immediate challenge: to process our own emotional duress in episodes of earth-shattering violence through the lens of our communities’ long-term vitality and connectedness.

From birth many of us have been taught that violence or coercion is the most efficient way of shoring up power and achieving our goals. From the playground bully to the patriarchal employer to the strategies of geopolitics, the primacy accorded to violence (or frequently, the threat of violence) has enormous caché.

As we watch our progressive family struggle to respond to instances of trauma, I empathize with those who wish to isolate these events as individual tears in the moral fabric of communities, states, and the nation. Yet it’s important to view any act of violence within its social, historical, and political context. By digging deep and organizing across interest groups, we have a chance to re-frame the conversation on American violence today. 

Erik Lampmann is the Senior Fellow for Equal Justice within the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. He studies political theory and French at the University of Richmond. 

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Daily Digest - August 29: Economists' Inspiration in the March on Washington

Aug 29, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NYT)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and reflects on the gap between the goals and aspirations of that march and what we have accomplished today. A black President, he notes, isn't everything.

NYT (Susan Crawford)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford examines the flaws in a recent New York Times article on high-speed Internet access. Without going into the extremely high costs of Internet access, it missed a big part of the connectivity problem.

Dr. King, Full Employment, and Some Provocative Wage Trends (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein says Dr. King's was right to call for full employment to reach economic justice . The only progress made towards increasing real wages for African American workers in southern states was in the low unemployment years of the late 1990s.

What Obama Didn’t Say in His March on Washington Speech (The Daily Beast)

Jamelle Bouie thinks that while the President understood the importance of economic justice in the original March on Washington, he left out much of the modern issue. The wealth gap between African-Americans and whites won't be closed with general economic fairness.

Five Reasons for Optimism About Unions This Labor Day (The Hill)

John Logan is excited about the labor movement going into the holiday, because unions are becoming more popular, more flexible, and more open then they have been in some time. It's a conveniently-timed turning point for labor supporters.

Why Business Needs a Stronger Labor Movement (MSNBC)

Timothy Noah argues that the increasing claim of capital on corporate income over labor is destroying growth. Stronger unions would force business back on track by shifting more income to labor, where it belongs if we want the economy to grow.

Another Failed Drug-Test Experiment (Maddow Blog)

Steve Benen reports that Utah is following in the footsteps of Florida by mandating drug screening for welfare applicants. They're also following Florida into failure: the state has spent $30 grand to eliminate only twelve applicants out of thousands.

New on Next New Deal

Fifty Years After the March on Washington, Equality Remains a Dream

Jim Carr, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes that we haven't accomplished nearly enough in the past fifty years. Some old problems have been solved, but economic opportunity is still unequal and disproportionately divides along racial lines.

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Fifty Years After the March on Washington, Equality Remains a Dream

Aug 28, 2013Jim Carr

We've made progress on addressing many blatant injustices since 1963, but people of color still don't have an equal opportunity to succeed.

We've made progress on addressing many blatant injustices since 1963, but people of color still don't have an equal opportunity to succeed.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s electrifying speech at that event was inspiring and unforgettable. Those remarks, combined with hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall marching for jobs and freedom, seemed to electrify American society to its core. As President Bill Clinton recently remarked, “I remember thinking that, when it was over, my country would never be the same.”

Over the five decades since the March on Washington, much has changed. No longer do black students require National Guard escorts to enter the school of their choice. No longer are protesters for civil or human rights at risk of being beaten or attacked by dogs for exercising their constitutional right to challenge unfair or otherwise unwise laws.

No longer are jobs and opportunity blatantly denied on the basis of an individual’s race or ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, or sexual preference. No longer are America’s cities burning. And perhaps most significantly, no longer is the office of the President of the United States off-limits to an African American.

Yet in spite of these and many other successes that have been achieved over the past five decades, much of the forward momentum seems unsustainable, or old problems are replaced with new ones that continue to deny opportunities disproportionately to people of color.

Take, for example, the fact that our cities are no longer burning in protest to blatant acts of discrimination and denial of civil rights. While that’s true, the city of Detroit has never recovered from the tumultuous days of the 1960s. In fact, Detroit has continued to decay, literally, into bankruptcy. The city’s official unemployment rate was a staggering 16 percent in April 2013, with a black unemployment rate over 20 percent. And Detroit is not alone among cities with exceptionally high black unemployment rates.

The acceleration of the exodus of non-Hispanic white families from the nation’s inner cities, in part to avoid integration after passage of the major Civil Rights laws, combined with the relocation of manufacturing jobs first to the suburbs and later overseas, has created urban economic deserts that deny opportunities as powerfully as any segregationist policies.

National Guard troops no longer stand in front of school houses to block admission—they do not have to. Racial and ethnic residential segregation in many of the nation’s largest cities is so high that black and Latino students do not live within physical proximity of isolated non-Hispanic white suburban enclaves in sufficient numbers to achieve meaningful school integration.

Furthermore, the cost of college tuition is so high these days that no armed presence is needed to prevent young African Americans or Latinos from entering. The majority of African American and Latino students cannot afford access the nation’s major universities even where they meet the academic standards.

In fact, economic deprivation is so great among blacks and Latinos that race is used as a reliable proxy for exploitation by financial firms. Leading up to the recent collapse of the housing market, subprime lenders disproportionately targeted African American and Latino communities for their reckless and irresponsible high-cost loans. They generated huge profits while originating loans that were designed to fail.

The subsequent loss of homeownership among African Americans and Latinos has been the largest contributor to a staggering loss of wealth for African American and Latino households during the Great Recession. Latino and black households have lost two-thirds and more than half of their net wealth, respectively. The result is that today, the racial wealth gap between blacks and non-Hispanic whites, and Latinos and non-Hispanic whites, is greater than it was two decades ago.

Over the next decade, seven of ten new households will be headed by a person of color. In fact, already, the majority of babies born in America are of color. Yet the majority of their economic futures are not promising.

This dramatic shift in the composition of the nation’s population gives even greater impetus now than was the case a half century ago for America to become a more economically inclusive society. Today, economic equality is as much an issue of economic competitiveness and national security, for example, as it is social justice. After all, how can America maintain its economic and military leadership role in the world if the fastest growing segments of the population, i.e., people of color, remain economically marginalized?

In spite of the success we have achieved as a nation in breaking down the barriers to opportunities based on racial or ethnic bias, we remain far from Dr. King’s dream and vision of a just and equitable society.

Jim Carr is a Distinguished Scholar with The Opportunity Agenda and Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress. He is also co-editor of Segregation: The Rising Costs for America.

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Daily Digest - August 7: Who Owns Your Rental?

Aug 7, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Obama Suggests Re-Examination of America's Renters Policy (All In With Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal considers some of the implications of the President's housing speech. He notes that any changes to the mortgage markets also affects renters, because someone owns that home too.

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Obama Suggests Re-Examination of America's Renters Policy (All In With Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal considers some of the implications of the President's housing speech. He notes that any changes to the mortgage markets also affects renters, because someone owns that home too.

The R-Word (The Daily Show)

Roosevelt Institute Engagement Editor Dante Barry appears in a segment on race relations in America. Dante (who sits on the right, in the front row) brings up the intersectionality of this issue: it's not just black people who face racial discrimination in their daily lives.

Jeff Bezos Can Make Newspapers Profitable (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford bets that a single large investor, like Bezos, has the best opportunity to make a newspaper succeed in this digital era. She suggests focusing on the local needs and opportunities, which have less competition.

What Should the Minimum Wage Be? (The Week)

Keith Wagstaff speaks to Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, who agrees with fast-food strikers that $15 an hour is necessary for a worker to do more than survive. Those who approach this question as one of profits instead of people disagree.

President Obama's Amazon Jobs Pitch is Hard to Buy with One Click (The Guardian)

Helaine Olen sees heavy irony in the President's choice to discuss good jobs at an Amazon warehouse, which creates temporary, low-income, unreliable jobs. These aren't jobs to be celebrated, no matter how hard Obama tries to pitch it as such.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch is similarly concerned by the President's attempt to spin Amazon warehouses as good jobs.

L.A. Story (TAP)

Harold Meyerson looks at the work of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. He thinks that their model of organizing workers in their communities and working with municipalities could be a model for labor, or even progressives as a whole, to follow.

California Considers Ending Rule That Penalizes Low-Income Women For Having Kids (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports that California might remove a limit that prevents families on benefits from getting increases with new children. This rule puts unpleasant limits on poor women's reproductive choices, and punishes children for the sin of being born into poverty.

New on Next New Deal

Whatever Happened to the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal questions why the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index is falling to 2008 levels, but the recovery isn't speeding up. Mike suggests that this is proof of the limited effects of uncertainty on the economy.

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Policy Note: Can Social Impact Bonds Unlock Private Money for Public Goods?

Aug 5, 2013

Download the policy note (PDF) by Georgia Levenson Keohane

In a new policy note, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane analyzes a new model of social entrepreneurship, which utilizes private funds to solve social problems. Social impact bonds finance preventative programs that the government does not have the budget to fund, but raise questions about whether a return-on-investment model is really the best way to approach social needs and if the funding sources affect the work being done.

Download the policy note (PDF) by Georgia Levenson Keohane

In a new policy note, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane analyzes a new model of social entrepreneurship, which utilizes private funds to solve social problems. Social impact bonds finance preventative programs that the government does not have the budget to fund, but raise questions about whether a return-on-investment model is really the best way to approach social needs and if the funding sources affect the work being done.

Read the policy note: "Can Social Impact Bonds Unlock Private Money for Public Goods?" by Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane.

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