The Arc of History Bends Toward Equality

Emerge CA Executive Director Kimberly Ellis, Governor Howard Dean, and PDC President Amy Pearl, attended Netroots Nation.This has been an amazing month. Each week I thought, this is what I’ll write a President’s Letter about, and then that was eclipsed by something else. First it was the former NSA and CIA contractor Edward Snowden making the most significant NSA breach in history with details of top-secret American and British government mass surveillance programs. Then that was eclipsed by a week of Supreme Court rulings, some of the most important and historic rulings in history. Among them were: 

  • Shelby County vs. Holder struck down a key part of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, sending the section that determines which states need extra attention about discrimination back to Congress to be re-written

  • In Arizona vs. ITCA, the court sided with the federal government, saying that Arizona’s evidence-of-citizenship requirement is pre-empted by the federal National Voter Registration Act

  • Windsor vs. US struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages

  • In Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the court ruled that the advocates for California’s anti-gay marriage Prop 8 had no standing to contest lower courts defeating it, effectively ending it.

In all, it seems that we are making more forward progress than not. But when you look at the issues being decided, we see that most of the issues arise at the state level. Even here in progressive California, our voters can end up passing a Prop 8. And we know that there is great variation across the states. For example, today 13 states recognize same-sex marriage. But 6 states prohibit it by statute and 29 prohibit it in their state constitutions. 1996’s DOMA allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages recognized in other states; this was not ruled on in the Windsor vs. US case. It’s widely anticipated that there will be challenges to this section of DOMA.
We have to remain vigilant. We must make our voices (and tweets) heard. But, just as there was a conservative backlash to the liberalism of the 1960s, we are seeing a backlash to the corporate, conservative ideology of the 1980s. When multinational corporations partner with conservative legislators to baldly, if legally, strip people of their sacred right to vote, remove our rights to control our bodies and lives, privatize things like education and journalism that should not be hostage to the forces of commercialization, they will ultimately go too far and the pendulum will swing back. 
How can I be sure?

Because I attended Netroots Nation 2013, in San Jose in June. Netroots is a conference that began in 2006. Like the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte that I attended last September, it looks more like America than the Republican convention. People of all backgrounds were there. But unlike the Democratic Convention, the average age was mid-to late 20s, and also unlike the Democratic Convention, people were generally very well dressed! The leadership of this political community came out of the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections. They are smart, innovative, and media and technology savvy. They are politically involved, from electoral politics to progressive non-profits. They are using new technologies to create new organizational and institutional structures. You can see PDC Programming VP Kate Forrest’s article in the newsletter.

In August, I will focus on the importance of upcoming electoral races. I’ll be writing it before I take off for three weeks, so it won’t be quite as topical! I hope you are all enjoying your summer and hope to see you at the PDC picnic on August 17, if not before. 

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