It's easy to subscribe to the belief that America doesn't have enough resources for everyone to enjoy a high standard of living. But Cheri Honkala, one of the leading figures in the movement against poverty, said at the Liberty Tree Foundation's Democracy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin that this is a false message.
In the United States, the richest 400 people own more collective wealth than the bottom 150 million. As historian and writer Gar Alperovitz puts it, this is quite literally medieval. America's distribution of wealth is controlled by corporations and the extremely wealthy—if there is to be real social change, this gaping inequality needs to be addressed and radically altered. The people need to take the pain of the laborers affected by politicians such as Governor Scott Walker and unite around this as something to replace with progressive reforms.
Civil disobedience is a transformation of consciousness, a sudden revelation that something new must be done. It is the knowledge that there are two options: disrupt and change the system or remain silent in the face of injustice. Right now, civil disobedience is emerging from the anti-war and environmental movements in significant ways, most notably around opposition to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Attendees of the Democracy Convention in Madison in late August were treated to panels on a host of different issues, from democratic media to racial inequality. The Center for Media and Democracy was one of the sponsors of the convention, and our own Lisa Graves and Brendan Fischeraddressed democracy activists.
For some, there wasn’t a better venue for America’s first Democracy Convention than the in-your-face capitol of local democracy, Madison, Wisconsin — a state with a long history of progressive sensibilities. Earlier this years thousands of protesters converged upon the capitol in response to Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislative majority’s decision to end collective bargaining for public employees — a fight that is not over and one leading to a test of Walker’s reelection capability.
Clad in a tiara, long dress and sash reading "Do You Miss Democracy?" Mary Zepernick approached a table at the Memorial Union Terrace Saturday night with a question clearly on her mind. "Do you miss democracy?" she asked the group. "I do."
It was a bit of street theater, Zepernick, 71, explained the next day in a phone interview. "It's a way to catch the attention of people, to just shake up their minds a little."
Say what you want about Take Back the Land-Madison, whose members have occupied a handful of foreclosed properties to protest public policies that put families out on the street. Their tactics are audacious, if nothing else. It's a brand of activism with the power to rally the allies and antagonize opponents.
Labor supporters go from the streets and into breakout sessions at the Democracy Convention in Madison. Mayor Paul Soglin kicked off the event reflecting on this year’s massive protests and continued fight against changes by Governor Walker and the Republican majority. He says until then the public was not paying enough attention.
“We cannot rest and assume that others are going to take care of our society,” says Soglin.
There may be no other convention where you can learn about the history of civil disobedience, go to a class called Organizing 101, and discuss how to make a general strike succeed.
The first ever Democracy Convention will be held in Madison Wednesday through Sunday.
"It's the first national gathering in my lifetime that has focused on the underlying question of who rules," said Ben Manski, former co-chair of the Green Party of the U.S. and an event organizer. "[It] is not just interested in criticizing the lack of democracy in the United States but is devoted toward strengthening the movement to achieve the American promise of democracy."
The first Democracy Convention got under way Wednesday, and the five-day gathering is expected to draw up to 1,000 political and social activists from across the country.
The convention brought together at least two generations of left-wing activists ready to hash out such issues as voting rights, access to education and U.S. constitutional reform.
Tom Hayden, a key figure in anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam era, was among the scheduled keynote speakers. The convention was organized by Ben Manski, a 37-year-old Madison attorney and former co-chairman of the national Green Party.
The timing could not be better, but organizers say plans for this week's Democracy Convention in Madison were set before Gov. Scott Walker's introduction of his collective bargaining bill and the ensuing protests that led some to compare the uprising in Wisconsin to democratic rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia.
The gaffe-prone candidacies of Michele “Elvis” Bachmann and Rick “C’mon, Men, Let’s String Us Up Some Bernanke” Perry, and the slapstick non-candidacy of Sarah “Two If by Sea” Palin, are merely the cheap theater of an ill-defined Republican presidential race. The real drama of the 2012 race continues to come from the CEO party’s CEO candidate: Willard Mitt Romney.
Wisconsin voters have shown time and time again that they are not extremists. Voters in largely Republican areas of the state sent a message in recent days that the actions of those in charge of state government have been too extreme by voting for greater moderation.
In unprecedented state senate recall elections, the number of legislators removed from office in this manner over the 163-year history of Wisconsin was doubled in a single summer. A third of Republican senators targeted for recall were ousted, while two others narrowly survived election-day scares. All three of the targeted Democratic senators were returned to office by comfortable margins.
Five months to the day after the Republican majority in the Wisconsin state Senate voted to approve Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees, two of the governor’s most prominent allies in the chamber have been removed from office.
Western Wisconsin state Sen. Dan Kapanke and eastern Wisconsin Sen. Randy Hopper were both defeated in recall elections that provided a powerful indication of the state’s anger with Walker’s assault on worker rights.
Radio talk show host Thom Hartmann meets Ben Manski, Chair-Democracy Convention / Executive Director of Liberty Tree / Spokesperson for Move to Amend. They show us how to fight back against plutocrats who want to buy elected officials.
As faith in U.S. political system hits historic lows, organizers announce that
LAUNCH OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT WILL BE AUGUST 24-28 IN MADISON, WISCONSIN
(MADISON, WI) ~ The eyes of the nation will return to Madison, Wisconsin, August 24-28, as nearly 1,000 community, labor, and student organizers gather at the first Democracy Convention to launch a movement to bring democracy to the United States.
With the Democracy Convention beginning in 23 days, we are please to announce our second keynote speaker: Cheri Honkala. She joins Tom Hayden and Michelle Shocked in headlining five days of celebration, strategy, and community-building.