Founded in 1909 as La Follette's Weekly, on May 1-2, 2009, The Progressive magazine celebrated its 100th anniversary with a major conference and festival. Major speakers included Robert Redford, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Barbara Ehrenreich, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the editorial staff of the Progressive Magazine. Liberty Tree's Ben Manski, together with various members of Liberty Tree's Board of Directors and Board of Advisors -- John Nichols and Robert McChesney, among them -- also spoke at this exciting event. Following is Ben Manski's contribution:
Greetings from Portage County, which is sort of like a disenfranchised Balkan state since congressional district maps were redrawn earlier this year.
In effect, we have no representation to speak of at the moment. Technically, Sean Duffy is our congressman after winning the "old" 7th District seat in last November's election. But Duffy has been as rare as a Buffalo nickel around here in the aftermath of the redistricting announced last summer, even though it technically doesn't take effect until the next election. Well, he did hold a town hall meeting in a rural community, which was announced a day before the event.
In the first 48 hours of the movement to recall Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, more than 50,000 Wisconsinites signed petitions to force the governor and lieutenant governor to face a new election and the prospect of removal from office.
And that number will multiply. More than 20,000 people have downloaded petitions from United Wisconsin as the group works to gather the required 540,000 signatures, and tens of thousands more signatures have been collected from the more than 30 United Wisconsin offices across the state.
The recall movement is real, and remarkable in its strength and reach.
Could the iPad someday supplant the voting machine?
Oregon last week became the first state in the country to use iPads to allow people with disabilities to vote, and it intends to use them again for another election in January. Several other states are expected to follow suit with iPads or other tablets, possibly as early as for next year’s presidential election.
Daily, it seems, we watch as our democracy slips into an increasingly divisive panic attack. Republicans, we’re told, hate Democrats. Democrats, we’re told, hate Republicans. Accountability in our political system seems as tenuous as the economic recovery: Tea Partier, Wall Street Occupier, or none of the above, we all know something's amiss.
Yet as it is, we have a tradition of successful self-governance more than 230 years in the making. Full of beauty, opportunity, and deep scars, our democracy continues as a grand experiment. Rights have been expanded, greater access to the disenfranchised has been afforded, and our democratic institutions endure.
Press TV: Edward Spannaus, why don't you tell us your impression of these movements? I mean, they are obviously gaining momentum. Tell us why? And of course we see Occupy Wall Street as being one of them that has inspired other movements.
Spannaus: Well, I would actually go back to the spring when you had the mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, in Indiana, in Ohio and at that time also you had demonstrations in hundreds of cities in support of the trade unionists and when you had governors of those states trying to break the unions.
The protests that began in Wisconsin this year, and which now also fill the streets of Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, and this week, Washington D.C., have gotten the attention of the American political class. And how could they not? 2011 is becoming a remake of the 1999 Battle of Seattle, except this time the protests are ongoing, national and global, and the target is not just the World Trade Organization, but the entire edifice of corporate capitalism.
WisconsinEye is the C-Span of Wisconsin's civil society. The folks at WisconsinEye video recorded 18 different sessions at the 2011 Democracy Convention. They may be watched or listened to for free on their website, or purchased for download, here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.