October Socialist Dialogue: Electoral Politics and a Socialist Future
Despite a threat of heavy rain, our Oct. 8 Socialist Dialogue drew a receptive crowd for a wide-ranging panel discussion of electoral politics and the significance of former State Senator Vincent Fort’s MADSA-endorsed campaign for mayor (more phone bankers, canvassers and donors needed!).
Stephen Day (right), chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections, argued that in Georgia the white racial voting bloc has been the primary driver of electoral politics, but that the bloc is itself split between evangelicals and others. He indicated that there are strong possibilities for progressive candidates to wage targeted, “stealth” campaigns on the local level, mobilizing key Democratic constituencies – in particular African-American women – in order to flip municipal and county offices. He urged DSA members to engage with the Democratic Party, particularly those members who are more set on social democracy than democratic socialism per se.
Minnie Ruffin, MADSA member and veteran voting rights activist who has worked with the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, ran down a long list of vote suppression and restriction methods ranging from gerrymandering to purging voting rolls on spurious grounds – such as a voter’s failure to return an inconspicuous card they receive in the mail asking them to confirm their status. Ruffin said all these methods are being used in Georgia. She checks her own voter status weekly and found recently that her polling place had been changed, though she had received no notice of the change. She recommended watching the Supreme Court’s hearing (58 mins.) on gerrymandering: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-1161 (click on Gill v. Whitford at left).
Mayoral Candidate Vincent Fort (above left, with moderator Stephen Friedrich) characterized the split among voters as racial – a tool that economic elites use to divide the Southern working class against itself. He emphasized building solidarity among working people in opposition to economic elites – banks, the ‘business community, real estate developers – and pointed to deliberate racist policies and propaganda as the reason why America never developed its own labor party as did European social democracies. Emphasizing the unique opportunity presented by the Atlanta mayor’s race, he underlined that while in the past progressive politics have often faltered, he is confident that his campaign has both the message and the means to take the mayor’s office. (Below, MADSA Chair Adam Cardo) Photos: Reid Freeman Jenkins. Report by Stephen Friedrich and Barbara Joye.