News Opinion

Solidarity with the Vulnerable at Washington March

In this Nov. 14, 2016 file photo, students from Garfield High School march to rally with other students who walked out to protest the election of Donald Trump as president in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
In this Nov. 14, 2016 file photo, students from Garfield High School march to rally with other students who walked out to protest the election of Donald Trump as president in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

My mother has a story she sometimes tells about herself as a teenager in the early 1970s: She was hanging out with some friends in a parking lot when a group of boys came over to say hello. One of them, the captain of the high school wrestling team, looked at my mother’s sister, and, for reasons known only to himself, hissed out an angry “Ssslut!” and dumped his soda on the hood of my mother’s car. Words were exchanged. The team captain shoved my mother against her car. So, my mother made a fist, pulled back, and punched him in the face so hard he fell over. She had never hit somebody before and never has since. But she does beam with a certain embarrassed pride when she describes his enormous black eye the next day at school.

My mother raised me to be a feminist: She taught me to be kind, to work hard and to know that the right side of any fight is always against the bully and with the vulnerable. She taught me, should the need arise, to never pull my punches.

On January 21st, I will march in Washington, D.C., with what’s expected to be more than 200,000 women and allies — and one of the largest inaugural protests in our nation’s history. We will march in solidarity with the vulnerable because we know, as my mother knows, that the right side of any fight is always against the bully and with targets of his cruelty.

I will march because American women contain multitudes, and the next four years will be hardest for those of us who belong to communities that have been singled out for threats and abuse. Together in our nation’s capital, we will march with and for immigrants, Muslims, our queer and transgender kin, the disabled and people of color.

I will march for reproductive justice because the choice of when and how and where to have children is one of the most important determinants of women’s social and economic liberation.

I will march because all parents should have the right to raise their children in communities with clean water, good schools and decent health care, and because no parent should have to live in fear that state sanctioned violence will take their children away too soon.

I will march for women’s rights because our right to a full share of human dignity, safe from sexual assault and in control of our own bodies, has been threatened by every element of the incoming administration up to and including President-elect Donald Trump.

Do I think that one march will change the course of history — or current legislative priorities? No. The Women’s March is huge and glamorous and exciting. It is an opportunity to tell our grandchildren, “I was there.” But it doesn’t take the place of the local, everyday organizing efforts we will need to protect our communities and build real change.

Nonetheless, I am a social scientist as well as a feminist, and the science tells me that the first step into a new identity is always the hardest. In Washington, D.C., over 200,000 men and women will take their first steps together across the threshold from bystander to activist. They will do so surrounded by veteran activists, new idealists, musicians, artists, clergy, students, and organizers from across the country. For the duration of that march, we will build a space of catharsis, joy, hope, rage, and commitment, and we will transform one another into the forceful change our nation needs.

I remember watching Pete Seeger at the inauguration of President Obama. That crowd sang with all their hearts that, “this land was made for you and me.” I watched them cry, and I cried, too. When I think about Jan. 21, 2017, I think of other voices. I think of 200,000 shaking voices spread out across our country, across wheat fields and dust waves and fog banks, and I think of those 200,000 scared but determined voices coming together in one place to remind ourselves of what my mother taught me: to be kind and hard working, to know what side we’re on and to never pull our punches.

And I think of those voices going home again to their towns big and small across our country, teaching their song to more people who will do the same in turn. I have faith in what we will do together.

Nobody living can ever turn us back. This land was made for you and me.

Rebecca Fielding-Miller, Ph.D., is a clubmember and postdoctoral fellow, Center on Gender Equity and Health Division of Global Public Health, University of California, San Diego

News Opinion

Ignoring ‘Identity Politics’ Will Only Make Us Sicker

Donald Trump is wrong about more things than one could ever hope to quantify, but his decision to make economic inequality the nominal centerpiece of his campaign was a canny (if deeply ingenuous) political choice. In response to both his win and the ongoing calamity that is and will be his presidency, many have argued that American progressives should take this election as a lesson on the perils of centering ‘identity politics’ at the expense of economic justice and working class concerns. To unify our coalition, we are told, and truly begin to drain the swamp our President-Elect has invited into the White House, we must listen less to singular voices and more to the larger group.

BalanceEconomic inequality in this nation is literally making us sick — all of us. The richest 1% of American families control 37% of the national wealth, and since 1983 nearly the entirety of household wealth gained in this country has gone to upper income families. Hundreds of studies conducted over the past four decades have shown that economic inequality likely causes shorter lifespans, higher infant mortality, and elevated rates of depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illness for everybody who lives in that society, not just the poor. In the US, people who live in more unequal statesare 25% — 35% more likely to rate their own health as poor, and that number doubles for rural Americans living in the most economically unequal states.

The effects of inequality on the health of all Americans are worst for our neighbors who live in poverty. They are more likely to suffer from asthma and hypertension, their babies are more likely to be born underweight, and they are less likely to survive cancer. And the effects are magnified for minorities beyond the consequences of simple economics — Black Americans are significantly more likely to experience hypertension or diabetes than White Americans with the same income, education, and family structure. There are many theories as to why this may be, but racism almost certainly plays a role. In a study of telomeres — those bookends on the end of our DNA that shorten as we sicken and age — Black men who reported more experiences of racism had shorter telomeres. In another, Black Americans had higher rates of mortality in parts of the US where more people had googled the n-word.

The evidence tells us that these disparities in income and health can not be divorced from ‘identity politics’: Women are 50% more likely than men to earn minimum wage as full-time workers because we place less value on “women’s work” like caregiving and service. An African American man with a college degree has the same likelihood of being hired as a White man who dropped out of high school.

It is no accident that racial minorities are more likely to live with chronic diseases and are less likely to be insured, a vicious combination that drains bank accounts, inhibits the ability to provide for families, and results in delayed care and worse outcomes. It is no accident minorities are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high exposure to toxins, little healthy food, and no parks or green spaces where children can play and adults can exercise — they were systematically placed there by decades of deliberate economic policies.

It is no accident that the women hit hardest by recent attacks on reproductive health care will be poor women and women of color, even though women who have access to contraception are less likely to have unplanned pregnancies which can derail their economic futures, and are more likely to participate fully in the work force. It is no accident that paid family leave is currently only available for some full time workers in some states, even though it reduces child mortality, decreases the gender pay gap, and lessens the likelihood that a family will depend on public assistance to get by.

Donald Trump will be our 45th President, we are told, because his campaign centered economic inequality and magnified the stifled voice of working-class America into a cacophonous roar. And we are told that to fight back — and win — the progressive left must listen and speak to that economic pain before all else. That acknowledging the purpose behind these patterns risks losing us the electorate for cycle after cycle. But this argument fails at every level. It is morally inconsistent with the call to address economic inequality because it is the right thing to do, and it is inconsistent with what the evidence that tells us: We will never achieve economic equality if we do not pay attention to why certain groups of us are systematically less well off, and if we do not push up our sleeves for the hard and radical fight to break those systems and build better ones in their place.

To truly address economic justice in this nation — and to win — we must fight with empathetic self-interest. Empathy to hear the voices of “identities” we may not know by heart the way we know our own, but also a deeply absorbed self-interest, knowing that our very own health and wellbeing is bound up in the fight for a more equal society. Economic justice is inextricably linked to racial justice. Economic justice is inextricably linked to reproductive justice and gender equity. There are no boundaries here. There are no walls. We forget these intersections at the peril of our own health, and our nation’s.

Rebecca Fielding-Miller, Ph.D., is a clubmember and postdoctoral fellow, Center on Gender Equity and Health Division of Global Public Health, University of California, San Diego 

News Opinion

Veterans Club Shows Good Judgement in Finding Three Candidates for San Diego City Council District 9 ‘Highly Qualified’

D9candidatesLast month the Veterans Democratic Club of San Diego displayed interesting contrasts in resolving conflicts between Democratic candidates vying for the same seat.

Many of us awoke on Saturday September 19, 2015 to read in the LA Times that Toni Atkins is challenging incumbent State Senator Marty Block for the 39 Senate District. It is being seen as a sad day when the San Diego County Democratic Party can’t muster a candidate for Mayor and sits idly by as this costly, internecine fight develops.

Who would the Veteran club members consider to endorse for the San Diego City Council race in District 9? Back in July the club had endorsed Rafael Castellanos for City Attorney over Mara Elliott and Gil Cabrera. At that time they came in for criticism from some Democratic Party leaders for their early endorsement. Would they feel compelled to pick one D9 candidate over the others to demonstrate leadership and resolve, or would they be aware of the different circumstances involved in this race? 

Since its inception District 9 has always been described as a heavily Democratic leaning district and with at least 6 candidates running there’s a good chance that more than one Dem will make it out of the Primary and to the General in November.

Bearing this in mind club members didn’t have to ‘play it safe’ and pick the anointed candidate. Instead they could take a chance on a new, non-traditional type of politician, born from the community and engaged with the citizenry at a more grassroots level. They didn’t have to only consider who can raise the most money, but they could ask where that money comes from (and what behavior it will induce)? They didn’t have to make the ‘sensible’ choice but could indulge in identity politics, and pick their preferred candidate(s).

On Saturday members got to hear first hand from Ricardo Flores, Georgette Gómez and Sarah Saez.

Each of the candidates provided background information in a printout that was attached to the meeting agenda, and each spoke for 5 minutes before fielding a variety of questions from the members.

Ricardo Flores ( is endorsed by sitting San Diego City Councilmember Marti Emerald, who spoke to endorse her chief of staff at the start of the meeting. He’s a D9 native and has worked with Marti in the district for the last 2 years. Prior to that he was a senior aide to Congresswoman Susan Davis and President of the San Diego Chicano Democratic Association.

Next they heard from Georgette Gómez ( who is the Associate Director of Toxic-Free Neighborhoods Campaign at the Environmental Health Coalition. Georgette also serves on the City Heights Area Planning Committee and is a co-founder of Sustainable San Diego.

Lastly they heard from Sarah Saez ( who is Program Director for United Taxi Workers of San Diego. Sarah currently serves as a board member for Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, the Foundation for Change, and as a delegate of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council, where she sits on committees focusing on policy, organizing, and immigration.

Ricardo suggested the City of San Diego should have a Veterans Commission and all of the candidates supported spending more on affordable housing and housing first programs to help homeless veterans. All of the candidates support clean elections and getting money out of politics.

After a motion for the club to endorse Ricardo Flores failed to get enough votes (60% is required for endorsement) a second motion to rate all three candidates as ‘highly qualified’ was passed unanimously.

After the result of the vote was announced one of the candidates publicly thanked the club members for restoring their faith in the local Democratic Party.

After the meeting one of the candidates posted photographs taken individually with the officers of the club, along with their personal endorsements. Some Dems who saw those social media posts incorrectly thought that candidate had been endorsed. The vote of the club members was to rate all three candidates as highly qualified.

If we’re to grow the Party to reach out, learn from, and represent the needs of the disaffected and disenfranchised, it’s important to keep the umbrella wide and open in District 9. This decision by the Veterans Democratic Club helps to do just that.

John Loughlin
Secretary, Democratic Woman’s Club

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Democratic Woman’s Club of which he is a member.


News Opinion

Congressman Scott Peters defends his Yes votes on Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)

Photo Credit: John Nicksic
Photo Credit: John Nicksic

Yesterday, I stood with this sign outside the HQs of the San Diego County Democratic Party in a “Walk of Shame” for my Congressman, Scott Peters, as he arrived to address the monthly meeting of the Council of Clubs.  We were there after two years of lobbying this Congressman on the secret, corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and its companion Fast Track bill, who told us a year ago he would vote No, but who succumbed to the White House charm offensive and delusions of grandeur to vote Yes with a handful of other Democrats in our California Congressional Delegation.

After he walked our gauntlet, I followed him into the meeting, as a registered Democrat who has been very active in the San Diego County Democratic Party since 2004, including co-founding its vaunted Grassroots Organizing (GO) Team in 2005 and serving as Vice Chair for the North Area in 2009-11.  I am a member of two local Democratic Clubs, the Democratic Woman’s Club of San Diego County and the Clairemont Democratic Club.

I stationed myself at the back of the room, at the end of the center aisle directly in front of the speaker’s podium, standing with my sign.  The Director of Clubs told me the meeting was only for the Presidents of San Diego County Democratic Clubs, their designees or invited guests.  I expressed surprise that this monthly meeting would be closed to registered Democrats who are members of the San Diego County Democratic Party and of San Diego County Democratic Clubs.  She asked me to leave, but I stayed put.  No one tried to escort me out.

Shortly, Congressman Peters was given the podium.  This is not a transcript of his remarks of about 10 minutes, nor his replies to questions that followed for about 10 more minutes.  This is what struck me most in his remarks and replies.

First, Congressman Peters framed his Yes vote for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), first in concert with Trade Adjustment Assistance and second without, as supporting President Obama, whom he trusts to negotiate the final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with the authority granted by the passage of the TPA.  He said he trusts President Obama more than he trusts Boehner (GOP House Speaker) or McConnell (GOP Senate Majority Leader).

What Congressman Peters failed to state, until questioned later, is that TPA gives this negotiating authority to the President for several years — not just President Obama and not just for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.  His rationalization of supporting his party’s President also fails to perform THE Constitutional role of the Congress — to act as a Check and Balance on the Executive Branch.  Congress isn’t supposed to “trust the President” — it is supposed to check his/her work.  This isn’t a failure to support your President, this is carrying out the job laid out in the Constitution for Congressmembers.

Congressman Peters subsequently also rationalized his Yes votes for the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in the context of winning a larger number of seats for Democrats in the House.  He pointed out that the 118 Democratic seats in the current House is the lowest ever, and asserted that we can’t grow that number through “ideological purity”, but must make our tent bigger.  I was dumbfounded.  The House GOP majority was gained in 2010 and grown in 2012 (when Peters was elected) and 2014 by TEA PARTY-backed candidates — the most ideologically pure since Newt Gingrich’s “Contract for America” in 1994 retook the House in the wake of the first election of Bill Clinton as President.

What Scott Peters and other “Third Way Democrats” don’t get/won’t acknowledge is that voters are motivated by candidates and electeds who are clear and consistent in their beliefs and values, and act in congruence with them.  As one of the invited guests at this meeting pointed out during the Q&A for Congressman Peters, people are leaving the Democratic Party in droves, changing the voter registration to “Decline to State” because of the failure of Democratic electeds to vote, speak up and lead in congruence with the public policies advocated by the Party at the national, state and local levels in platforms and resolutions adopted by Party members.  (See footnote below.)

I abhor much of what the Tea Party stands for — but it DOES motivate its adherents to show up in elections, as we have witnessed the past 5 years.  In sharp contrast, the equivocation of Democratic electeds like Congressman Peters, and their failure to clearly walk the talk of the Democratic Party, has driven down voter turnout to historically lowest levels.  

Consumers like labels that tell them what is in their food, medicines and other products.  There are Truth in Advertising laws for consumer products.  We need to demand Truth in Advertising from our Democratic elected officials — don’t advertise yourself as a Democrat if you aren’t going to honor the principles of the Democratic Party and the public policies advocated by it.  That’s not “ideological purity,” it is Truth in Advertising.

Footnote:  Adopted by the California Democratic Party at its May 2015 State Convention
Anaheim Convention Center, May 17, 2015


RESOLUTION 15-05.52 Trans-Pacific Partnership

WHEREAS, the latest provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement System aggressively expand the powers of multinational corporations, giving them the ability to undermine democracy by challenging our federal, state and local laws and programs that could diminish any of their future expected profits in international tribunals; and

WHEREAS, the TPP will spur another exodus of American jobs in the service, public and manufacturing sectors, as it includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers, programming, engineering, and manufacturing jobs, putting Americans out of work; and

WHEREAS, such unfettered power would result in an erosion of collective bargaining rights and a rollback of labor, health, consumer safety, and environmental regulations, and spurring a race to the bottom and an increase in wealth and income inequality;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party reaffirms its longstanding opposition to “fast tracking” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, denounces any elements which result in the massive expansion of corporate power and the weakening of democratic rule and workers rights, and calls for the disclosure of all the details of the agreement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOVLED, that the California Democratic Party send this to our congressional delegation and President Obama.

Sponsored by Willie Pelote, AFSCME International, AFL-CIO and AFSCME California PEOPLE, Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation, CDP Chairman John Burton, and 25 DSCC members.

The issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was originally brought to the attention of the CDP Resolutions committee in 2013 by Susie Shannon (AD50), Dorothy Reik (AD50), and Adrienne Burk (AD46).

Martha Sullivan
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Democratic Woman’s Club of which she is a member.