My First Year in the DSA

by Ted Glomski

Signing up

When I tell people about why I joined DSA, I’ve often said “I joined on November 9, right after the 2016 election…” As it turns out, that was a big fat lie !  When I looked up the date I actually joined it was November 12. Sorry, everyone who feels deceived.

I️ was in California on November 8, 2016, working a contract in Santa Barbara instead of my native Wisconsin. That night I️ was at a hotel watching the election results coming in on my phone and getting progressively more anxious. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that kept getting heavier. Looking at my phone felt more and more like looking at a car accident where I could not help, but could only watch the horror. A friend called me; she was apoplectic that people would vote for a serial and unapologetic sexual assaulter and I️ listened to her saying “what the F$&@” over and over again. I️ probably didn’t fall asleep until 2 am.

The next day at work, everyone was silent for the entire morning. The people I️ worked with eventually started voicing their bewilderment at the results and the feeling that we’re entering a new uncharted territory.

The night of November 9 was very important for me — not because I️ signed up for DSA (like I️ erroneously recalled) but because I️ decided that I️ can’t keep sitting on the sidelines. I️ had been listening to leftist podcasts like Chapo Trap House and District Sentinel, but the first post election podcast I listened to was a Delete Your Account episode with Brett Payne and Bryan Quinby from Street Fight Radio as guests. They talked about why Trump won and Hillary lost, what we have to expect in the upcoming Trump administration and what we as podcast listeners could do. Joining DSA came up as a potential option to take up the fight.

I️ had already been thinking about the Democratic Socialists of America .  I am a very active Twitter user and Emily Robinson and Larry Website were talking about how great DSA is and how its the place to be if you were a Bernie backer who wants to continue the movement. Prior to the election, when Hillary Clinton felt like an inevitability , she put together “the most progressive platform in party history” but barely gave it lip service during her campaign. I felt there’d need to be an effort to keep pressuring the Democratic establishment from the left. So, when Trump won, I knew we’d need to fight. Not just for a strong left movement in the country, but also to defend all the rights we know will be under attack under a Republican house, senate, and executive branch.

I️ waited until I️ got home from California that weekend to make it official .  I️ signed up online and became one of the thousands of DSA members to join after the election. I wrote a post on New Year’s last year that mentioned joining DSA. When I re-read that post while writing this, I can feel the anxiety I was feeling in my life, where I didn’t really know where I’d go from there. I mention DSA, but I couldn’t imagine where it would take me.

My year in DSA

How did I️ go from someone who signed up online to where I️ am today? Well, it helped that I️ had the space in my schedule to dedicate to DSA :  a flexible work situation and few out of work commitments. When our chapter needed help running and organizing meetings, I️ jumped in and helped (having experience doing so professionally was huge). When a march or an action came up, I️ could assist in turning people out.

If I️ were to identify times when I️ “leveled up” as an organizer, three occasions jump out to me. The first was volunteering to speak in January at a meeting of Rock County Progressives — a group in Janesville (Paul Ryan’s hometown) who hosts monthly meetings in their local grocery cooperative. They asked DSA to come and talk about our organization and what our take was on the current political landscape.

I️ drove down with our chapter chair and he took most of the speaking duties . He detailed our history while I️ talked about our growth since the election. As I️ began speaking I️ quickly realized that this was the first time I️ actually vocalized all the thoughts that had been in my head! I️ put my foot in my mouth more times than I️ care to admit that day. But it felt so empowering to actually talk about what’s wrong with our current political landscape.

The second was going to the People’s Summit in Chicago — a convention put on by National Nurses United, which DSA was co-sponsoring. DSA put out a call for volunteers and I️ helped put together our tabling efforts. Organizing online with fantastic DSA members across the country was so exciting, and seeing Bernie live for the first time was definitely fun.

At the convention we had a national organizer training led by a group of DSA members across the country. I was transformed . Learning from experienced organizers and different chapters on their challenges and successes helped light a fire in me and gave me the guidance on how we can keep building a movement. I still keep in touch with the members I met there, and it’s so inspiring to see them step into leadership roles in their own chapters and communities.

The third was right after the Charlottesville attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured many others. Indivisible Madison organized a vigil the next week and a few hundred showed up on the State Capitol steps. I️ had an opportunity to speak on behalf of DSA. Standing in front of everyone and making a call to action was scary, but I️ believe in my cause and I️ see the need to build a movement — one that doesn’t just fight against the problems we see today, but for a future that is built on a foundation of equity, justice, and social welfare.

The above list is not complete. I️ could name about a dozen other positive and life changing experiences I’ve had with DSA :  a sit-in at Ron Johnson’s office, the National Convention, getting my lovely partner involved in the chapter, just to name a few  . . .

What’s Next

After a year of growth and building, I️ hope to be continuing the momentum in adding new members, engaging my local chapter, and building a vibrant and effective socialism movement in the United States.

I feel like I’ve been focusing all my energy on the practice of socialism, and haven’t set aside the time to really develop strong theory. I don’t want to be one of those leftists who says, “Well, you’re not a real Marxist until you’ve read Marx!” …But on the other hand, I should probably read Marx (and the dozens of other books I’ve been recommended).

I want to be a leader, and right now I feel like the best way to approach that is to have a “stand in the kitchen” approach to organizing. If I show up for a meeting, an action, or any event, I try to find whomever’s running around doing things to ask them if there’s anything I can do to help. At first they’ll probably say they have everything under control, but in less than five minutes they almost always have something for you to do. (I learned this technique when I’d visit my parents and they were running around the kitchen.)

I’ve seen many DSA members step up and help out whenever they can, and it’s exciting seeing some organizing being built this way (for example, the Brake Light clinics). I want to continue fostering this attitude when it comes to organizing — above all, Socialism is here to help us!

Ted Glomski is an organizer with the Madison Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. Learn more about DSA at

Meet the Dane Dems

By Eric Sundquist

It may seem that for Democrats and other progressives, winning elections in Dane County is more or less a given. Not so.

In the 1990s we had a Republican Congressman, in the 2000s we had a conservative-controlled county board, and in the 2010s we had conservative-dominated councils in Verona and Sun Prairie. That’s all changed now, and while some of that progress can be chalked up to demographic evolution, that’s far from the whole story. Democrats and other progressives have worked hard, cycle after cycle, to find and train candidates, and to support them through tough campaigns.

And there’s more to do. Many town boards in the county are controlled by Republicans and, through those town boards, the influential Towns Association. The county as a whole votes blue in statewide elections, but every year there are thousands of potential Dem voters who fail to show up at the polls, making statewide victory that much harder.

In recent months, the party has enjoyed a big increase in meeting attendance and volunteering (in large part due to Trump). In fact, we just had our first contested board election in memory! The party has also been more intentional about supporting like-minded progressive organizations, including Indivisible Madison, whose leadership in resistance activities has been invaluable.

The county party needs to resist Trumpism (and Walkerism) and next year’s elections will be critical in turning back the tide. This fall, both candidates vying to take on Paul Ryan, two gubernatorial candidates, and one Supreme Court candidate have spoken at our monthly meetings. And, in January we will hear from Tim Burns, candidate for Supreme Court, and Tony Evers, candidate for governor.

We will also be making endorsements, starting with local races at our January meeting. Endorsements not only provide candidates with a stamp of approval but also help us target campaign resources.

On another front, we are working with the state party to modernize our tactics. We know that a large part of our potential electorate is young and/or mobile, people who often don’t appear on voter lists at their current addresses. We’re experimenting with new data sources that can help us reach out to these voters. The goal is increased voter turnout in the spring, when low turnout means every vote is critical, and again in the fall, when we must reclaim power at the state level.

Some other facts about the county party:

We are 100 percent volunteer-run, with an annual budget of about $20,000 from memberships and small donations.

In addition to working on elections, we have a Resolutions Committee that works on policy. Sometimes even our friendly endorsed officials need to hear from us, as they did when the county and city of Madison repeatedly fumbled efforts to open a day resource center for the homeless; today the Beacon is finally open.

Eric Sundqiust is the Vice Chair of Communications for the Democratic Party of Dane County. Learn more at

Action Alert – Protect the Dreamers

We must turn our attention now to funding the government and holding Democrats to their promise to include the DREAM Act in the funding bill.

Congress must act on funding the budget by Dec. 8th – This Friday! Democrats have promised for three months that they will use their leverage on the December spending bill to get the DREAM Act done. Now it’s time for them to deliver.

We must tell our member of congress to be dream heroes and take Indivisible’s pledge to protect dreamers! The pledge is that they will only vote for a continuing resolution if it includes the Dream Act.

There are 8,010 DACA recipients in Wisconsin alone, and each year they contribute $17,825,000 in state and local taxes. Use this link for a script specifically to contact Wisconsin MoCs.

Tell your friends to demand that their members of congress take the pledge. At, they’ll find info about their own states and phone scripts to contact their MoCs. The time to act is now!



Madison DMV Move: An Update

Back in October, I wrote about how the Madison DMV’s move to 8417 Excelsior Blvd could impact voting rights. Since then, others have been raising the issue as well.

At the October 26 meeting of the Dane County Board of Supervisors, they considered a resolution to call for suspension of the voter ID law, in light of surveys, by the Dane County Clerk and UW Madison, showing that voters had been disenfranchised by the voter ID law — whether by not having viable ID, or by thinking they didn’t have viable ID.

At the meeting, members of Indivisible Madison and the League of Women Voters spoke in favor of the resolution, and mentioned the DMV move. Al Matano, one of the county supervisors (coincidentally my own), mentioned that the issue would be brought up at the next meeting of the Transportation Planning Board, which he also chairs.

On November 15, the TPB sent a letter of complaint to the DOT, questioning the need for the move and the planned location. Rebecca Kemble, a city alder, is also working on a federal civil rights complaint about the issue.

Meanwhile, I had filed an Open Records Request, for any information the DOT had about how they selected the new location. After some initial miscommunication, on November 1, they sent me a DVD with about 200 emails and scanned documents. With some help from a member of LWV Dane County, we’ve been sorting through them, looking for what the process was, and where public transit access got lost.

Are you ready for the intricacies of state bureaucracy?

Act I: Writing the Request For Proposal

In August 2016, DOT employees put together a Request For Proposal document. It’s something that says what you’re shopping for, and how you’re going to decide what to buy. Once you publish it, it’s up to vendors to come to you, with offers that meet your criteria.

The RFP, eventually published on November 7, did list public transit accessibility as one of it’s criteria…somewhat. One of the strict criteria was “access to public modes of transportation, preferably a city or regional bus line, with stops several times a day.” Locations were also going to be given a score, in which public transit service would account for 3% of the total points. Three percent isn’t a lot, and it’s less than similar RFPs had allotted for that category.

In terms of location, the RFP requested the “West/Southwest side of City of Madison”, and included a map with a polygon roughly encompassing that area.

The draft RFP then went to Department of Administration for review. According to emails from the DOA point-person, DOT staff were resistant to the idea of including a map, and wanted to phrase the geographical requirement vaguely, so as to include areas like Fitchburg or Middleton.

DOA pressed them to include a perimeter. As of October 4, TPB provided a map showing areas with frequent bus service. The map ultimately included in the RFP mirrors the outer edges of that bus service map, but doesn’t take into account the fact that there as gaps in bus service within that perimeter.

Nevertheless, bus service was a consideration written into the Request For Proposal. In theory, if the process described in the RFP had been followed, bus service would have been a requirement for any potential location, and frequency of bus service would have been a differentiator.

Act II: The Request For Proposal Fails

According to the RFP, proposals were due on December 21, 2016. At that time, they had only received one proposal. It was from a developer offering to build a brand new building on Novation Way, at a cost that DOT didn’t consider serious.

They thought the lack of proposals was because they had been looking for a building to rent as of April 2018 (18 months out at that point). On March 14, 2017, they published a revised RFP with a move-in date of this December (9 months out). They expected responses by early May.

In May, they had gotten exactly one response, from the same developer as before.

DOA had also told them that they could skip the whole RFP process if they were looking for a space smaller than 10,000 square feet. The initial request had been for more than that, but the DOT started making compromises to figure out how they could fit into a smaller space.

On May 4, the DOT requested a waiver, and included a list of 11 properties found on a site called Loopnet, claiming that those met all DMV requirements. From a public transit perspective, some of them might have, but many did not.

DOA approved the waiver on June 1, based on the reduced square footage required. But DOA said they were also allowed to look at properties larger than 10,000 square feet. Their DOA point of contact would assemble a list of candidates using “on-line resources and personal contacts in commercial real estate.” And DOA described the RFP criteria as a “wish list” that DOT could negotiate down from.

Act III: Narrowing the Field

DOT started with that list of 11 properties and another list off Loopnet, and started narrowing it down. Somehow those 20 or so became 8, without explanation in the records provided. That excluded some buildings that have frequent bus service, like offices on Science Drive, and retail spaces on Beltline Frontage Road and on Verona Road.

The “elite eight” became the “final four,” and on June 14, a team from DOT toured those properties:

  • The Globe University building on Deming Way
  • The Excelsior Drive building
  • A building on the Zor Shrine property
  • Two strip mall units along Whitney Way (probably the former Copps and Guitar Center)

After the tour, Deming was the first choice, and Whitney and Zor were a distant third and fourth, which made Excelsior second by default.

“For most customers in these counties [western Dane, Iowa, Sauk, Columbia, Lafayette, Green], the Globe University location is closer than the current office and would be equal to or closer than the Whitney location.”

Deming Way was seen as convenient from the Beltline, and close to a bus terminus at Greenway Station. There were questions about putting the Madison West DMV in Middleton, and whether there would be enough parking once the entire Globe building was rented out. But as of June 20, DOT leadership wanted to go forward with Deming Way, and only resort to Excelsior Drive if it fell through.

A junior DOT employee did point out that the Whitney Way location was closer to the locations being replaced, and more convenient for public transportation, but was overruled, for these reasons:

  • There might not be enough parking when it’s shared with other businesses (yes, that’s the same concern they had about the Globe building).
  • The parking lot was not in great shape.
  • DOT had rented from the owner of the Whitney Way property before, and had a negative experience.
  • The area around Whitney Way was not seen as conducive to driver testing.

A side by side comparison chart of the top three options was put together, and it did reflect that Excelsior Drive had insufficient bus service. But that was not considered a disqualifier compared to these concerns about Whitney Way, nor a reason to dip back into the well.

Act IV: The Surprise Twist

Something must have fell through with the Deming Way property, sometime between June 21 and July 10. Whatever it was, it didn’t appear in the records I received. Maybe it was the Middleton address. Maybe it was the parking concerns. All I know is that by July 10, they were negotiating the lease with the owner of the Excelsior Drive property, and didn’t consider evaluating other options.

On July 14, there is record of a DOT employee proposing a publicity campaign to promote the move, since “it’s not visible from main road, it’s an area not well known.” I don’t know if that ever came together. The move was communicated to staff on August 11, and the memo included a link to a news story about it, meaning that the press knew first.


While this new DMV location may disenfranchise voters, there isn’t any indication that was anyone’s intent. But it does seem like it was never a primary concern in the first place. And when the relatively objective RFP process went out the window, it became a “wish list” item.

I wonder what would have happened if DOT had stuck to the RFP process. I wonder what would have happened if the proactively selected locations had been scored according to the RFP criteria, rather than subjectively ranked. The Excelsior Drive location was a distant second choice; I wonder how distant it would’ve had to have been, to prompt DOT to do another internet search when their first choice fell through. I wonder how often the RFP process actually works, and how often it gets waived.

Maybe there’s something our state legislators can do, to ensure that this process yields a better result next time, and make access to voting rights a primary criterion for its gatekeepers.

It sure was exciting to submit my first Open Records Request and actually get it filled! So next time you wonder about something like this, try it out. For example, who ordered and carried out the removal of climate change language from the WI DNR website? Any ordinary citizen can check how our government agencies are operating.

For members of the press or other folks interested in the full Open Records data, get in touch with me on Twitter: @IndivisibleMad

Ground Game

By Ed Heinzelman – Senior Editor at Blogging Blue

“…our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

An inspiring message from an inspiring American woman, Michelle Obama. And we’ve seen it spread across the country in memes and social media posts and speeches and blogs like this one…quoted by the entire spectrum of politicians and activists from the left…progressives, liberals and Democrats alike. But are we truly living up to the goal that we’ve set?

Over the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the Republicans in the House and Senate honed their image as the Party of No. Immediately after the election of President Trump, the first response from the left was RESIST! By no means am I suggesting that we don’t ‘resist’ the Trump agenda. It is certainly going to harm Americans no matter what the president claims his goal is. But can’t we come up with a positive response? A positive alternative? A positive policy that shows Americans how their health, wellbeing, and safety can be improved instead of individually diminished?

Yes I know the Democrats announced a “Better Deal”. A policy agenda that even the New York Times labelled an ‘anemic restatement of common themes’. It’s apparently withered on the vine since.

The Republicans have tried three times to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act since January. Fortunately a few GOP Senators had the common sense to kill the bills. But it wasn’t until the third attempt that Senator Bernie Sanders proposed his Medicare for All bill. Something he should have had in his back pocket during the primaries since it was a focal point of his campaign. I would have hoped it would have appeared first time round in full detail. Yes I understand it hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades of passing, but we aren’t looking like an opposition party with ideas. I don’t want to be the Party of New version 2.0.

Where was our fix the Affordable Care Act Bill?

And the president has left the door open to participate even if the Republicans in the Congress haven’t. So when do we see the Democratic DACA bill (although while I am putting in the final edits the president has reneged on his original agreement)? Tax Reform is hot in play, you know the biggest tax cut in history bill? Where is the Democratic alternative that will actually provide tax relief to the middle class? You know that Speaker Paul Ryan won’t allow any amendments to his bill.

Not a single person in this country will deny that infrastructure shortcomings are a primary concern. The president ran on upgrades to the infrastructure and related jobs. Where is a Democratic infrastructure program? Come up with one that is growth and remind the nation that the president hasn’t followed through.

One of the places that you would expect us to be truly positive in presenting our agenda is when we are talking to the faithful and asking for contributions. Yet the titles of these solicitations and their general content are aimed at scaring me half to death!

Medicare GUTTED! We WILL Fail. Devastating Setback. Disgusted. They stole WI for Trump! CRUSHING news! SERIOUS damage will be done, Ed!

Hey team, I am on your side. I understand the issues at hand. I understand the need for campaign contributions. I will respond but give me some hope. Give me something positive. Give me something to talk about. No more fear mongering…please.

I have talked to a number of campaign managers and they say these negative asks and scary messages are very effective. I find that rather sad. And I don’t understand why we don’t demand better from our electeds, our candidates, and the organizations that support them.

But it should be easy to provide positive substance in the age of President Trump. His agenda is constantly without specifics, without detail…a novel with chapter titles but no characters and no plot line and no story.

So here we are, the minority in Washington and Madison, out of the White House and the Governor’s Mansion. Where do we go next? The 2016 elections proved that there is a new generation of activists out there…with new ideas…with new energy. Being at the bottom of the well it certainly feels like the right time to change directions…a generational shift.

Where do we go next?

End the internecine spats between the Sanders supporters and the Clinton supporters. Find a common ground and present a unified front. That doesn’t mean giving up your ideals…it really doesn’t. There are plenty of goals that we share that make sense to work together on. Bring the others along as the party grows. The lack of GOP policy wins hasn’t been because of effective Democratic leadership. It’s because of the dysfunction in the Republican ranks. Let’s not be that either.

You can’t make change from the outside. Get involved with the local party and your local candidates. It will take a little effort (surprisingly little) to get into local parties and campaigns and have an effect. It does require some patience and hard work. But get on those committees, attend the meetings, attend the conventions, run for officer positions. If you can’t find a candidate you like, run for office. If you don’t know where to start, ask for some help.

Remember all of those people who we are told felt disenfranchised in the 2016 election cycle? We need to listen to them. What are their real concerns? Jobs? Healthcare? Family sustaining jobs? Decent wages? Clean air and clean water? Affordable education? Lower property taxes? Healthy food choices? Make these our agenda, our policy planks, our goals. Don’t let the policy wonks inside the party distract us with minutiae. And don’t assume we know the answers until we’ve actually listened to the people. We all know that grass roots works so why would we do anything else?

And let’s do what we can to get new faces in public office. What we’ve been doing the past 20 years is becoming less and less effective. It’s time to do something new and do it with new elected officials at all levels of government. The entrenched incumbents don’t know how to do things differently. Push the dinosaurs like myself out of the way (LOL)!

Look to 2020 but don’t overlook 2018 and please please don’t overlook the local odd year elections in between. They are fertile ground to develop candidates, grow experience, and build a ground game that can be scaled up.

The New Wisconsin DMV Location is a Voting Rights Issue

While this week the United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the constitutionality of our electoral maps, we can’t forget that those in power are also guilty of suppressing the right to vote. It’s another way that politicians are choosing their voters, when it ought to be the other way around.

A recently published study done in collaboration between UW Madison and the Dane County Clerk found that 11.2% of those who didn’t vote in the last election did so because of the voter ID requirement. That includes people who couldn’t get an ID in time, or thought their ID wouldn’t be valid. Extrapolating from there, voter ID suppressed over 23,000 votes in Dane and Milwaukee counties alone; the projections statewide are larger but less reliable.

Getting a Voter ID in Madison is About to Get Harder

As of August 10, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced that they’ll be moving and consolidating their Madison west side locations from Odana Road and Sheboygan Avenue to 8417 Excelsior Drive. The move is expected to happen around the beginning of December. DOT has yet to provide a public service announcement with the specifics.

Why is this a problem?

While there are other forms of state-issued photo ID that can be used for voting, most Wisconsin voters probably get theirs from the DMV, either a drivers license or other type of ID. This means the DMV now serves an important function in the democratic process.

The current locations on the west side are accessible to drivers and non-drivers alike. At Sheboygan Ave, two dozen buses pass by between 8 and 9 AM alone. Those bus routes reach everywhere from Middleton to the isthmus, the south and west transfer points, and beyond. It’s also a block from the bike trail that parallels University Ave.

The future location at 8417 Excelsior Drive is uniquely inaccessible by public transit, and isn’t located near any major bike thoroughfares either. There are only two routes that travel down that stretch of Excelsior: bus 15 runs every half hour during rush hour, and bus 68 runs once an hour all day. The 68 is the only bus that stops directly in front of 8417 Excelsior.
This means that to get to the new site via public transit in the middle of the day, here’s what you’re expected to do:

  • Get to the West Transfer Point.
  • Take bus 63, which departs once an hour.
  • Ride that bus all the way to the end, at Prairie Town Center, a strip mall out at Junction and Mineral Point.
  • Wait for the 63 bus to turn into the 68 bus, and eventually take you to the DMV.
  • Then when you leave, the 68 bus back to the West Transfer Point only comes once an hour.
  • You could easily lose half a day to (hopefully) get a card that you’ll then be able to use, on average, once or twice a year.

Aren’t we lucky to have a bus system?

We are! It enables people to live and contribute to our city without driving a car, perhaps without owning one. But this is something that has been as convenient as it could be, and now it’s going to become much harder for any non-drivers, regardless of the reason.

There are a variety of reasons someone might not drive. They may have a religious objection; they may not have the money for a car, gas, insurance, etc.; they may have impaired mobility; they may have a lost or suspended license; they may simply have a lifestyle that doesn’t require it. This location will also present difficulties for DOT staff who commute by bus, some of whom are coming from points east of Sheboygan Ave.

How did this happen?

The site selection seems to be official, but the process is completely opaque. Who made the selection? What other buildings were considered? What criteria were considered? Did DOT seek input from any city officials, or from the public? I’ve submitted an Open Records Request, and I hope to get materials that will give some view into how this decision was made.

We can all do something to help deal with the added inconvenience. Register your availability to help others get their IDs, at Call your city council representative and encourage them to direct more bus routes past the future location at 8417 Excelsior. And become informed about what other types of ID can be used, so that you can possibly save someone the trip.

Regulation and Rights

The Las Vegas shooting is at the top of tragic news this week, which effectively distracted us from the D’s continued systemic dismantling of reproductive and other human rights.  This week saw directives and legislation further restricting abortion, birth control and LGBT protections.

Is my uterus really more dangerous than an AK-47? The GOP continues to regulate and control our collective uteri with righteous and religious fervor, while staunchly defending the right for any and all Americans to amass semi-automatic weaponry; weaponry designed for purpose of killing.  What about our right to feel safe while going to a movie, going to a concert or going to school?

Posts on Social Media suggest we should store guns in our vaginas; at which time they would immediately be subject to strict regulation.  (There’s nothing the GOP hates more than an unregulated, rebel pussy.) The GOP seem to believe that while anyone and everyone is responsible enough to own an AK-47; women are not responsible enough to manage our own reproductive organs, or to bare our arms in congress.

Other social media posts suggest that prospective gun-owners should go through the same hoops that a young woman is required to endure when seeking an abortion.  Given the incidence of gun deaths in our country, if someone is truly ‘pro-life’ it seems that they would be a staunch advocate for restrictions on owning a gun.

One doesn’t have to search far to find the hypocrisy of lawmakers that deny reproductive freedoms to others while quietly paying for birth control and/or abortions to cover their own indiscretions.  Just this week, a staunch opponent of choice (I refuse to use the term ‘pro-life’ to describe this perspective), Tim Murphy was found to have encouraged his mistress to get an abortion.

Joan Chittesh, author and Catholic nun summed up the hypocrisy well:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”


This weekend, I saw The Battle of the Sexes movie–a dramatization of the real-life tennis match between self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs and tennis / feminist phenom, Billy Jean King.  The match took place in 1972, and it served as a reminder that not so long ago it was acceptable to publicly describe women as weak and inferior, and to mock female athletes.

We owe a debt to Billie Jean, and others that braved public ridicule and worse to speak up against the the blatant misogyny of the day.  While strides have been made since that time, we are currently experiencing a rolling back of hard-fought progress for women and other oppressed groups.  How will we respond?

I  hope and pray for the day that my own grand-daughters will look back at this time and be shocked by the culture of hate and divisiveness — a culture that (hopefully) contrasts with their future reality.  I hope they will be proud of how we, their parents and grandparents, responded to the current crisis of human rights.  After all, our generation of voters made this mess–we need to do our best to clean it up.

Courtesy of Paula Riesch is a member of Indivisible Madison and a frequent contributor to the IM newsletter and website.

CHIP Still at Risk

While this Republican administration Congress pull us in many different dangerous directions on a daily basis, I’m going to stick with what I know best: healthcare. As you may now, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to expire by the end of September 2017. CHIP provides federal healthcare funding for millions of low and middle-income American children, including over 180,000 in Wisconsin alone. Unfortunately, members of Congress have repeatedly provided only short-term extensions. While in the past there has been bipartisan support for CHIP, in the current political environment that may not end up being the case.

From Hurricane Harvey, to Russia, to North Korea, to our President’s approval of neo-nazis and white supremacists, the media has their hands full and I’m concerned that this lack of focus could lead to a lack of awareness.

I strongly encourage all Americans to remain active in contacting their members ofn Congress to ensure continued support for this incredibly important program. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for Congress to pass at least a 5-year funding bill for CHIP.  With recent statements from President Trump threatening to shut down the government because he cannot get funding for his wall, this becomes all that much more important. Lives are at stake if children cannot receive appropriate health insurance.  

On a positive note, it was fantastic to see a number of Senate Republicans stand up for their constituents against President Trump’s desire to take away health insurance from millions. Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John McCain (Arizona) stood against their party and their President to protect health insurance and for a time avoid forcing the dangerous collapse of ObamaCare. In addition to these individuals, red state Democrats including Senators Joe Manchin III (West Virginia), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jon Tester (Montana), Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) stood strong for their constituents against the Senate TrumpCare legislation. I hope in the future Congressional Senators and Representatives will work together to improve our healthcare system, instead of trying to make it harder for individuals to obtain health insurance based upon partisanship fights.

A Late Budget Ain’t a Polished Budget

The Wisconsin Assembly passed a budget over two months late, and the delay hasn’t made it any less of a rush job.

Fill in the Blanks

The budget restricts towns’ ability to regulate gravel mines, with stunningly sloppy language like this:

Create a provision … to prohibit a political subdivision .. from enforcing an ordinance if any of the following applies: (a) a statutory provision expressly prohibits the political subdivision from enforcing the ordinance; (b) the ordinance logically conflicts with a statutory provision; (c) the ordinance defeats the purpose of a statutory provision; or (d) the ordinance violates the spirit of a statutory provision.

Clearly, the Joint Finance Committee couldn’t be bothered to actually write out their legislation. Instead, they expect municipalities to imagine what the committee members would have written.

No Gas Tax, Just a No-Gas Tax

Rather than taxing fossil fuel consumption, which could have addressed the deficit and the environment with one stone, the committee approved a fee for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Don’t get me wrong, there will come a time when non-polluting vehicles need to support more road maintenance. Just like there will come a time when houses with solar panels will need to support the grid. But we aren’t there yet, and we need to incentivize ways that people can use less combustible fuel. Roads right now aren’t buckling under Priuses, they’re buckling under eighteen-wheelers.

Bike Paths Are Not Coming For Your Land

The budget also included prohibitions against towns seizing or condemning land to construct bike trails. Conservative groups touted this as a win for property owners.

But the property right this defends is the right to have your property depreciate. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of municipalities abusing their current options. If they did, the state could have a more direct, contiguous bike network.

For example, the trail that ought to connect Madison to Milwaukee ends abruptly a few miles short in Cottage Grove due to private property in the way. These issues sometimes get solved by routing a path the long way around, at greater expense and inconvenience to the community. Take the Oregon Rotary Trail for instance, which traces three sides of a rectangle around someone’s property.

And whatever your views are on whether cities should have the right to seize land for infrastructure projects, it’s not right to prohibit it when it comes to bike paths while still allowing it for roads. Bike paths can accommodate more people at less cost, with environmental and health benefits. And they take less of your land to build.

Tighten Your Seatbelts – September Legislative Update

If you think the ride has been bumpy so far, take a look at what’s coming up next!

Congress reconvened September 5th.and the State Legislature reconvened September 12th. The following pages detail some of the bills coming up during these floor sessions, and it’s a scary bunch. If you had to choose, what one or two issues are most important to you? What are you willing to do to work on them?


Tell Congress to table the Graham-Cassidy bill

We’ve saved the ACA from repeal and replace – or so we thought. Trump still insists on ACA repeal and replace, and this is the last proposal standing. It would take federal funds for the ACA, cut them by 15%, and hand them over to states as block grants to let state legislatures and governors decide how to use the money for healthcare. It sets an insufficient growth rate to meet future ACA costs, resulting in a 34% funding cut by 2026. It also would take current Medicaid expansion spending from the 30 states that participate in the program and divvy it up among all 50 states – a windfall for Wisconsin but at the expense of many low-income patients in other states. An actual bill for the proposal was not written until Sept. 11 and as of this writing (Sept. 13), it awaits a CBO score before the Senate can bring it to the floor for a vote. In order for the bill to qualify for budget resolution (only 50 votes in the Senate), it must pass both houses of Congress by Sept. 30. The House is scheduled for a home district work period from Sept. 15-27, leaving only three days for passage (including Friday and Saturday – days when the House almost never meets).

Tell Congress to put a stop to ACA sabotage

  •         Tell Congress to enact guaranteed CSR payments through 2018. CSRs are payments that the federal government makes to insurance companies which, in turn, are required to reduce co-pays and deductibles for low-income people. Every month since he was inaugurated, Trump has threatened to stop making these payments to force passage of ACA repeal and replace legislation. This uncertainty for insurance companies has made it extremely difficult to accurately set their prices, and has led to them either raising their prices or just leaving marketplaces altogether. Passage is required by Sept. 30 to allow insurance companies to set lower rates before ACA open enrollment in November.
  •         Tell Congress to tie the hands of HHS. Since Tom Price became Secretary of Health & Human Services he has used his administrative prerogative to create barriers to ACA enrollment. Tell Congress to tie HHS funding to its intended use.

o   Require that the ACA open enrollment period must be 92 days. Price cut it back to just 45 days.

o Require HHS to restore funding for the Navigators program which offered assistance to people trying to sign up for the ACA.

o   Tie HHS public outreach funding to supporting ACA enrollment. Price took the money intended to help people learn about and understand their ACA coverage options and used it instead to produce anti-ACA propaganda videos. Fortunately, very few people actually watched them, but Congress should forbid HHS from using them.

Tell Congress to pass bipartisan healthcare legislation through the normal legislative process

Tell Congress that any legislation which affects Americans’ healthcare must go through the regular legislative process: committee referrals, public hearings including expert witnesses, input from members of both parties, and opportunities to amend. Senate passage must require a filibuster-proof vote of 60 members. Any legislation must not result in anyone losing coverage, must not increase premiums, and must not cut Medicaid.

The Senate Health Committee held public hearings during the first two weeks of September to develop bipartisan legislation which will stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual insurance market. If Congress can act by the end of September, it would help keep insurance available at a reasonable cost during 2018.

Tell Congress to pass Tammy Baldwin’s Medicare at 55 Act

This bill provides an option for people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare. People in this age group often have more health problems and face higher health care costs but aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Not only will these individuals enjoy lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs but by removing some of the sickest people from the ACA insurance pool, it may result in lower rates for those remaining.

Tell Wisconsin state legislators to pass the BadgerCare public option

Under AB 449, Wisconsin residents and small businesses could purchase BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid plan, at full price as a “public option.” The bill is backed by Citizen Action of Wisconsin which cited a Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimate that in Dane County, a BadgerCare “buy-in” would cost adults $7,224 per year, while the lowest-cost Silver plan on would cost a 40-year-old applicant $8,350 per year in premiums and deductibles.

Fiscal Year 2018 budget and tax cuts

Tell Congress to oppose any budget resolution which allows cuts to critical programs that help families afford the basics in order to pay for tax cuts.

Once Congress passes the 2018 budget, they can use reconciliation to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations through the Senate with only 51 votes. Reconciliation requires that any legislation must not increase the deficit over the next ten years, so Congress is likely to cut critical programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and food assistance — either now or in the future – to balance the ledger. The details are appalling:

  • $1 trillion cut from Medicaid over ten years (that’s 20% of Medicaid’s budget)
  • Over $150 billion cut from SNAP (that’s 22% of SNAP’s budget)
  • Nearly $500 billion cut from Medicare—and it’s turned into a voucher system
  • $3.3 billion cut from Pell grants—and they’d be harder for students to use
  • Billions in cuts to education, the environment, housing, and worker training

The budget resolution doesn’t mean that all of these cuts would happen immediately, but it sets them up for action in another reconciliation bill that requires only 50 Senate votes. If Republican tax cuts for the wealthy are allowed to increase deficits, those deficits would give Republicans an excuse to keep cutting these critical programs in the future.

Tell Congress to oppose these tax cut proposals which benefit corporations and the rich.

  •         Reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15%. More than half the benefits from this cut would flow to the top 1 % of households.
  •         Eliminate taxes on the foreign profits of U.S. corporations, giving them a major incentive to move more jobs and profits offshore.
  •         Eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which is intended to ensure that the wealthy pay at least some taxes, no matter how many loopholes they exploit.
  •         Eliminate the estate tax which only applies to estates worth over $5.5 million. Already 99.8% of estates are exempt from the estate tax, so the Republican tax plan would only help the remaining wealthiest 0.2% of estates.
  •         Restrict itemized deductions outside of the charitable and mortgage interest deductions.
  •         Cut the top individual tax rate. Under Trump’s tax plan, the middle class would see a 1.5% tax cut—but the wealthy would get a 14.1% tax cut. The benefits would flow almost entirely to the top 1%, delivering them average annual tax cuts of more than $50,000 apiece.

Tell Congress to refuse action on any tax plan until President Trump releases his tax returns.

The American people want to fully understand how his proposed tax plan will personally benefit him and his businesses.

Hurricane relief, National Flood Insurance, and climate change

Tell Congress to provide an inclusive aid package with adequate funding to help individuals recover and to make sure that the public services communities rely on every day are rebuilt fully and promptly.

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have devastated parts of the southern United States. Congress approved $15 billion in aid, but it really is just a downpayment to meet short term needs like food, water, and shelter, as well as longer-term needs like rebuilding homes and public infrastructure that was destroyed during the storms. Disaster relief must also take into account that communities of color have been the hardest hit.

Tell Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by September 30.

Privatization would make flood insurance unaffordable to many. Members of Congress must oppose privatization of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Tell Congress to act on climate change

Hurricanes like these should convince doubters that oceans and the atmosphere are warming and that heat is propelling storms into superstorms. Yet EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says it’s insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of recovery efforts.

Tell Congress to demand EPA enforcement of current laws to preserve the environment.

When the president withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, he said he wanted to negotiate a better deal, but it’s clear that countries which support the accord will never agree to U.S. terms. It’s up to the American people to elect a different president in 2020. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats must demand that the EPA enforce current laws until those laws are changed. Lacking 60 votes in the Senate, it would be difficult for the GOP to change those laws anytime soon.


Tell Congress to save DACA

On Sept. 6, the president sent Jeff Sessions to announce the rescission of DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – in six months (March 6, 2018). DACA beneficiaries were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were age 6 or younger. The United States is the only country they have ever known. Tell your MoCs to co-sponsor the “DREAM Act” (S.1615 / H.R.3440), including Tammy Baldwin who has not signed on. It would give DACA recipients and others who arrived in the United States as children a path to permanent lawful status and eventual citizenship. The national Indivisible Project insists that the provisions of this bill be attached to any must-pass legislation. However, Congress missed the opportunity to tie it to lifting the debt ceiling. No matter how it is passed, it must not be tied to building a border wall.

Tell Congress to oppose the Muslim ban

The fate of the Muslim ban will be decided by the Supreme Court sometime this fall. Meanwhile, H.R.1503 – called the Statue of Liberty Values Act (SOLVE) – would nullify the president’s most recent (second) executive order barring refugees and people from six Muslim-majority countries and would prevent US tax dollars from funding implementation of the executive order. Mark Pocan is one of 176 cosponsors.

In the Senate, S.608 would rescind the Muslim ban, and S.549 would declare that the Muslim ban is illegal under the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) and unconstitutional for violating Establishment Clause. Like H.R.1503, it would withhold funding for implementation of the president’s order. Tammy Baldwin is a cosponsor of both bills.


Tell Congress to unite and fight privatization of infrastructure

Rather than invest directly in updating the bridges, roads, airports, water, and school systems that we all depend on, Trump’s plan would sell off America’s infrastructure to Wall Street billionaires, political cronies, and even foreign governments—allowing them to double tolls, create new fees, and put billions of our dollars in their pockets even if they don’t make a single improvement.

He’s also proposing tax breaks to further entice investors – as much as 82 cents of reimbursement for every dollar they spend on infrastructure. However, there’s no requirement that it be spent on new projects.

The package includes rollbacks of environmental protections, prioritizing pipelines over clean energy jobs; repeal of worker safety and wage protections; and failure to direct funds to disenfranchised communities—like Flint—that need it most.

Trump also refuses to invest in 21st century projects like clean-energy jobs, expanding broadband Internet, and high-speed rail.

Trump will need Democratic support to pass an infrastructure bill, especially in the Senate, where Trump needs enough Dem votes to break a filibuster, so Democrats have leverage here. Like they did to fight TrumpCare, Democrats must stay united to hold fast against this bad bill and demand real public investment to rebuild and expand our infrastructure. Few Democrats have staked out a position yet, so our first task is to ask them to endorse the principles that divide a good bill from a bad one.

Wisconsin’s call for Constitutional Convention

Tell state senators to oppose the call for a Constitutional Convention.

On June 14th, the Assembly passed a set of three resolutions which together call for a Constitutional Convention (“Article V Convention of the States”). They say it’s to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but there’s nothing to limit a convention to the balanced budget. There is the potential to take up amendments to alter or eliminate Constitutional protections for citizen rights: voting rights, civil rights, women’s rights. They could even limit or eliminate free speech, freedom of assembly, or freedom of the press. A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation’s history. It could be a very destructive and dangerous event.

It takes two-thirds of state legislatures (34) to call a Constitutional convention. Wisconsin could become number 30. The resolution now awaits scheduling for a vote in the State Senate. We must tell our State Senators to vote NO.

State abortion restrictions

Tell state legislators to oppose these restrictions on access to abortions.

Assembly Bill (AB) 206/Senate Bill (SB) 154 would block University of Wisconsin OB-GYN residents from learning to perform abortions. Passage could jeopardize accreditation of the OB/GYN residency program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, ultimately reducing the number of practicing OB/GYNs in Wisconsin.

AB 128/SB 81 would prevent the state from providing insurance plans that cover abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to preserve the life of the mother. Democrats argue that the measure is unnecessary because as it stands now, state health plans will pay for an abortion only if a doctor has determined it is medically necessary. The bill’s author said he had written the legislation because he believed that policy needs a tighter definition.

Madison State Representative Chris Taylor said the legislation would make it harder for public workers who are victims of sexual assault to get abortions. They could get their abortions covered under their health plans only if they reported their assaults to police — something many victims choose not to do.