Don’t Try To Co-opt Indivisible Movement, Fulfill It

There are two things currently happening in the world of Democratic and progressive politics, which are happening independently of each other, for the most part. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will meet to elect a new chair. Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, the progressive wave of energy and resistance to Donald Trump and his agenda shows no signs of abating. But I would extend a word of caution to whomever becomes the next D.N.C. chair: Don’t attempt to corral or co-opt the burgeoning Indivisible movement ― instead, just do your damnedest to fulfill their expectations.

Although the new movement is only one month old (like Trump’s presidency, which is no coincidence), it’s already had an impact on the national political debate. Establishment Democrats, so far, are caught between hoping the movement sustains its energy all the way to the midterm congressional elections and worrying about how to “harness” the movement for their own ends. This is the very same dilemma the Republican Party faced when the Tea Party began (although I’m not suggesting Indivisible is a complete parallel or mirror-image of the Tea Party, because it’s so early that it’s impossible to make such comparisons). But Democrats should be worrying more about living up to the movement’s goals than somehow grabbing the reins of the movement in any way.

This is a true bottom-up movement. Social media has now made it possible for such movements to exist and flourish completely independently of any political party’s direct control. That’s the beauty of it ― leaders are not required. The Women’s March on Washington which was organized by one woman posting on social media what she’d like to see happen. It snowballed from there. It wasn’t a Democratic Party initiative, it just happened.

The Indivisible movement’s name comes from a web page put together by congressional staffers ― the people who actually get most of the work done in Washington, in other words. They knew from personal experience what works to change the political landscape and what doesn’t. They shared their experience online and urged people to use the tactics that had worked in the past. But they didn’t try to “lead” their own movement in any way ― they just published a playbook and let the populace take it from there.

Liberal annoyance at the shortcomings and outright failures of Washington politicians to address the real needs of the people has always been with us in some form or another. Sometimes it is just more vocal and visible, really. Sometimes progressives mutter in their beer and sometimes they take to the streets. Sometimes it simmers on the back burner, sometimes it erupts.

The last such eruption was wildly successful at messaging, but ultimately wound up being no more than a footnote, politically. Occupy Wall Street was a bottom-up movement, and one that significantly changed the parameters of the national political debate. The idea of the “one percent versus the 99 percent” was their doing. We would likely not be talking so much about income equality if Occupy never happened, to put it another way.

But in terms of political results, it fell far short. There were never “Occupy candidates” or even “Occupy Democrats” or indeed anything of the like. The Occupy movement had a number of fatal flaws, really. The first was the timing ― you just don’t begin an outdoor long-term protest movement right as winter is setting in. The weather will do more to defeat such a movement than its opponents. The second was its governing methodology. Occupiers may even dispute that there was any sort of governing methodology, but when defined as “self-governing” there was ― and it set its own bars way too high to ever get anything accomplished. Their “general assemblies” were run on the notion that an incredible 90 percent of them had to all agree on anything for it to be an official movement goal. That is a recipe for gridlock, to put it mildly (just look what the filibuster threshold of 60 percent does to the Senate, if you don’t believe this). In the end, the movement couldn’t ever agree on much of anything, except endless navel-gazing and constructing their castle-in-the-air of the perfect world they would (eventually) demand be built. The weather, the organizational dysfunction, and the cops and mayors (who finally got tired of it all) ended Occupy with a whimper.

I don’t mean to belittle the effort. Their strategy was noble, but their tactics left a lot to be desired, that’s all. But the Indivisible movement seems oriented towards much more practical avenues for change. After all, it was started by lower-level Washington insiders, who merely tossed a playbook for action out there to see what would happen.

What has so far been happening is encouraging. People are flocking to the streets to let their voices be heard in the era of Trump. People are showing up at town halls ― even in deep red districts and states ― to give their elected representatives an earful. Regular people are considering running for office who had never before entertained such an idea. Some Democratic politicians are already beginning to understand the fear of “getting primaried” (which, so far, has been almost exclusively a fear of Republican officeholders). People who have never engaged in politics before are even flooding in to local Democratic Party meetings, to see what can be done to accomplish change.

The Occupy movement strenuously insisted that it didn’t have “leaders.” Neither, really, does the Indivisible movement. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren certainly inspire the movement, but they’re not truly leading it. But that didn’t stop the Tea Party from becoming a force in Republican politics. Who, after all, could be said to be the “leader” of the Tea Party? It also has some favorites who inspire it (Ted Cruz, Dave Brat, etc.), but it still resembles more of an unruly mob than what would traditionally be referred to as a congressional “bloc” of votes.

Because of its leaderless nature, the temptation already exists for Democratic politicians who are salivating over the prospect of somehow “capturing” all those incredibly-energized voters out there in the streets. But the nature of such social media movements is that they will not be led around by the nose. How do you “capture” a herd of cats? Each individual is out there protesting for their own reasons ― not some position paper or slogan dreamed up by the Democratic National Committee, after all. They’re going to be impossible to capture, co-opt, or even corral by any top-down organization, that’s my best guess.

Which leaves only one effective tactical option for the incoming D.N.C. chair ― don’t worry so much about controlling or directing the movement’s energy, instead aim for fulfilling its goals on your own. At the best, you can hope to be elevated to the ranks of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ― solid inspirations for the movement, who don’t attempt to direct it from above.

What the protesters want is obvious ― all you have to do is listen to them. They want Obamacare defended and protected. They want women’s health rights to likewise be defended and protected. They want politicians to stand up for people’s rights, including minorities of all types. They want more attention paid to Main Street than Wall Street. They want economic justice. Most of what they stand for almost completely overlaps the Democratic agenda (at least, the one Bernie Sanders was able to write into the last party platform), so there really shouldn’t be a lot of ideological angst for Democrat politicians to join the movement wholeheartedly.

But that verb is important. Democratic politicians ― from the local city councilman up to the D.N.C. chair (whomever that happens to be, next week) ― should seek to join the movement that is already underway. Democratic politicians facing a primary challenge from the movement should really examine their own votes and positions to see why so many constituents are so angry with them. Smart Democratic politicians will show up at the rallies and protests to make their own case directly to the people. In doing so, they should try to live up to the crowd’s goals in order to get their support, with a message that speaks directly to each protester. This can either be a full-throated: “I’m one of you!” or perhaps just: “Here’s where I agree with you, here’s where I disagree” ― whatever level of support the politician is comfortable with. But that’s really as far as any Democratic politician should go, because any attempt to redirect the movement into nothing more than a fundraising arm of the Democratic National Committee is very likely doomed to fail.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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Trump Is Right On Palestine: A Two-State Solution Is No Longer Viable

Just because Trump said it doesn’t mean it has to be wrong.

During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly stated that he could support a divergence from a two-state solution in Palestine. He is the first United States president in recent memory to question that sacred article of U.S.-Middle East policy. But while the announcement came as a shock to many, indeed, a serious rethink is long overdue in recognizing the defunct “two-state scheme.” 

Many honorable people have dedicated the bulk of their professional lives to the tedious minutiae and sad diplomatic history of the Palestinian-Israeli morass. Sadly, none of those efforts have brought any resolution whatsoever to a gangrenous issue ― in many respects one of the major roots of so many of the Middle East’s contemporary ills.

The trouble is that, apart from a few dedicated diplomats and scholars who had hopes of one day truly accomplishing something, the two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud. Yes, a few wiser Israeli leaders in the past just possibly might have believed in that ideal, but for decades now the “two-state scheme” has simply been cynically exploited by newer Israeli leaders, especially by Bibi Netanyahu ― one of the longer-serving and most right-wing prime ministers in Israel’s history.

The two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud.

Netanyahu has been backed by a formidable and wealthy pro-Zionist cheering section in the U.S. The goal is to conceal their true agenda ― the ultimate Israeli annexation of all of Palestine. They themselves as hard-line Zionists have been subtly but systematically torpedoing the two-state solution behind the scenes to that end.

None of my observations here on the hoax of the two-state solution are new or original. Many liberal Israeli observers I met while working in the region have been stating the self-evident for years now. But those voices never get heard in the U.S. where it constitutes an unmentionable. But there should be no doubt: the concept of a “two-state solution” ― a Palestinian and an Israeli state sharing historical Palestine and living side by side in sovereignty and dignity ― is dead. It is almost inconceivable that it can now ever be resuscitated: nearly all the operative forces within Israel are systematically working to prevent it from ever coming about.

The harsh reality is that Israel, through a relentless process of “creating facts on the ground,” is now decades deep into the process of taking over illegally, step-by-step, the totality of Palestine. Israel has scant regard for any international law in this respect, and never has had any. Washington, apart from a few periodic pathetic bleats, has ended up functionally supporting this cynical scheme all the way, perhaps unwilling to confront the painful reality of what is really taking place, along with its dangerous political repercussions at home.

Israel is extending day by day its control ― indeed ownership ― of Palestinian lands through expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and the dispossession of the rightful owners of these Palestinian lands. Put simply, there is little left of Palestinian land out of which ever to fashion a “two-state solution.”

That leaves us with only one alternative: the “one-state solution.” Indeed, Israel’s actions have already created the preconditions that make the one-state solution an unacknowledged but virtual fait accompli.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving “the peace process” for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover by hard-line Zionists for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The sooner we all acknowledge this ugly reality, the better. That will then require Israel, the Palestinians and the world to get on with dealing with the complex challenge of crafting the binational state ― the one-state solution.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving ‘the peace process’ for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands.

The calculations of some hard-line Zionists ― who are now largely in control of Israeli state mechanisms ― are often unyielding. After years on the ground, I’ve found that the rationale is more evident with each passing year. It goes something like this:

1) Israel should functionally take over all of Palestinian territory and permit full Jewish settlement therein.

2) Israel should still play the “two-state solution” game with visiting foreign diplomats to reduce pressure on Israel, to play for time while it quietly establishes the irreversible facts on the ground that shut out any possible viable Palestinian state.

3) Make life harsh enough for Palestinians that, bit by bit, they will grow bitter and weary, give up and go elsewhere, leaving all the land for Zionist settlers.

4) If Palestinians stubbornly resist, predictable periodic military and security crises in Palestine over the longer run will enable Israel to rid Palestine of all Palestinians ― a gradual process of ethnic cleansing (or restoration of the situation that God wills as they would refer to it) that returns all the land promised by God to the Jews. 

Some liberal Israelis actually do accept the idea of a one-state solution in their own liberal vision of a future Israel ― one in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal citizens in a secular, democratic, binational, multicultural state enjoying equal rights, rather than the increasingly religiously dominated state that it is. And the liberal ideal makes sense: the country is already well on the way to becoming bilingual ― and Hebrew and Arabic are closely-related languages. Both are Semitic peoples with ancient ties to the same land.

The problem is, ardent Zionists don’t want a binational Palestinian-Jewish state. They want a “Jewish state” and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term “Jewish state” strikingly discordant? Who speaks of an “English” or “French” state? The world would freak out if tomorrow Berlin started calling itself “the German State.” Or Spain a “Christian state.” So what do we make of a state that is dedicated solely to Jews and Judaism? Such concepts are remnants of 19th century movements that promoted the creation of ethnically and/or religiously pure states. Modern states no longer define themselves on either an ethnic or religious basis. Indeed it was precisely that kind of ugly religious and ethnic nationalism that caused Jews to flee from Eastern Europe in the first place to find their own homeland.

The true historical task of Israel, with the support of the world, is now to begin the challenging work of introducing the range of major reforms that will transform Israel into just such a multi-ethnic and bilingual state of equal citizens enjoying equal rights under secular law. It is not a question of “allowing Palestinians” into Israel, they are already there and have been for millennia, initially in far greater numbers than Jews. Palestinians now seek full legal equality of treatment under secular law in Israel.

So let’s acknowledge the useful truth that Trump has blundered onto. Let’s abandon the naive and cynical rhetoric about the “two-state solution” that will never come about ― in any just and acceptable form. Half of Israel never believed in it in the first place. It has served only as a facade for building an “apartheid Jewish state” ― a term used frequently by some liberal Israeli commentators I have encountered. 

[Ardent Zionists] want a ‘Jewish state’ and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term ‘Jewish state’ strikingly discordant?

Netanyahu and the right-wing Zionists clearly want all of Palestine. But they’re not ready yet to admit it. They want all the land, but without any of its people. But despite Zionist hopes, the Palestinians aren’t going to abandon their lands. And so the logical outcome of Israel’s takeover of all of Palestine leads by definition to an ultimate single, binational state.

The challenge to Israelis and Palestinians is huge. It entails a deep Palestinian rethink of their options and their future destiny in a new order, and the need to fight for those democratic rights in a binational state. It involves Israeli evolution away from “God-given rights” in a state solely for Jews and Judaism that can only be forever oppressive and undemocratic as it now stands. The process will be a slow and difficult one. But it also represents an evolution consonant with emerging contemporary global values.

We expect a democratic multicultural state from Germany and France, or from Britain, Canada and the United States ― why not from Israel?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official and author of numerous books on the Muslim world. His latest book is “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan.” A version of this piece first appeared on

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Chairing The DNC: A Multimillion-Dollar Election

by Niv Sultan

There’s a packed field in the race to chair the Democratic National Committee, whose 447 members will elect their new leader on Saturday. Rep. Keith Ellison and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez lead the nine candidates who remain in the contest — a relatively diverse bunch hailing from around the country and from various levels of government. A third hopeful, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., has collected some noteworthy endorsements and become the race’s potential dark horse.

The candidates’ platforms, views and credentials are easily accessible. Less visible are their fundraising vehicles. Yes, as with any campaign, running for DNC chair costs money.

Keith Ellison, Minnesota congressman

On his campaign website, Ellison touts his status as a “proven fundraiser,” and he has backed up that claim in pursuit of his goal. An Ellison spokesperson told OpenSecrets Blog that the campaign was raising money through three accounts: Ellison for Congress, Ellison’s federal campaign committee; Everybody Counts Everybody Matters PAC, Ellison’s federal leadership PAC; and Keith for DNC, a joint fundraising mechanism. The joint committee allows contributors to write a single check and have their gift split between the lawmaker’s campaign committee and leadership PAC.

Standard FEC contribution limits apply here: Ellison’s campaign committee can accept up to $2,700 per individual donor, and Everybody Counts Everybody Matters PAC can receive up to $5,000 per individual donor per year.

At the end of 2016, Ellison’s campaign account had almost $490,000 in remaining cash on hand, and his leadership PAC had about $18,000, funds he is allowed to use for his bid to chair the party’s main committee. An Ellison spokesman said the candidate had raised upwards of $1 million in addition to that for the DNC race.

According to the spokesperson, the money has been used for travel to meet with DNC members, for staff salaries and for digital advertising. The campaign has also connected with DNC voters mostly through one-on-on phone calls. Among Ellison’s most prominent backers: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, also endorsed Ellison — as did the United Steelworkers and the Communications Workers of America, each of which gave Ellison $10,000 in the 2016 election cycle through their PACs.

On Feb. 18, DNC chair candidate Ray Buckley (who is the New Hampshire Democratic party chair) dropped out of the race and endorsed Ellison.

Tom Perez, former secretary of labor

Ellison’s most prominent competitor, Tom Perez, was secretary of labor under former President Barack Obama from 2013-2017. His campaign raises funds through Team Tom, a 527 organization. In fact, six of the nine current candidates use 527 groups for their campaigns; they don’t have campaign committees because they have never run for federal office. 527s report contributions and expenditures to the IRS. One advantage? There are no limits on the sizes of the contributions they can receive.

Xochitl Hinojosa, a Perez spokesperson, said in an email that Team Tom has raised about $1 million, much like Ellison’s campaign, and that the money has been used for staff, travel, literature, a website and digital ads. Perez raised the money with self-imposed restrictions in place: His campaign has not accepted contributions from federal lobbyists or corporations, and he has capped individual donations at $33,400.

The period from Dec. 12-31, which Team Tom’s year-end report covers, didn’t bring any donations of that size — but there were two gifts of $20,000 each from Stephen Cloobeck, founder and chairman of Diamond Resorts International and a prolific donor to the Democratic party, and Hasmit Popat, founder and CEO of Hascor International Group, a metals and minerals firm based in Perez’ home state of Texas.

Perez, according to Hinojosa, has called DNC members daily, and the campaign has overseen “one-on-one engagement through staff and surrogates.” Endorsements have come from former Vice President Joe Biden, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and BOLD PAC, which is affiliated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Ellison declared his candidacy a month before Perez did, which may have affected endorsements.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Many view the DNC chair race as a contest between Ellison and Perez, but Buttigieg has collected a fair share of impressive endorsements. Former Democratic Govs. Ed Rendell (Pa.), Martin O’Malley (Md.), Ted Strickland (Ohio) and Howard Dean (Vt.) have all backed the mayor. And given the 2016 presidential election, far more surprising things have happened.

Buttigieg, like Perez, has never run for federal office; so his campaign has raised funds through Pete for DNC, a 527.

His press contact did not respond to further questions about Buttigieg’s fundraising and spending.

The other candidates and their fundraising organizations are as follows:

Jehmu Greene: Jehmu for DNC (527) Jaime Harrison: Jaime for DNC Chair (527) Sally Boynton Brown: We the DNC (527) Sam Ronan: The Average Joe’s Initiative (campaign committee; Ronan unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016) Peter Peckarsky (self-funded)

We weren’t able to obtain fundraising information for candidate Robert Vinson Brannum.

The Republican National Committee recently selected a chair to replace Reince Priebus, now White House chief of staff, through a much simpler process. President Donald Trump recommended Ronna Romney McDaniel for the post in December 2016, and the 168-person RNC elected her last month.

Presidents traditionally appoint the leaders of their party committees; Obama, for instance, selected former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2011. It’s when a party does not control the White House that elections such as the DNC’s occur — like in 2011, during Obama’s presidency, when Priebus defeated incumbent chair Michael Steele and other candidates.

Michael K. Fauntroy, associate professor of political science at Howard University, explained that “electing a party chair is one of the spoils that goes with the position of president.” He went on to say that although the DNC race has been a high-profile one, it has not necessarily been out-of-the-norm.

“The out of power party always has contentious races. The difference this time is there is much more attention paid to the race, and with that attention comes extra money,” he said.

Regardless of who wins, attention and money have abounded — that much is undeniable.

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Milo Yiannopolous: A Post-Mortem

Milo was always dispensable.

He wasn’t the business end of things. He wasn’t going to wind up in the White House, like his old Breitbart boss, Steve Bannon. In the alt-right eco-system he was useful, but not essential. Provocateurs like Milo did important work—outraging the normies and exposing the cuckservatives. Milo was good at it, uninhibited like a Sasha Baron Cohen of the right. And he had that weird pedigree that totally disoriented his critics: Greek, British, gay, entitled, and a touch Jewish.

But still he was fiddling around at the alt-right’s children’s table.

The serious work of the alt-right is ideological. It’s the work that’s brought the likes of Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton into Bannon’s White House. Ideologically, it’s a point of view, radical nationalism, that utterly rejects the conventional bases of American politics as it has been practiced for decades. It’s a point of view that has lived at the margins of American politics. Until this year. Until Donald Trump based his presidential campaign on the scapegoating of Mexicans and then Muslims.

Nationalism is the most elastic of political doctrines. The alt-right embraces the most virulent of American racists and anti-Semites, the likes of the neo-Nazi Stormfront, or contemporary versions of the KKK. But white supremacy, white nationalism and what alt-right founder Richard Spencer calls “white identity politics” blend into what Bannon, the movement’s most acceptable face, calls “populist nationalism.” The racist overtones remain: the Others, sometimes domestic, sometimes foreign trading partners, are responsible for the “carnage” of American life. A decadent establishment, indistinguishably both Democratic and Republican, has proved itself too weak to stand up for “traditional Western values” in the face of the onslaught by the Others.

The alt-right is a product of the Internet age. It coalesced like an online affinity group. But a good deal of the alt-right was not particularly ideological. It was youthful and edgy. It was the alt-right of Pepe the Frog. It was the alt-right of what used to be called alienated young men. It was the alt-right of online trolling and planting fake news stories and watching them move into and befuddle the mainstream. It was the alt-right that wished to outrage proper opinion. It was, often, fun.

This was Milo’s remit. It was important work, and he was its outstanding practitioner. Not only did Milo provoke the normies, he mobilized the alienated. His was emotional work. He turned resentment of the Establishment into contempt for the Establishment.

And this work had a vital connection to the alt-right’s ideological project. As Donald Trump the candidate never tired of repeating, “[T]he big problem this country has is being politically correct.” Political correctness was insidious, in this view. It was the Establishment revealing its weakness and its decadence in its own words. Testifying to it. It was the establishment not merely failing to stand up for “traditional values,” it was them undermining those values. The Others, the enemies, could smell the weakness. It smelled of inexorable decline.

Political correctness had two major tributaries. One was multiculturalism. In terms of immigration, this was inviting in the enemy. And the enemy was nowhere as naïve as the multiculturalists. The Mexicans weren’t merely not assimilating; they had plans to take over the whole of the Southwest. The Muslims were bringing Sharia law. Multiculturalism is destruction from within. It is cultural Marxism.

Milo was a bit of a renegade in terms of multiculturalism, cavorting as he did indiscriminately.

His specialty was the other major tributary of political correctness, feminism. Milo loved nothing better than to expound on his extended metaphor, “Feminism is Cancer.” America and the West too weak to stand up for its traditional values? It’s because their men have become weak. Cowed by feminism. In this thinking, multiculturalism and feminism—identity politics—have combined to single out white men as the problem. The alt-right, and Trump, is their revenge: You want identity politics? We’ll give you the identity politics of the white men you’ve been trashing all these years.

The alt-right will miss Milo as a provocateur against feminism. But there will be no shortage of others to take his place. It is a field with many practitioners.

Milo was always dispensable.

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Build Lasting Progressive Change. Elect Keith Ellison Chair Of The DNC.

In this perilous and challenging new era, Democratic Party officials are scrambling to catch up with the progressive grassroots resistance and demands for real change. Activists, organizers, and engaged citizens across the country have been channeling major dam-bursting energy and creativity into opposing the Republicans’ cruel agenda, and have already racked up some initial successes.

That’s what makes Saturday’s election for the chair of the Democratic National Committee so critical. There’s only one candidate who’s been ahead of the political curve and is best positioned to turn this unprecedented, people-powered momentum into electoral victories for Democrats across the country: Keith Ellison.

New Hampshire State Party Chair Ray Buckley, a leading contender for DNC chair, added new vitality to Ellison’s bid when he recently dropped out of the race to endorse him. Buckley highlighted “Keith’s commitment to the states and a transparent and accountable DNC,” and his ability to “successfully unite and grow our party.” But he concluded his endorsement of Keith with the most crucial point of all: “we need an organizer who has won elections.”

Given the day-to-day organizing, coordinating and outreach needed to be a successful DNC chair, Keith’s record in Minnesota is instructive. Within his congressional district, Keith’s team has led massive door-knocking campaigns—not during election seasons but during off years—to generate thousands of face-to-face conversations with constituents that show, in Keith’s words, that “we don’t just care about you when we want your vote. We care about you and want to have an ongoing, durable relationship with you.”

Building the nuts and bolts of small-d democracy—through pizza parties, coffee klatches, and Labor Day picnics—“isn’t just about winning elections,” he adds. “It’s about building community. It’s a way for neighbors to talk about stuff, when neighbors don’t usually talk.” Keith is that rare policymaker who’s just as comfortable developing bottom-up political culture at a picket line, a public school, or a VFW hall as he is advancing legislation.

Why does this matter for the Democratic Party’s progressive future? Ellison’s grassroots organizing brings his constituents together, and the ideas and concerns that they co-develop through that process rise to the top of his own policy agenda. That’s the foundation of the political force he has built, which has amassed stunning electoral victories. By raising the number of people who voted for him from 150,000 to 250,000, Keith helped create a Democratic political firewall that has prevented any statewide Republican from taking office in Minnesota in recent years. 

This commitment to the interplay between grassroots organizing, good policy, and electoral victories—Ellison believes “you need all three” for real political change—gives him the foresight and public service commitment that so many of his peers in the Beltway have lacked. Famously, while most pundits were laughing off Trump’s candidacy, Keith was trying to warn people to take the threat seriously, astutely recognizing Trump’s momentum.

And while Keith was a strong, early backer of President Obama in 2008 and 2012, he took a principled stance against the Trans Pacific Partnership, a pro-corporate trade deal that may have inadvertently cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. As Bernie Sanders’s appointee to the DNC’s platform drafting committee, Keith fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to enshrine opposition to the TPP in the party’s agenda, knowing how important the issue was to working people’s concerns and the turnout that Democrats needed.

As it turned out, Trump’s margin of victory in the election-deciding states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania was far less than the number of workers in each state whom the U.S. government had certified as having lost their jobs due to trade.

The reasons behind Ellison’s political success and prescience is simple: “I don’t care about odds,” he said. “I care about what’s right and what’s wrong.” Anyone who was involved in the struggle against South African apartheid—as Keith and I were—can attest to the power of this course of action. At a moment when so many voters have expressed their disapproval with a political establishment that they don’t trust, it is time to allow Keith’s refreshing principles help rejuvenate the entire party.

For decades, I have been fighting for workers internationally, and over the past four years, alongside the United Auto Workers in America’s Deep South. We’re standing with ordinary people who want good wages, workplace safety and the right to organize the local Nissan auto plant in the majority-black town of Canton, Mississippi. It’s these folks, in the crosshairs of the Republican agenda, who are on Keith’s mind and policy agenda every day. Keith’s diverse background as a Black Muslim Midwesterner, combined with a lifelong commitment to dignified livelihoods for all, will contribute to a DNC that can empower Canton’s multiracial rank-and-file workers.

Ellison’s vision for a Democratic Party is the only tried-and-true approach to building lasting progressive change—there are no shortcuts. Only a genuine dedication to building a fair economy will galvanize the Democratic Party’s grassroots and bring together millennials, blue-collar workers, and people of color, drawing many millions more into the political process.

Keith “was born to organize,” explained civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis. “We need his leadership. We need his vision. We need his commitment and his dedication now more than ever before.”

In order for Democrats to succeed in taking on Republicans and their destructive agenda at the local, state and national levels, we need fresh and energetic leadership with a deep connection to the grassroots. In short, the DNC needs Keith Ellison.

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How Republicans Divided and Conquered Wisconsin

Six years ago on a cold February day, I created a protest sign, my first ever, hastily scribbling the words “Member of the Union of Human Beings. I Stand With Wisconsin Workers.” Although never a union member myself, I reacted with moral indignation when newly elected Governor Scott Walker attacked the collective bargaining rights of our public workers. I joined tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who spontaneously gathered at the Capitol, all of us blindsided by Walker’s unexpected action.

Governor Walker woke me up—and I can honestly thank him for that. I had spent my life blissfully ignorant of the ways in which local, state, and congressional elections affect me. Now I know our democracy is fragile and demands close attention and good citizenship from each of us.

Standing side by side with my fellow citizens during weeks of peaceful protest, I experienced a powerful sense of solidarity. Hardy Wisconsinites marched through snow with temperatures hovering in the teens, more than a hundred thousand of us some days. Farmers joined us, driving their tractors. By showing up in large numbers we hoped to thwart the extreme right wing agenda that our Republican Legislature and Governor were pushing forward with lightning speed.

Unfortunately our historic protests did nothing to influence the actions of the Republican majority. Their obvious disdain for our concerns motivated thousands of us to pour our energy and indignation into recall elections. Along with many of my fellow citizens, I hoped the recall of Governor Walker and six Republican Senators would restore the balance of power and bring moderation to our state government. Yet all of our energy and millions of dollars did not succeed in achieving our goals. The end result is a bitterly divided state that leans even further to the right.

If it was the governor’s plan to divide us, he has been wildly successful. Wisconsin billionaire business owner Diane Hendricks has donated millions of dollars to Walker campaigns, and in 2011 she privately asked him when he would crush private sector unions. Walker replied that his “first step” would be “to divide and conquer” through first curtailing collective bargaining for public employee unions.

As a matter of fact, Republicans have expertly divided and conquered Wisconsin, winning rural votes by encouraging resentment of public workers who were paid higher salaries. Local teachers were targeted for punishment, yet local economies that rely on teachers’ spending were also punished when Republicans slashed state employee take home pay by eight percent. Even worse, it has become increasingly difficult to attract good teachers to rural schools. Republican economic polices have failed to move those communities forward, yet apparently most rural voters either don’t know or don’t care.

Since I pay very close attention, I am fully aware of the damage done by Wisconsin Republicans. I have watched them rewrite the rules of government in order to expand their majorities and ram through their agenda. They restricted voting and gerrymandered so severely that their actions have been ruled unconstitutional. They filled the Wisconsin Supreme Court with judges that do their bidding and have removed restraints to dark money in campaigns. They secretly tried, and thankfully failed, to eviscerate our open records laws. They scuttled our civil service system and our non-partisan Government Accountability Board, both national models for honest and effective government. Though they have held absolute power for six years, they continue to defy long held norms of open and accountable government in order to gain even more power.

Wisconsinites are honest and good people, but so far the majority of voters have richly rewarded Republicans for their abuse of power. “How can our neighbors do that?” the rest of us ask ourselves every day. Are these low information voters? Or is it polarization that blinds them to reality?

Politicians benefit from pitting “us” against “them”, rural versus urban, union versus non-union, Republicans versus Democrats—but ordinary people would do better if we collaborated. We aren’t that different from our neighbors who happen to vote differently. Individuals are much more nuanced than the platforms of the two major parties. If we choose to, we can focus on our many areas of agreement and work together for the common good, regardless of party affiliation.

Why not join hands with someone who shares your concern for healthcare, infrastructure jobs, ethics, voting rights, public education, or clean water? It’s time to stop fighting each other and fight together for what is important to all Americans. Visit a Congressional town hall together and call on your lawmakers together—then have a beer together.

The day after President Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March drew 75,000 people to Wisconsin’s Capitol Square. I joined them and shared their passion, but I am wary. I’ve seen this before and fear repeating nationally what went wrong in Wisconsin. The path that begins with protest must lead us to constructive conversation with fellow citizens who share our concerns.

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News Roundup for February 22, 2017

We don’t even know what to say anymore.

1. Trump administration says mass deportations are not the goal. Which doesn’t really align with the all the available evidence. More here.

2. Muslim activists raised over $70,000 to help a vandalized Jewish cemetery in Missouri. This is what solidarity looks like people. More here.

3. Federal judge ruled that Texas can’t stop Medicaid dollars going to Planned Parenthood. Finally something awesome is happening in Texas. More here.

4. The legalization of gay marriage has been linked to drop in suicide rates. It’s almost as if institutionalized compassion goes a long way… More here.

5. Amnesty International is very critical of President Trump in their annual report. Don’t worry they criticize former President Obama too. More here.

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Psychedelics May Help Reduce Opioid Addiction, According To New Study

The criminalization of people who use psychedelics is rooted in myths that are the vestiges of colonialism and the drug war – and, one by one, those myths are crumbling down.

We’ve learned in recent years that people who use psychedelics are significantly *less* likely to end up developing mental health problems, perpetrating domestic violence, or suffering from psychological distress and suicidal thinking.

Meanwhile, recent research has shown that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for people struggling with difficult-to-treat conditions such as substance use disorders. Not much has been known, though, about the connection between psychedelic use and substance misuse in the general population.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology has found that experiences with psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are associated with decreased risk of opioid abuse and dependence among respondents with a history of illegal opioid use. Psychedelic use is associated with 27 percent reduced risk of past-year opioid dependence and 40 percent reduced risk of past-year opioid abuse.  Other than marijuana use, which was associated with 55 percent reduced risk of past-year opioid abuse, no other illegal drug was associated with reduced risk of past-year opioid dependence or abuse.

The study is based on six years of data from the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which surveys 70,000 people each year.  While the findings are far from causal, the authors conclude that the associations between psychedelic use and opioid misuse are “pervasive and significant” and “suggest that psychedelics are associated with positive psychological characteristics and are consistent with prior reports suggesting efficacy in treatment of substance use disorders.”

Although more research is needed to determine exactly why there’s such a strong correlation between psychedelic use and decreased risk of opioid misuse, this study does appear to validate the experiences of many people who have found substances like ibogaine, marijuana or kratom to be life-changing tools that have helped them lead happier, more fulfilling lives. For many, these substances have helped them cut back or quit their use of opioids or other substances with which they’ve had a problematic relationship. Safe access to these substances – along with 911 Good Samaritan laws, naloxone access programs, supervised injection facilities, various forms of maintenance therapy, and, of course, ending the criminalization of drug use – should be part of the discussion when it comes to dealing with addiction and skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths.

And let’s not forget our commander-in-chief is ramping up the drug war and thinks he can deal with opioid addiction by building a giant wall and deporting millions of people, both documented and undocumented.  Let’s remember, too, that thousands of people are getting handcuffed, arrested, branded as criminals, and serving time behind bars every year simply for using or possessing a psychedelic substance in the U.S. – and these people are more likely to be young, non-white, and socioeconomically marginalized than most people who use psychedelics.

While psychedelic-assisted therapy could be approved by the FDA in the next decade, that would do nothing to change the criminal penalties faced by millions of people who use psychedelics outside of government-sanctioned, medically-supervised settings. That’s why it’s incumbent upon people who care about psychedelics to advocate for reducing the criminalization of people who use them outside of medical contexts, while also advocating for psychedelic-assisted therapy research.

Given the widespread scientific consensus that drug use and addiction are best treated as health issues, there’s no good reason for people who use psychedelics to be treated as criminals – especially considering how much we already know about prohibition’s discriminatory impact on people of color and other marginalized groups.

This study also forces us to reflect on why abstinence-only policies can be so harmful and counterproductive.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, federal government data has consistently shown that the vast majority of people who use opioids, including heroin, don’t end up developing an addiction. So our focus should be not just on preventing people from using opioids – after all, they can be essential medical tools – but also ensuring, above all else, that people who use them don’t go on to struggle with addiction.

A truly health-centered approach to drug addiction assesses improvement by many measures, not simply by someone’s drug use level, but also by their overall health, their social relationships, and their general well-being.  Determining success by boiling it down to the single measure of abstinence to an arbitrary group of certain drugs isn’t realistic or effective.

Addiction is a complex phenomenon, but I think it’s safe to say that it can only be genuinely resolved when people find meaning in their lives.  This study is yet another indication that the meaning people seem to find from psychedelics has considerable implications for our prevailing healthcare and criminal justice paradigms.

Jag Davies is the director of communications strategy for the Drug Policy Alliance. This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

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I Had An Abortion Because I Love My Son

This piece by Raina J. Johnson originally appeared on The Establishment, an independent multimedia site founded and run by women.

When I became pregnant with my son, I was a 24-year-old sixth-year senior studying English, with no real prospects for a stable post-graduation life. It was a scary time in my life, even though it was also joyous, and it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was really having a baby. Even so, I never reconsidered or regretted my choice.

He was born two weeks before my winter final exams. With the support of my professors, I completed those exams from home, where I was recovering from having an emergency cesarean and figuring out how to breastfeed. I knew that being a brand-new mom with an 18-credit course load would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done, and it was. But I still chose to return to school in January to successfully finish my final semester of undergraduate studies.

Compared to that decision, the choice to have an abortion six months later was relatively easy.

Though we rarely talk about it, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 60% of women who seek an abortion already have at least one child. In my case, I knew that an abortion was the only responsible decision. By this time, I was done with college, but my time and finances were already strained, and adding another child to the mix would only complicate things even further. I didn’t have the tools or resources to devote to two children who would’ve been very close in age. My abortion allowed me to be the best mom I could be for the son I already had.

Being a decent parent takes hard work and a lot of energy. Some folks might have more tools, resources, and energy to give to multiple children. But I don’t, or at least I didn’t at the time. Acknowledging that fact about myself allowed me to make what was ultimately the best decision for my family.

You won’t hear my story from abortion opponents. What you will hear instead is that poor, minority, uneducated women seek abortions because they are “irresponsible” and “unfit” to parent. You’ll hear that women who seek abortions are incapable of or uninterested in the responsibility of caring for a child. But if 6 in 10 women who have abortions are already mothers, we need to recognize that for many women, the choice to have an abortion is a responsible parenting decision.

Choosing motherhood and choosing to have an abortion are two very deeply personal decisions. Having done both, I can tell you that they invite a similar set of questions: What can I afford? What can my career and lifestyle bear? How will this affect what I want to do next? Even now, having a school-aged child, those questions about circumstances still remain. In all cases  ―  when I chose to have my abortion, when I chose to have my son, and now, as I make choices in raising him  ―  I’m asking myself what’s realistic and what’s responsible, and doing the best I can.

Sometimes it seems like the pro-lifers are the ones who don’t value motherhood.

When NARAL Pro-Choice America’s CEO Ilyse Hogue announced she was pregnant with twins, the anti-abortion cheerleaders had their minds blown. How could this abortion activist be carrying a pregnancy to term? In a Washington Post interview, Hogue noted, “There is this whole mentality that anyone who fights for the rights that we fight for must hate children and not want to parent.” On the contrary, she said, having a wanted pregnancy only strengthened her commitment to abortion rights. Abortion and motherhood are two sides of the same coin: making decisions about whether parenthood is right for you. My decision to terminate, just like my decision to bring a child into this world, was made from love.

Indeed, sometimes it seems like the pro-lifers are the ones who don’t value motherhood. How many times have we seen anti-abortion lawmakers vote against measures that would support women, children, and families? They show no commitment to ensuring that, if and when a women decides to parent, she and her child will be supported in the way they need. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing abortion or not, but many of those decision-making factors are tied to issues like health care, unemployment, entitlement programs, and student loan debt — things anti-abortion lawmakers persistently fail to help with. Clearly, being pro-life does not automatically make you pro-children.

Responsible parents need the freedom to make the right decisions for their children, and sometimes — especially in the face of financial difficulty — that means choosing not to have another one. If we truly want to support mothers, we need to have a real conversation about what it takes to raise a child outside of the womb.

You can support The Establishment’s independent media work by purchasing a ‘Member of the Resistance’ tee or making a donation here.

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Violent, Extremist Anti-Choicers Are Flirting With The Department Of Justice

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The 10 Worst Colleges For Free Speech: 2017

There isn’t a week that goes by without a campus free speech controversy reaching the headlines. That’s why it’s as important as ever that we at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) review the record each year and shine a spotlight on the 10 worst schools for free speech.

Since FIRE’s first “worst of the worst” list was released in 2011, the number of colleges and universities with the most restrictive speech codes has declined. However, 92 percent of American colleges still maintain speech codes that either clearly restrict—or could too easily be used to restrict—free speech. Students still find themselves corralled into absurdly-named “free speech zones,” taxed when they invite speakers deemed “controversial” by administrators, or even anonymously reported on by their fellow students when their speech is subjectively perceived to be “biased.”

The average person muzzled on a college campus is often an everyday college student or faculty member: someone who wants to chat about politics, a student who confides in a friend about their own mental health concerns, or a group of students that simply want to discuss free speech controversies with their peers.

As always, our list is presented in no particular order, and it includes both public and private institutions. Public colleges and universities are bound by the First Amendment, while private colleges on this list, though not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty speech rights, explicitly promise to do so.

If you believe FIRE missed a college, or if you want to nominate a college for next year’s list, please let us know in the comments. Most of all, if you want to challenge your own school’s speech codes, please get in touch with us. FIRE is happy to work with schools to improve their speech codes. You can find more information on our website at

Northern Michigan University

Any list of schools that most shocked the conscience with their censorship in the past year would have to include Northern Michigan University (NMU). Until last year, NMU had a long-standing practice of prohibiting students suspected of engaging in or considering self-harm from discussing “suicidal or self-destructive thoughts or actions” with other students. If they did, they faced the threat of disciplinary action.

After FIRE brought this information to a national stage, causing a social media firestorm, NMU hastily distanced itself from the practice and publicly committed not to punish students for discussing thoughts of self-harm.

Unfortunately, NMU has not answered all of its students’ questions. NMU is currently under investigation by the Departments of Justice and Education for allegations that it threatened to disenroll a student for discussing mental illness with a friend. The school allegedly forced the student to sign a behavioral contract promising not to do so again. Is that student now free from her contract? Is every student who received a letter about discussing self-harm now free to speak out? Will NMU ever acknowledge and apologize to the countless students it hurt in the past, many of whom have spoken up to FIRE and online? Until we get answers, NMU remains on our list of worst schools for free speech.

California State University, Los Angeles

Last February, conservative author and political commentator Ben Shapiro was scheduled to speak at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) at the invitation of a student chapter of Young America’s Foundation. After students threatened to protest Shapiro’s speech, CSULA demanded that the students hosting the event pay the cost of security because the appearance was “controversial.” The students objected, but it didn’t matter; CSULA President William Covino unilaterally canceled Shapiro’s speech, claiming he could appear at some future date if accompanied by a panel of speakers who disagree with him.

Shapiro threatened to show up and speak anyway. Hours before he was set to appear, CSULA relented. But while CSULA administrators no longer attempted to prevent Shapiro’s speech, some student protesters picked up where the university left off. Some students did the right thing by protesting outside—exercising a “more speech” response to speech they found offensive. However, other students engaged in a “heckler’s veto” by pulling the fire alarm and attempting to prevent attendees from entering the venue.

For all this, CSULA earned a bruised reputation for its lackluster dedication to freedom of expression—and a lawsuit. Shapiro and Young America’s Foundation sued CSULA, compelling the university to change the policy that allowed it to impose a tax on controversial speech. The lawsuit remains pending.

Fordham University

At FIRE, we’ve seen universities offer a number of viewpoint-discriminatory justifications for rejecting student groups’ applications to become officially recognized, but few are as persistent and brazen as Fordham University’s.

On November 17, the Fordham United Student Government (USG) Senate and Executive Board approved a prospective Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter. Dean of Students Keith Eldredge informed SJP’s members that he wanted to review the group’s status before it could be granted official recognition, and then chose to overrule the USG and deny SJP’s recognition on December 22. Eldredge wrote that he “cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country” and that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … often leads to polarization rather than dialogue.”

On January 25, FIRE and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a letter to Fordham demanding the university recognize SJP and noting that its reasons for rejecting SJP fail to align with the university’s stated commitments to free expression. In its response to FIRE, Fordham doubled down on its rejection of SJP and offered a new baseless justification: that members of SJP chapters at other universities had engaged in conduct that would violate Fordham’s code of conduct.

What’s more, just last week, it was reported that Fordham is retaliating against a student who organized a rally to protest the school’s decision to ban SJP. Senior Sapphira Lurie has a hearing scheduled for today with Eldredge—who denied Lurie’s request to bring counsel and will conduct the hearing despite being both the complainant and adjudicator.

Fordham’s persistent refusal to live up to the promises it makes to its students earned it warnings from FIRE—and a place on this list.

University of Oregon

The University of Oregon’s (UO’s) Bias Response Team (BRT), and its response to a professor’s off-campus Halloween costume, earned it a spot on this year’s list.

UO’s BRT, which responds to student complaints about offensive (yet protected) speech, found itself embroiled in public controversy last spring and then tried to hide its records from public scrutiny. Criticism arose when the BRT’s annual reports surfaced, revealing that the BRT had intervened with the student newspaper because of a complaint that it “gave less press coverage to trans students and students of color.” In another instance, UO dispatched a case manager to dictate “community standards and expectations to” students who had the audacity to express “anger about oppression.”

When FIRE asked UO for records surrounding the complaints, UO claimed that it wouldn’t be in the public interest to share the records and demanded that FIRE pay for them. Apparent suppression of protected speech, coupled with a resistance to transparency, would alone be enough to earn UO the dubious honor of inclusion on this year’s list. But that’s not all.

Last fall, a law school professor found herself in hot water after hosting a private Halloween party at her home, attended by students and professors, where she wore blackface as part of her costume. According to the professor, the costume was “intended to provoke a thoughtful discussion on racism” by invoking Damon Tweedy’s memoir, Black Man in a White Coat.

The costume did, in fact, spark discussion—much of it criticizing the professor’s judgment. That’s the proper response to offensive speech: more speech. Yet the fact that students and faculty discussed the costume was a factor UO cited in deciding it had reason to override her First Amendment right to freedom of speech and punish her. UO’s move puts the cart before the horse and risks justifying punishment whenever expression motivates rigorous debate on campus.

California State University, Long Beach

This fall, California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) administrators betrayed First Amendment principles when they closed the curtain on a scheduled campus performance of the satirical play N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK (N*W*C*).

The university canceled the September 29 performance due to its apparent opposition to the play’s deliberately provocative content. N*W*C* is performed by Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and African-American actors who share personal narratives about how the construct of race shapes personal identity while also mocking stereotypes and racial slurs that perpetuate social injustice.

FIRE, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund wrote a letter to CSULB urging the university to protect artistic expression. The letter argued that the CSULB community should not be denied the opportunities for engagement the play provides. The university never reversed its actions, and Michele Roberge, then-executive director of the Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, where the play was slated to be performed, resigned to protest the censorship.

CSULB has a “red light” rating for free speech and a troubled history with protecting students’ civil liberties. Last fall, it ended a year-long moratorium on recognizing new student groups that threatened students’ ability to associate and organize, so it wasn’t hard to find a place for CSULB on this year’s list.

Harvard University

Last May, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Dean Rakesh Khurana announced their plan to blacklist members of off-campus single-gender organizations, including fraternities, sororities, and Harvard-specific “final clubs.” Students determined to be members of these organizations would be banned from leadership positions on sports teams and official student organizations, and barred from receiving recommendations from the Dean’s Office for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

While not a straightforward “free speech” violation, Harvard’s actions so severely violate the correlated right to freedom of association that the university deserves inclusion on this list.

Organizations including FIRE and hundreds of students at Harvard pushed back against Harvard’s flagrant disregard for freedom of association. The backlash prompted the administration to announce that at least one favored single-gender club would be allowed to operate as long as it pretended it was co-ed. Even more troubling was the discovery that President Faust was willing to characterize freedom of association as primarily a defense for racists, apparently not realizing it was an indispensable tool for civil rights activism that protected the NAACP and other civil rights advocates on more than one occasion.

Earlier this year came news that the policy may be “revised or replaced” by a new committee made up of faculty, students, and administrators. FIRE strongly urges this new panel to shelve the policy altogether, lest Harvard wind up violating freedom of association for a third time.

Harvard last appeared on FIRE’s worst schools for free speech list in 2012. It still maintains FIRE’s worst, “red light” rating for free speech.

University of South Carolina

What lesson did students at the University of South Carolina (USC) learn in 2016? Even when you do everything you can to avoid getting in trouble for potentially controversial speech on campus, trouble may still find you.

Last February, USC student Ross Abbott and the campus chapters of Young Americans for Liberty and the College Libertarians filed a First Amendment lawsuit with FIRE’s assistance after Abbott was investigated for a free speech event for which the groups received prior approval.

In late 2015, the groups planned an event to draw attention to threats to free speech on campus. The event involved poster displays featuring examples of campus censorship across the country. Given that some of their posters included provocative words and symbols, the groups sought and obtained approval for the event ahead of time from USC’s director of campus life.

Despite these precautions, Abbott received a “Notice of Charges” the day after the event, demanding that he meet with the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs to respond to student complaints of “discrimination.” Several weeks after their meeting, the office dropped its investigation, but it provided no clarification on USC’s treatment of protected speech.

Abbott and the groups now seek that clarification through their lawsuit, challenging not only Abbott’s investigation, but also USC’s requirements that expressive activity be pre-approved and limited to small, designated “free speech zones” on campus. The ongoing lawsuit is part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.

Williams College

Last February, Williams President Adam Falk took what even he described as an “extraordinary step” when he unilaterally disinvited author and conservative commentator John Derbyshire, a polarizing figure for his writings on “race realism,” from the Massachusetts liberal arts college.

It didn’t seem to matter to President Falk that Derbyshire had been invited by the student organizers of a speaker series called “Uncomfortable Learning,” which seeks to purposely confront controversial and divisive issues in its programming. Nor did it matter that the group’s president, Zach Wood, is African-American, and that Derbyshire had been invited precisely so his writings and comments on race could be debated.

While nonetheless making paeans to Williams’ commitments to free expression, Falk asserted that “[t]here’s a line somewhere” and “Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it.” In a single, paternalistic stroke, President Falk declared that there were certain speakers and viewpoints that Williams students weren’t to engage, and he showed the lengths Williams would go to to keep them off campus. Falk has done his students a serious disservice—and earned Williams a place on this year’s list.

Georgetown University

Making its second appearance in as many years on FIRE’s “worst” list is Georgetown University. As the presidential primary season got underway, Georgetown University Law Center informed a group of Bernie Sanders supporters that campus was no place for talking to fellow students about their chosen candidate. The students were informed that, because Georgetown is a tax-exempt institution, the law school could not allow any campaigning or partisan political speech on campus.

FIRE wrote to Georgetown Law last February, asking it to revisit its policy on student political speech. Every campaign season, we see examples of both public and private colleges erroneously suppressing student political speech because they believe it will jeopardize their federal tax-exempt status. Indeed, Georgetown Law student and Bernie supporter Alexander Atkins and a FIRE staffer were invited to speak on the issue at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight. Georgetown sent a letter to the Subcommittee pledging to revisit the law school’s policy.

In March, Georgetown Law released a revised policy but failed to answer many questions about permissible partisan student speech on campus. In fact, the group of Bernie supporters continued to face resistance and confusion from the law school for the entire election season.

This is not the first time that Georgetown played politics with speech on campus. The university has for years repeatedly violated its own policies on free speech and expression to the detriment of the student organization H*yas for Choice, the most recent example occurring in September.

DePaul University

While few free speech controversies truly surprise FIRE anymore, it’s fairly uncommon for a college or university to put four notches in its censorship belt in a matter of months. But if there’s any school that could do it, it would be DePaul University.

Here’s the rundown:

In April, after students chalked messages in support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, DePaul warned all students that they were not allowed to chalk partisan messages on campus due to the university’s tax-exempt status—a justification that FIRE has refuted on several occasions.

A month later, when the College Republicans invited controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos to campus, DePaul attempted to obstruct the event by limiting Yiannopoulos’ speaking time to 15–20 minutes and charging the students $1,000 for extra security. When students stormed the stage and disrupted the event, the security guards refused to intervene. When the College Republicans sought to re-invite Yiannopoulos, DePaul banned them from doing so.

But DePaul was not done infringing on its students’ rights. In July, DePaul also banned the DePaul Young Americans for Freedom chapter from inviting conservative journalist Ben Shapiro to speak on campus.

FIRE wrote to DePaul about all of these incidents, urging it to adhere to its promises of free expression for students. Unfortunately, DePaul’s response did little besides deflect and blithely repeat its illusory commitment to working with students to invite speakers from across the ideological spectrum.

One might suspect that DePaul would think twice about resorting to the same censorship tactics again. However, only eight days after FIRE’s first letter, the university required the DePaul Socialists student organization pay hundreds of dollars for security for an informational meeting about the group, because the event could be “potentially controversial.”

These multiple acts of censorship, along with DePaul’s sordid prior history of restricting speech, led FIRE to ask whether DePaul University is the worst school for free speech in the United States. So it should be no surprise to anyone that DePaul finds itself on this year’s list of worst offenders.

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