voice for democracy

An Open Letter in Defense of Democracy – Dissent

The future of democracy in the United States is in danger.
This open letter was also published by The New Republic and The Bulwark.

 

We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.
Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.
But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.
Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.
The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump’s defeat in 2020, and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.
So we, who have differed on so much in the past—and who continue to differ on much today—have come together to say:
We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to change state election laws to limit voter participation.
We vigorously oppose the relentless and unending promotion of unprofessional and phony “election audits” that waste public money, jeopardize public electoral data and voting machines, and generate paranoia about the legitimacy of elections.
We urge the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass effective, national legislation to protect the vote and our elections, and if necessary to override the Senate filibuster rule.
And we urge all responsible citizens who care about democracy—public officials, journalists, educators, activists, ordinary citizens—to make the defense of democracy an urgent priority now.
Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the Republic.

 

Todd Gitlin
Professor of journalism, sociology and communications, Columbia University
Jeffrey C. Isaac
James H. Rudy professor of political science, Indiana University, Bloomington
William Kristol
Editor at large, The Bulwark
Director, Defending Democracy Together

 

Cosigners
Affiliations listed for identification purposes only. 
Sheri Berman
Professor of political science, Barnard College
Max Boot
Senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
James Carroll
Writer
Leo Casey
Assistant to the president, American Federation of Teachers
Mona Charen
Policy editor, The Bulwark
Noam Chomsky
Institute professor and professor of linguistics emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
Jelani Cobb
Professor of journalism, Columbia University
Eliot A. Cohen
Robert E. Osgood professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
David Cole
National legal director, American Civil Liberties Union
Laura K. Field
Senior fellow, Niskanen Center
Carolyn Forché
University professor, Georgetown University
Francis Fukuyama
Olivier Nomellini senior fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University 
William A. Galston
Senior fellow, the Brookings Institution
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb
Michael E. Gellert professor emeritus, New School for Social Research
Hahrie Han
Stavros Niarchos Foundation professor of political science, Johns Hopkins University
Director, SNF Agora Institute
Roya Hakakian
Writer
John Judis
Writer
Ira Katznelson
Ruggles professor of political science and history, Columbia University
Michael Kazin
Professor of history, Georgetown University
Randall Kennedy
Michael R. Klein professor of law, Harvard University
Steven R. Levitsky
Professor of government, Harvard University
Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.
Psychiatrist and author
Susie Linfield
Professor of journalism, New York University
Damon Linker
Senior correspondent, The Week
Dahlia Lithwick
Senior editor, Slate
Jane Mansbridge
Charles F. Adams professor, emerita, Harvard Kennedy School
Win McCormack
Editor in chief, The New Republic
John McWhorter
Professor of linguistics, Columbia University
Deborah Meier
Educator
James Miller
Professor of politics and liberal studies, New School for Social Research
Susan Neiman
Director, Einstein Forum, Berlin
Nell Irvin Painter
Edwards professor of American history emerita, Princeton University
Rick Perlstein
Writer
Katha Pollitt
Writer
Claire Potter
Professor of history, New School for Social Research
Jedediah Purdy
William S Beinecke professor of law, Columbia University
Jonathan Rauch
Senior fellow, the Brookings Institution
Adolph Reed
Emeritus professor of political science, University of Pennsylvania
Kim Lane Scheppele
Laurance S. Rockefeller professor of sociology and international affairs, Princeton University
Charles Sykes
Founder and editor at large, The Bulwark
George Thomas
Burnet C. Wohlford professor of American political institutions, Claremont McKenna College
Michael Tomasky
Editor, The New Republic
Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Jeffrey K. Tulis
Professor of government and law, University of Texas
Joan Walsh
Writer, The Nation
Michael Walzer
Professor emeritus of social science, Institute for Advanced Study
Dorian T. Warren
President, Community Change
Sean Wilentz
George Henry Davis 1886 professor of American history, Princeton University
Benjamin Wittes
Senior fellow, the Brookings Institution
Sign up for the Dissent newsletter:

Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.
For insights and analysis from the longest-running democratic socialist magazine in the United States, sign up for our newsletter:
 

Austin Frerick, who launched a bid for Iowa’s third congressional district on an antimonopoly platform, dropped out when party leaders made it clear that they preferred his better-funded opponents. Photo courtesy of Austin Frerick.
Early voting locations in the Indianapolis metro area in 2016, via IndyStar.
An Eritrean refugee in Khartoum. Photo by John Power.
Khartoum as seen from the river Nile. Photo by John Power.
Common migration routes from East Africa to Europe. Route information adapted from the International Organization for Migration, August 2015, by Colin Kinniburgh. Countries party to the Khartoum process are shaded in orange (note: not all shown on this map).
At the 1936 International Conference of Business Cycle Institutes, sponsored by the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, Vienna. Ludwig von Mises is seated in the center with mustache and cigarette. Gottfried Haberler also pictured, at right. (Source)
In 1896, William Jennings Bryan, a Democrat from Nebraska, ran for president on a fusion ticket with the Populist Party. This cartoonist from a Republican magazine thought the “Popocratic” ticket was too ideologically mismatched to win. Bryan did lose, but his campaign, the first of three he waged for the White House, transformed the Democrats into an anti-corporate, pro-labor party. Cartoon from Judge (1896) via Library of Congress
Sketch for a 1976 poster by the New York Wages for Housework Committee (MayDay Rooms / Creative Commons)
Keith Vaughan, “Drawing of a seated male nude,” 1949. Courtesy the estate of Keith Vaughan / Creative Commons.
Political strategist Jessica Byrd. Courtesy of Three Points Strategies.
Stacey Abrams, Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. Photo courtesy of David Kidd/Governing.
A drawing made for the author by a five-year-old girl in detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Courtesy of Nara Milanich)
A drawing made for the author by a five-year-old girl in detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Courtesy of Nara Milanich)
A drawing made for the author by a five-year-old girl in detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Courtesy of Nara Milanich)


Mayor Bill de Blasio inaugurates a new bus line in the Bronx, September 2017 (New York City Department of Transportation / Flickr)
Luxury condominium towers under construction in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2013 (Michael Tapp / Flickr)
Hydrocarbons from the Williams Central compressor, photographed with a FLIR thermal imaging camera and a normal digital camera, Brooklyn Township, Pennsylvania, 2014. © Nina Berman/Marcellus Shale Documentary Project 2014.
Composite of drilling rig image from Rome, Pennsylvania and hundreds of images taken by a Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania resident of the volume of truck traffic passing in front of a neighbor’s home over four days of the operation of a nearby shale gas well pad. © Nina Berman/Marcellus Shale Documentary Project 2015.
The nightmare situations preppers imagine are already happening—to people whose wealth and status don’t protect them. Above, Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico, October 2017 (Agustín Montañez / National Guard)
From the music video for “Unforgettable,” by French Montana, featuring Swae Lee (FrenchMontanaVEVO / Youtube)
Wizkid performing at Royal Albert Hall, London, September 2017 (Michael Tubi / Alamy Live News)
The cover of L’antinorm, published by the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action (FHAR), February 1973. The subtitle reads “Workers of the world, stroke yourselves!”
Jair Bolsonaro, at a debate about violence against women in Brazil’s chamber of deputies, September 2016. Photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil.
Jair Bolsonaro, at a debate about violence against women in Brazil’s chamber of deputies, September 2016. Photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil.
The front page of the Canard, February 28, 2018. Courtesy of Le Canard enchaîné.
Selling drugs in the shadow of an abandoned factory, North Philadelphia. Photo by George Karandinos.
Bundle of $10 bags of heroin. Photo by Fernando Montero Castrillo.
On a dilapidated Havana street, an elderly man searches through the garbage. February 2018, Havana, Cuba. Photo by David Himbert / Hans Lucas Studio.
A state employee reads the newspaper at the reception of the Defense Committee of the Revolution (CDR). March 2016, Havana, Cuba. Photo by David Himbert / Hans Lucas Studio.
A street vendor selling tropical fruits in front of a Benetton shop in Old Havana. May 2017, Havana, Cuba. Photo by David Himbert / Hans Lucas Studio.
At the University of Bristol, February 28 (Bristol UCU / Facebook)
Students rally in support of the lecturers’ strike, February 23 (Bristol UCU / Facebook)
Part of a much larger painted banner in Bristol, February 28 (Bristol UCU / Facebook)


AMLO mural in Mexico City, 2007 (Randal Sheppard / Flickr)
MORENA supporters at a rally in Itzapalapa, Mexico City, April 2015 (Eneas De Troya / Flickr)
Audience members waiting for the program to begin at a MORENA rally, March 2016 (Eneas De Troya / Flickr)
MORENA supporter leafletting against energy reforms, 2013 (Eneas De Troya / Flickr)
Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the campaign trail during his previous presidential run, May 2012 (Arturo Alfaro Galán)

Courtesy of Robert Greene
At a protest against the alleged Pizzagate conspiracy, Washington, D.C., March 25, 2017 (Blink O’fanaye / Flickr)
[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015
The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  
Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.
Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.
Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.
<!–

–>
Proclamation of the reclaiming of Alcatraz by the Indians of All Tribes, November 1969 (National Parks Service)
Entrance to Alcatraz in 2008 (Babak Fakhamzadeh / Flickr)
Letter from the Indians of All Tribes to the National Council on Indian Opportunity, January 1970 (National Parks Service)
Sign on Alcatraz during occupation, 1969–60 (National Parks Service)
Members of the People’s Guard on motorcycles, 1920. Courtesy of Eric Lee.
Armed group of the Menshevik People’s Guard, 1920. Courtesy of Eric Lee.
Eleven-year-old Liza Greenberg, daughter of David and Suzanne Nossel. Photo by Todd Gitlin.
Protest against neoliberalism in Colombia, 2013


#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:18px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif;} /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */

Want to read our Spring issue for free? Sign up for our newsletter by March 31 to receive a full PDF when the issue launches.



source