Commentary

Saturday, June 30th is my last day as president of Demos, a public policy organization dedicated to creating an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy. I have served as Demos’ president for the last four years, but I’ve worked there for 16 — practically my entire adult life. As I look back on what we’ve built together, I feel called to share some reflections from those years, for each of us who yearns to see our nation live up to its democratic promise.

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In the United States, if you don’t buy a gun for several years, you do not lose your Second Amendment right to bear arms. If you never write a letter to the editor or participate in a street demonstration, you retain your full First Amendment rights to free speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hand down its decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which challenges the ability of public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees from workers who are covered by a negotiated union contract but don’t want to join the union. While the case may seem technocratic, its argument is one thread of a well-worn tapestry by conservatives: attacking union rights to thwart working-class solidarity, especially across racial and ethnic lines.

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Twenty-five years ago today, our democracy took a major step forward with the enactment of the bipartisan National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which opened up the voter registration process to Americans left out of the electorate. Yet millions of eligible voters remain unregistered. To fulfill the promise of the NVRA, states must do much more to ensure all Americans have a voice in our democracy. [...]

The ability of college graduates to pay student loans isn’t simply a matter of earnings. It also reflects wealth — and differences that persist in wealth among racial and ethnic groups.

Ask a group of higher-education policy wonks about the best way to address our nation’s growing student loan problem, and you’re likely to find one solution overlaps party or ideology: Enroll more borrowers in income-driven loan repayment. [...]

In the midst of a Twitter feed alight with stories about police being used to shut black people out of places to eat, drink, exercise, and relax, comes a story about Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) using policy to do the same. The federal government is adding new and significant hurdles to communities of color — particularly black people — being able to access housing. [...]

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As the manufacturing footprint in the working class has shrunk, so has the white male archetype that has historically defined the working class. Today’s working class is more female and racially diverse – with whites comprising less than 60% of the working class, down from nearly 9 out of 10 in 1970. Similarly, two-thirds of working-class women are in the paid labor market, up from less than half in 1970.

Despite the long legacy of discrimination in public accommodations—a central battleground of the civil rights movement—looking at each of these incidents individually allows us to believe the fiction that these are aberrations. [...]

In our nation’s operating system, aggressively controlling black people in public spaces is a feature, not a bug.

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Today marks the 68th World Health Day, a day to commemorate a global commitment to universal health care. Despite major gains with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the United States remains a global outlier when it comes to delivering affordable health care for its people. [...]

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Instead of policies and agency practices that divide us by doubling down on the grave inequality created by historic and current discrimination, we should advance policies that repair these rifts and bring us together. Policies like the Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 on which that rule builds, take strong steps to ensure that housing contributes to equalizing opportunity across race.

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