Constitution in 2020 Liveblog Panel 7- Mobilization

Panel Seven:
9:30 – 11:15 Roundtable:  Mobilization
Moderator:  William Eskridge, Yale Law School
Panelists:  Addisu Demissie, Organizing for America; Marshall Ganz, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard; Judy Scott, SEIU, Michale Wishnie, Yale

Caroline Frederickson– Executive Director ACS

Thanked members of ACS, Panelists, and Organizers.

Conservatives have hijacked the constitutional process through strict construction and original meaning. It’s good to feel the love. Scholars have shed light on how constitution should be interpreted. Principels and values founders embodied in this document. Significant progress has been made over past 200 years. Still much work to be done.

Caroline Frederickson

Caroline Frederickson

Wiliam Eskridge

Like interpretation, these panels are dynamic. Yuk Yuk Yuk.

Mobilization. Main example- gay rights/gay marriage movement. Shows aspects of constitutional mobilization- huge mistakes, moderate successes. Mobilization in Vermont being done locally, state-wide, and nationally. Mobilization protected against right-wing retribution at Polls. Started with mobilization of small meetings (5-10 ppl).

Olson-Boises Law Suit

Bill Eskridge praising Ted Olson for the Olson-Boises law suit. Olson came out of “conservative closet” to favor SSM. Best thing to do with Olson-Boises law suit. LAMBDA denied intervention in lawsuit.

Eskridge’s strategery- Delay law suit as long as possible, and revoke Prop 8 in 2012. Revoking Prop 8 would moot the lawsuit. If lawsuit proceeds to 9th and “finds” Constitutional Right. CA9 has poor record with SCOTUS. Olson thinks he can get Justice Kennedy’s vote. Eskridge not sure if the movement has Breyer and Ginsburg. If not mooted before 20102, not optimistic SCOTUS will find right.

Winning constitutional arguments is not end-all of social movements. Yale Law School should not fetishize SCOTUS. We should reject it. Best thing to energize LGBT movement and straight allies was Bowers v. Hardwick.

The more gay marriage is talked about, the better it is to talk about. Eskridge has no doubt he is right. SSM Marriage good for the children, for neighbors, for states, good for jobs, good for America.

Older generations set on LGBT issues. Identity tied to traditional understanding of marriage. Progressives ought to understand hat.

Marshall Ganz

Calling, craft, and career with respect to mobilization. Who, how, and with whom, do you do the work of mobilization. Civil rights all about ending racism. Equates civil rights movement to exodus story told during Passover.

Deeper inequality driving racism was inequality of power. African-American’s couldn’t vote, unions out of power. What to do? Some thought you ask people in Washington for some of their power. If change comes from up high, it can be taken away easily, because power inequality still exists. Example, Montogmery bus strike. People had stake, could withdraw their bus fare.

To affect meaningful change, must engage resources of those who have an interest. Need skilled leadership.

While he thought racism was an exception in America, became an example in America.

Keys for mobilization

  1. Translate power into action through narratives
  2. Bringing people together around common interest through relationship building
  3. Structuring organizations
  4. Strategize- transform what you have into what you need
  5. Measurable results

Talking about Obama, politics of hope, change.

Rabbi Hillel. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me. If I am for myself alone, who am I? If not now, when.”

Addisu Demissie

Political director for Organizing for America. It seems Organization for America was formally Obama for America. Is he a community organizer?

Get out the vote director for Obama in Ohio.

Hard for progressives to admit they are in power and to use their leverage of power. Really? Didn’t Obama make his Presidential seal before he was President? Didn’t Nancy Pelosi start measuring the drapes for her Speaker Office in October 2006?

Change made through citizen contact, with neighbors talking to one another. Difference between mobilizing and organizing. Mobilizing- fight you are in. Organizing- fight you are in, fight you will be in the future. He predicts the Left will win on health care. But there is always some issue to bring people in. Organization building will use health care, 2010, energy, etc. Can’t get totally submerged in the fight you are in. Need to consider fight you will be in next.

Organization building tips

  1. Train leaders to take charge of their communities. Goal to train leader in every community in this country.
  2. Permanent structure-Neighborhood team leader-community organizer model. For every group of precincts, a neighborhood team leader (NTL) to organize. That organizer reports to a community organizer that manages neighborhood team leaders. The community organizer linked to higher-ups. Don’t do nitty-gritty, more managerial. Not about any particular issue. It is about empowering them.
  3. Meeting- getting face to face with people. Just like those helpful ACORN tax advisers in Baltimore!
  4. Reporting. Strict, structured reporting system to track everyone from volunteers up to amangers

Need to creates sustainable organization that lasts beyond the current fight. Structure is important, don’t just focus on substance. 2/3 of fight is setting agenda and framing issue. Get excited about small victories.

Judy Scott

Economic Justice. Concentration of wealth, very few peopel who speak for bottom third. What is mobilization structure to make those voices heard? Not just individual rights, but collective rights and collective action.

Labor law has limited concepts of organization to bargaining unit. Look to issues of global unions.

Unions need to be:

  1. Global- mulinational corporations growing at a fast rate.  Nation states incapable of dealing with multinational labor conditions. Need structures to deal with international IP rights, WTO for international trade. Need structure to enforce labors beyond borders.
  2. National level. Change that work campaign. Need to extend to 12 states with much density. Labor movement density was 35% in 1950s to 7% today. This is a threat to Democracy.  Working with farmer unions, consumer leagues, around issue of health care reform. Showing up at town hall meetings. Like this SEIU member who roughed up a Town Hall attendee? Agitate for improvement of American families.

Don’t just think about filing grievances and arbitrations, but focus on organizing in community and mobilizing.

Mike Winshnie

Thanks everyone for giving up right to leisure to come here on Sunday. Apparently the right to leisure is declared in the fundamental declaration of human rights. I suppose I generally waive this right.

Progressives acheive social reform by supporting a particular social movement, and translate movement values to ways courts, legislatures, and agencies can understand. Lawyers are often crucial in this interpreting function.

In a few generations, we will look back at modern immigration law as de jure subjugation, similar to Jim Crow Laws.

There is a hope that “the constitution will jsut stay out of the way” because it hurts more than it helps. So the Constitution in 2020 is should just hide? He’s quoting Saul Alinsky now.


Judy Scott, Marshall Ganz, Bill Eskridge, Mike Wishnie, Addisu Demissie (Left to Right)

Judy Scott, Marshall Ganz, Bill Eskridge, Mike Wishnie, Addisu Demissie (Left to Right)


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