Progressive Democrat Challenges Corporate Democrat for Illinois House Seat

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

Anthony Clark intends to win a Congressman’s honorific representing Illinois’ seventh district. He will do so to inspire young people, specifically his students, and to have the opportunity to offer solutions to the problems in his community in a deeper way than he has been able to do through community organizing.

Brand New Congress (BNC) and the Justice Democrats (JD) seek to challenge corporate Democrats in primaries, and to flip conservative constituencies across the country with outsider candidates running under a progressive platform. They want to hijack the Democratic Party and reform it from a party for obscenely wealthy donors to an inclusive party representing popular interests.

“To see my students’ faces when they know I’m running for office, to see the students that reach out to me, or go door-to-door knocking with me, or hand out my information. They’re the future. It’s going, essentially, from looking into their eyes and seeing hopelessness because they feel like nobody represents them, to looking into their eyes and seeing that they view me as a role model,” said Clark on how his students have inspired him.


As a disabled military veteran, special education teacher and community organizer Clark takes service seriously. In the words of Muhammad Ali and Clark’s Grandfather, “service to others is the rent you pay for room on this earth.” While active in the military Clark developed PTSD and contracted a rare autoimmune condition from chemical exposure.

His top legislative priorities were single-payer healthcare, criminal justice reform, and education reform. Other issues he expected to confront in IL-7 included gun violence, homelessness prevention, community policing and free college tuition.

Clark doesn’t have long-term career ambitions in the Nation’s Capital.

“I believe in term limits so if I get in there and only have one term or two terms. If I’m truly making systemic change, then that’s worth more than a twenty or thirty year career as a Congressman doing nothing,” he said.

He spent the last nine years as a Special Education Teacher and community organizer in his district before deciding to run for office. Members of Clark’s community suggested him to BNC and JD.

Why campaign?

He launched his campaign because he was tired of organizing relentlessly with his community organization in order to just meet some of the needs that capitalism and corporate governance wouldn’t. Being a congressman, he decided, would allow him to confront the root causes of issues and to pursue comprehensive legislative solutions.

The BNC candidates don’t accept corporate donations. They are following in the path of the 2016 Democratic Primary Campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Democratic Incumbent, Rep. Danny K. Davis, accepts corporate donations reluctantly. Clark quoted him as saying, “Money in politics is wrong, but because money is in politics I’m going to take it.” This stance confounded Clark who believes in acting on principle.

“People are my only special interest,” he said, ”I’m not going to allow Super PACs or corporations to write my bills for me. The people should be writing the bills and the people should be the ones who are impacting change.”

This is another corollary between Clark’s campaign and that of Sen. Sanders. His campaign opens its ears to the people who American Democracy ignores, the sub-27 dollar donor class.

“It’s not just me going into office, there’s going to be dozens and dozens of us going to office as Justice Democrat, Brand New Congress representatives that believe in the same values that I believe in, that are fighting for the same change that I want,” said Clark about the progressive campaign to commandeer the DNC. If they are able to get dozens of representatives into Congress it will be harder for the establishment to ignore their platform.

Clark advised anybody with an interest in running for public office or starting an issue campaign to study and understand their abilities. Make a skill and resource inventory. Organize with your strengths and mitigate problems caused by your shortcomings. Find people who share your goals, and skills that complement your weaknesses.

“One of my strengths is my energy and passion, so I felt like looking back that overcame many of my weaknesses in regards to never being an organizer before or not understanding how to succinctly structure something,” he said.

‘Elevator Pitch’

Clark’s energy and passion attracted others to volunteer on his campaign. Building this team connected him to people with the skills he didn’t have.

One tool that every campaign needs is a short, persuasive speech that campaign workers can use to attract constituents when they just have a minute to talk. It is often called an ‘elevator pitch.’ Clark’s pitch is about how the country is currently failing to meet the promise of liberty and justice for his students.

He ended the pitch by saying, “I’m running for office to fight for the liberty, justice, and opportunity of all people, so the next time that I’m teaching, the next time my students stand up and recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ it’s genuine and they truly believe in it.”

Check out Clark’s campaign website at Find out more about Brand New Congress at and Justice Democrats at

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DC Immigration Activists Wait for ICE at 7-Eleven

A bilingual poster with the number of a hotline and advice to help protect immigrants from ICE. Photo: Rhys.
A bilingual poster with the number of a hotline and advice to help protect immigrants from ICE. Photo: Rhys.

Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) warned management at a 7-Eleven in NW Washington D.C. yesterday that they would be returning to check on the papers of their employees today.

Day laborers commonly wait for work outside of this particular store.

The warning came on the same day that ICE raided 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 States and the Capital. Twenty-one people were detained under suspicion of being undocumented.

Arturo Griffiths will be on the sidewalk in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood until ICE come today. He is the Executive Director of Trabajadores Unidos (Workers United) de Washington DC. He brought a stack of posters with the number for an immigration support hotline and instructions for handling a raid in English and Spanish.   

 Arturo Griffith (Right) with volunteer Luis (Left). Photo: Rhys.
Arturo Griffith (Right) with volunteer Luis (Left). Photo: Rhys.

Griffith has lived in Mt. Pleasant for almost 40 years. He is a naturalized American citizen, born in Panama.

“We don’t want nobody to get mistreated here and we’re concerned because these are basically workers who are looking for work, and they stand in this corner to live their life,” said Griffith referring to the people outside the store. There were a dozen men waiting for work and socializing. There was also one woman who might’ve been waiting for work and another woman selling Latino food and drink from an orange cooler.

Check out for more information on Griffiths’ work.


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The Movement for a People’s Party ‘Berns’ Into 2018

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Screenshot from

The Movement For A People’s Party (MPP) intends to hijack the fractured Democratic voting base, combine it with Independents and contest elected seats across the country in 2020. The aspirational Political Party of #DemExit held their first conference call of the year on Thursday, Jan. 4.

The 162 people on the call, from 44 States, were confident in their strategy because their platform will be championing policies such as universal healthcare, living wages, campaign finance reform and environmental protection. Organizers on the call discussed how their message can attract Democratic voters away from the mainstream party.  

Nick Brana is a founder and spokesperson for the insurgent party. His face is often seen on cable news and in print supporting a political strategy outside of the Democratic Party.

The MPP organizers plan to found the party and draft their platform later this year, but 2020 will be their first major electoral season. Brana told me they will seek candidates to run, “Not just for the staple office like Senate and House, but for local positions as well.”

This mean you can look forward to seeing MPP candidates in races for State Assemblies, Mayoral Offices, City Councils, and School Boards.

“What we need to do is we need to band together as working people and as progressives and collaborate against them, and collaborate to replace one of their parties, in particular the Democratic Party which is just ripe to be replaced at this point,” said Brana. The ‘them’ in the previous sentence referred to the two-party system and its corporate donors.

This banding together, aspirationally, would be done by the deep bench of local, State, and National progressive parties who want an Independent alternative to the Democratic Party. Gallup polling in 2017 found that six in ten Americans want a major third-party option. Fifty-two percent of polled Democrats wanted the extra choice on their ballots.

In the meantime, donations to the DNC are drying up and fewer people admit to being affiliated with the party when polled. To compare, when President Obama was elected affiliation topped out at 39 percent. The Democrats started 2017 with a 25 percent affiliation-rate and they only reached 31 percent.

Nick Brana on a Panel with Dr. Cornel West, Kshama Sawant, and Jimmy Dore at the People’s Convergence Conference in 2017.
Nick Brana on a Panel with Dr. Cornel West, Kshama Sawant, and Jimmy Dore at the People’s Convergence Conference in 2017.

While the Democrats are experiencing historic lows in engagement, Brana sees potential parallels between MPP and the successes of neoliberal-busting left parties such as Syriza and Podemos from Greece and Spain.

Brana originally founded Draft Bernie For A People’s Party to encourage the popular Vermont Senator to defect. His plan requested the support of Sen. Sanders (I-VT) to mirror the 1852 founding of the party that ended the American slave trade.

RELATED: Draft Bernie for a People’s Party? Conference Attendees Say Yes

“The Republican Party launched as a split within a major party,” Brana said to the organizers on the call. They were able to succeed, he continued, because they included defectors from the Whig Party. Notably Abraham Lincoln, who went on to become the first Republican President in 1860.

The Republican Party won their first majority in the House in 1858 and in the Senate in 1862. MPP organizers use this historical analogy to explain their movement and its potential to shake the two-party system.

“It’s important to have [popular political defectors] at the table who are participating in the founding of the new party because then it gets reported and seen in a different way,” said Brana.

Sen. Sanders has not responded to a petition, signed by over 50,000 people and delivered to his office, requesting his leadership in the new party. But even without the splitting the Democrats, the MPP could make it easier for groups who want to take over the DNC and guide their policies toward the public interest.

The Republican Party formed as a reaction to the Whig’s refusal to take up the cause of abolition. They went to war with the American slave industry when they took power. The analogous issues today would be climate change, corporate control of government, and growing inequality.

If the MPP fails to bring Democratic names away from the DNC their work hasn’t been in vain.  They can follow other historical examples of campaigns that pushed human rights forward.

Outside parties championed child labor laws, social security, the 40-hour work week and women’s suffrage. These ideas became law because they were adopted by establishment politicians.

“Whether you’re trying to reform the Democratic Party or start a new party and replace them, the most effective way to do both is to start a major new party,” said Brana. A significant progressive party taking the Democrat’s voters from the left would force Team Blue’s candidates to engage with the, still to be drafted, progressive policies in MPP’s platform.

For more information on the Movement For A People’s Party visit their website at

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GOP Congressman Proposes “Debt Relief” Bill that Steals from Students


Last month, while most of the nation was preparing for the holidays and Washington was focused on the Tax Bill, GOP Representative Tom Garrett (VA-5) introduced HR.4584. This bill, titled the “Student Security Act of 2017,” is currently being considered in both the House Education and Workforce Committee and Ways and Means Committee and there is no definite time-table for when it will be advanced.

Put simply the main purpose of the Student Security Act is to create a new student loan forgiveness option that will let students shave money off of their loans by pushing back their eligibility to retire with full benefits under Social Security.

This bill is being sold by Rep. Garrett as a new and innovative way to reduce student loan debts while “saving” Social Security by cutting the amount of money given out in benefits. He portrays his bill as the alternative the Bernie Sanders’s free public college idea and argues that it is a win-win—the student gets debt forgiveness while the government reduces costs.

Sadly, these claims by Garrett are simply inaccurate and his bill would harm students far more than it would help them. It is, in fact, a massive transfer of wealth from students, and back to the government, concealed as an effort to help student borrowers.

While it is normally preemptive to worry about a bill that is so early in the process of becoming a law, this bill is particularly worrying because it has such a high potential to harm millions of unwitting students. Additionally, its hidden austerity is very likely to appeal to GOP leaders like Paul Ryan, and could gain a great deal of traction in the GOP caucus if there is no pushback. The Koch Brothers’ “Freedomworks” lobbying organization has already come out in favor of this bill and other conservative groups are likely going to follow soon.

Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

While many students could see Garrett’s bill as an effective way of reducing their student loans, looking at the actual numbers paints us a different picture.

Under the bill as it is currently written, a student can delay their eligibility for Social Security by 73 months (6 years and 1 month) in order to eliminate $40,150 in federal student loan debt ($550/month).

As the full retirement age is currently 67 years of age, any student to maximize the debt reductions, would be ineligible to retire until they were 73 years old, assuming that there are no increases to the retirement age in the intervening years. Because of the way that this bill is written, any increases to the Social Security age would be cumulative with the “debt forgiveness” program; this means that a student could accept their “debt assistance” thinking that they would retire at 73, only to have this pushed back two years to 75 is some future Congress decided to increase the eligibility age for Social Security to 69 years of age (as has been previously proposed).

As of 2017, the average Social Security payment was $1,413.08 per month (just under $17,000 per year). Using this number as a benchmark, the average retiree would receive approximately $103,155 in Social Security payments in the 73 months after full retirement.

Effectively, this bill is offering a form of “debt relief” where the federal government will offer $40,000 in short-term “debt relief” in exchange for $103,000 in foregone retirement benefits from social security. This cost/benefit ratio becomes even worse for students when we consider that the short-term debt relief is being compared with benefits that are 40 years in the future (the $103,000 in lost benefits isn’t adjusted for 40 years of inflation).

While looking at this comparison makes it clear that this “debt forgiveness” option would actually transfer more money from students in the long run, many students will not make this calculation. The “debt relief” begins applying immediately while the costs are back-loaded by over 40 years, creating a time horizon problem that many students will not see past—they will focus on the prospect of getting out from under their student loans while ignoring the long-term consequences of their choices.

Forcing the Elderly to Remain in the Job Market

In addition to costing students more money in the long-run, pushing back their retirement age to 73 years old for millions of students will cause several problems.

First, there are professions which are physically intensive or require dexterity and hearing/vision that somebody of advanced age is unlikely to possess. Students who pick these professions (e.g. law enforcement, teaching, construction, pilots, etc.) simply cannot perform the required tasks to retain their job thus will be forced into unemployment long before they are eligible for Social Security.

Second, if a person loses their job late in life (e.g. 60) they already have a hard time finding employment for the remainder of their career. By extending the amount of time until these people are eligible for retirement, this bill exacerbates this issue.

Third, forcing a large number of elderly workers to remain in the job market will make it harder for younger workers in the future to obtain jobs. Every elderly worker who would like to retire but cannot due to their economic situation is taking up a job that a younger worker would like to fill so they can start their career.


The current student debt situation in the United States is unsustainable and hobbling many young students. Unfortunately, this breeds desperation and could lead many to take the “debt relief” option proposed in Barrett’s bill despite the long term harms. As such, it is important that students and activists be aware of the problems surrounding this bill and lobby to prevent it from passing into law.

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