Saturday, April 15
Reclaiming Democracy in the Palmetto State
Francis Burns United Methodist Church, 5616 Farrow Rd., Columbia
Join us for the SC Progressive Network’s annual spring meeting! The recent election is an opportunity for a deeper discussion about the system we’re operating under and the crippling effects money and gerrymandering have on our democracy. We’ll take a deep dive into state politics and discuss how we can realistically make and sustain progressive change.
The Network long ago determined that to make real change in South Carolina and implement the “revolution of social values” Dr. King called for we must have an inside/outside strategy. To date, we’ve elected to use most of our energy on the outside of party and other corporate structures, but the new political reality in Washington and in Columbia offers progressives an unforeseen chance to advance a more humane and sustainable vision.
Twenty years ago, our analysis that the electoral system is corrupted by money, special interests and corporate parties was considered radical. Today, it’s proven to be true. Because of that stacked deck, we’ve chosen to use our resources carefully, only endorsing a handful of candidates in races we determined were winnable. It is a restrained strategy that has served us well. Our political action committee is three-for-three in winning legislative races in the last two general elections. We elected two progressive Democrats and defeated a reactionary Republican in the few districts that had competitive primaries.
The two-party system will not save us, but we recognize that it is currently the only game in town. That said, we’ll not talk about taking over parties, rejuvenating parties, or creating new parties. We will talk about how to engage and involve the people active in the existing parties while we work to grow our own candidates and political capacity.
We think that the sustained levels of protests about the new administration and the broader anti-government forces are productive and keep the systemic problems in the forefront. We also believe that South Carolinians can’t change DC until we change SC. We have to commit to a disciplined, long-term plan for winning elections that goes well beyond two-year election cycles.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter and Network Director Brett Bursey will offer a reality check and facilitate a discussion about our inside/outside strategy. Cobb-Hunter represents South Carolina on the Democratic National Committee, is Chair of the Southern Caucus of the DNC, and President Elect of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. She is the quintessential insider. Bursey is a seasoned Democrat who has been challenging the Democratic Party since it was segregated. He worked for the United Citizens Party candidate for governor in 1970, and has been an outsider since the 1968 national Democratic Convention. Cobb-Hunter and Bursey founded the original Democratic Party Progressive Caucus in 2000 that grew into a force that could control the floor at conventions. This original progressive caucus quit in 2014 when new party bylaws required caucuses to support candidates that don’t support the party’s platform.
Conference fee – $10; dinner – $10. RSVP/Share on Facebook. Questions? Call 803-808-3384.
1pm: Orientation for SC Progressive Network’s new members and allies
Facilitator: Robert Burgess, Progressive Network organizer. During this hour, we’ll review the Network’s history, current projects, and strategy to bring our newest members and allies up to speed.
- Overview of Network’s structure: Midlands Coordinator Daniel Deweese
- A little Network history: Modjeska School faculty coordinator Graham Duncan
- Grassroots Alliance for Immigrant Rights: Director Laura Cahue
- Simple Justice/Black Lives Matter: Director Omari Fox
- New Legacy Project: Benedict College NLP chair Junius Douglas
- Modjeska Simkins School for Human Rights: 2016 Modjeska School graduate Robert Burgess
Each session of the day’s program will include a Q&A period.
2pm Welcome and introductions – Network Co-Chairs Marjorie Hammock and Hoyt Wheeler
Performance by Every Black Girl, ensemble from Spring Valley High School
2:15 Who Made the Rules? To understand where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been. Session led by Modjeska School faculty Meeghan Kane (Benedict History Dept.) and Graham Duncan (USC Caroliniana Library historian)
2:40 Dissecting a failed democracy: A Power Point presentation by Network Co-Chair Kyle Criminger and statistician Rick Patelunas. The numbers reveal that democracy in South Carolina is a rigged game. Until we understand the crippling effect money and gerrymandering have on our political system, we cannot make meaningful change. The Network has created this toolkit for members to take back to their organizations to craft more effective and realistic strategies.
3:10 Money, power and the corruption of politics – Government Relations Director John Crangle will offer the latest on the scandal at the State House, and talk about its implications.
3:40 Honoring Rev. Joe Neal, a remembrance
3:45 Post-election engagement – a reality check. Dr. Kerry Taylor, Political Science Professor at The Citadel, will lead discussion on challenging progressives to work more strategically and collaboratively. How do we channel the new energy? How do we best use our talent and resources?
4:15: Understanding the Network’s inside strategy for making and sustaining change. Session led by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, National Democratic Committeewoman and cofounder of the SC Progressive Legislative Caucus, and Network Executive Director Brett Bursey. This marks the first time that the Network has made electoral politics central to its statewide meeting. Our strategy has been – and remains – to focus most of our energy on movement building. But today’s political reality warrants a discussion of our electoral history and capacity.
5:30 Adjourn for dinner. A spread from Tios Mexican Cafe, $10/person. Vegetarian option available.