Americans for Democratic Action: Southeast Pennsylvania

ADA Founders Hubert Humphrey & Eleanor Roosevelt
Americans for Democratic Action founders Hubert Humphrey (left) and Eleanor Roosevelt (center) with Adlai Stevenson (right).

— by John Oliver Mason

The Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) held its membership meeting in First Unitarian Church.

Guenevive Norton, chapter President, greeted the members and introduced Don Kusler, National Executive Director of ADA, “a voice for our causes in Washington.” Horton listed ADA’s recent activities, such as the campaign for earned sick leave, coalition work around voter ID legislation, merit selection of judicial candidates, endorsements for candidates in general and primary elections, and school funding and closing.

Don Kusler, National Director of ADA, spoke to the group, saying, “This is a sizeable group of people, dedicated to a single mission. You can get a lot done, and it’s so important that we do this with our chapters and expand our chapter base.” Pointing out that ADA members come from several backgrounds and deal with a variety of issues, Kusler said of the themes the members stood for, “one was equality, we talked about equality of education, equality of representation, equality when it comes to (ending) bias, I think that’s the underlying theme where all interested in.”

More after the jump.
Another theme Kusler found was creating an environment where voters are voting more along the line of their interests…

Many of the other issues that we talk about are aided if you move forward on equality and fix some of the electoral issues we have…There are certain things we’re interested in at ADA nationally, but the most critical thing-the direction we’re heading in in our operations-is that Washington, unfortunately, is not currently a place where we can get much achieved.

(Our politics) are so polarized, and our own voting records show this,” added Kusler. Referring to the “Liberal Quotient” score system of Congress-members, he said, “We’ve been doing it for sixty-five years, higher scores are liberal, lower scores are conservative. Over time, the parties, up until and in through the late ‘eighties and early ‘nineties, there was a lot of diversity in the scores; the Democratic caucus average was in the seventies, the Republican caucus average was in the thirties. They were solidly where you would think they would be.

With the election of Congress in 1994, Kusler added, “The scores go wide, and we were so divided, and it just gets worse and worse with the Tea Party infiltration.” Also, said Kusler, “We’ve become so obsessed with the sound-bite world we live in, trying to get Washington to do something it’s just not going to do, and we’re forgetting our local roots.”

Kusler called for a greater emphasis by ADA on strengthening the chapters and working on more localized campaigns,

and that’s where (ADA’s) chapters come in. It’s so important that you (the members) find out what it is that grew (the chapter), what is it that’s your strength, what it is that you provide to the larger Progressive and Liberal community here is the Philadelphia area, that you can get behind, whether it’s an issue, or a couple of issues, or whether it’s a particular function of advocacy or information, I think it will strengthen both your membership, your contribution to the community, if you can do that as a group. That’s going to really provide an identity when we’re doing coalition work.

State Senator Daylin Leach spoke about state level politics, saying,

The Pennsylvania legislature is going to do what the Pennsylvania legislature likes to do most, which is tell women how to live their lives. We have Senate Bill 3 coming up, which says that women cannot, if they buy health insurance through the exchange (set up under the Obama healthcare plan), buy (insurance) policies that cover abortion, even  with their own money…I debated the chief sponsor of this on television, a guy named Don White, a pleasant enough guy, and  he kept saying, ‘We don’t want taxpayer money going to abortions.’ That’s already the law. This does not do that, this goes a step further.

Think about what the bill does. At the end of the day, it requires people who want coverage for abortions to buy a health policy through the exchange, and then go outside the exchange and buy a second health care policy that mostly covers abortion. What insurance company is going to offer a policy that totally covers abortion? Putting the issue of abortion aside,  that’s how insurance works, spreading the risk over a large group of people for a variety of things. It’s like saying, ‘I’d like to buy an insurance policy that covers kidney stones,’ who’s going to do that? …Even if there was such a policy, what woman is going to go in and say, ‘I need to buy some abortion coverage.’ Most people don’t believe they’ll need that coverage, that’s why we don’t have individual insurance policies for individual things that can’t predict they’re going to have. It’s a crazy idea, and that’s what the Pennsylvania legislature loves doing.

Another bill coming up in the legislature, said Leach, is the contraception bill,

what I call the ‘ask your boss bill.’ This bill says that bosses can opt out of providing their employees, if it violates their conscience, with contraception coverage. If you’re a woman, and you want contraception coverage, you have to ask your boss’s permission. Think about the discussions that are going to result from that.

One bill Leach introduced, he said,

which would provide mandatory paid family leave, for men and women. If you have a newborn, you can get twelve weeks of paid leave. This (kind of) bill is already law in almost all of the industrialized world. This is already a standard benefit of employment. This is already something that employers in Europe, Canada, and Mexico, and most of the world have figured out how to provide…It’s really good for everybody; it’s good for the kids, the rate of child mortality, (and) the rate of impoverishment all go down when you have that twelve weeks of bonding.



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