The Madison Area Democratic Socialists of America (MADSA) is fighting to create a community that is free from oppression and segregation. We believe that everyone deserves the social and economic means to live a thriving and healthy life. In order to get there, we need to start organizing our community so that people have genuine power over the conditions of their livelihood, which means a real say in public policy, their economic and social life, and the governance of their workplace. The MADSA political platform is a series of priorities that our members believe are crucial to the transformation of our society into a genuine democracy, organized around socialist principles. MADSA uses our political platform to find political allies and build electoral campaigns, it communicates our values and analysis while helping us to build accountability into our own work and the work of candidates we endorse.
Our platform consists of building an anti-racist community and immediately starting a people’s pandemic response. We recognize the need to create a society that abolishes prisons and policing and deepens the practice of democracy. We call for our community to confront climate change and start the work of environmental justice, while creating equitable schools, guaranteeing mental health care to all, ending housing injustice, standing in solidarity with immigrants, expanding and ensuring that people can exercise reproductive rights, and overcoming the economic inequality that is endemic to American society.
The MADSA Electoral Politics Working Group wrote this platform while balancing the following values:
- Movement Building: The proposal should serve to mobilize existing DSA members and create opportunities for organizing more of our community. It should offer DSA an opportunity to build an alliance with other groups.
- Socialist Practice: The proposal should represent a socialist solution to a social issue.
- Political Topicality: There should be political potential to take on the issue at this moment.
- Political and Institutional Challenges: It should be “worth fighting” for these proposals, if there are challenges to implementing them. These kinds of political struggles should build power instead of wasting time.
- Intersectional Movements: We should consider who will benefit from this proposal, and who is excluded from it. We should understand when the problems and solutions of these proposals are being defined by particular groups, and comprehend how the power of that group is understood in our class society.
People’s Pandemic Response
The pandemic of COVID-19 has exposed the crisis of care in American society that has been growing for decades. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been needlessly lost, and many more thrown into suffering, on account of a systemic response that continues to favor corporate welfare over human health and wellbeing. The pandemic shows no sign of abatement due to the failure of our corporate healthcare system, decimated welfare state, and anti-union legal system. MADSA calls for immediate action that prioritizes human over corporate welfare and redresses the appalling racialized disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The People’s Vaccine: Vaccinations should be free and accessible to all as soon as they are available. Corporations should not be profiting from a deadly virus. State, county, and local governments should immediately enact free public vaccination programs.
- Free them all: We don’t have the death penalty in WI, but people are dying in prisons. Prisons are cruel and do nothing to ensure the safety of communities. The State of Wisconsin and county jails must immediately begin a program of decarceration in order to save incarcerated persons from the pandemic and eventually build towards the abolition of jails and prisons.
- Halt evictions: Evicting people from their homes during a pandemic is unsafe for everyone. There must be a moratorium on evictions, lenders should be required to extend mortgage periods, and back rent should be paid by the state or cancelled.
- Guarantee expansion of testing capacity to match the spread. In dire times, we cannot have four hour waits for public testing – or people waiting weeks for results – we should invest resources to ramp up testing and contact tracing so that it is free and rapidly available for all as needed.
- Moral Restart: We support the TAA, ASM, UFAS, and others in demanding that the UW system pursue a Moral Restart policy instead of the reckless, unilateral “Smart Restart” that precipitated a tenfold increase in COVID hospitalizations in our community. The UW must enact real shared governance and prioritize the health of its students, employees, and our community.
- Essential is not expendable: We must stop asking workers with the least to do the most. MADSA calls for guaranteed paid sick and quarantine leave for all workers and require employers to provide hazard pay for any worker who works directly with the public in-person, including all healthcare workers. We also demand expansion of unemployment benefits and recall rights for workers laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pernicious effects of racism are present in every aspect of American life. Particularly in Wisconsin, Dane County, and Madison, our community has produced some of the worst racial disparities in the country. Black, Southeast Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous Americans have all endured unique and traumatic oppressions under white-imposed capitalism. MADSA stands for ending systemic racism, which means that we need systematic solutions that give power to communities of color.
- No F-35s at Truax Airfield: The current F-16 fighter wing and proposed F-35s will make many neighborhoods of color uninhabitable due to deafening noise and water pollution. While the United States Air Force has committed to placing F-35s at Truax Field, our state and local governments need to take immediate action to protect our communities from the harmful environmental consequences of these weapons, including PFAS water contamination.
- Restorative justice as a community practice. Punitive and carceral practices reproduce trauma and isolation, and ultimately the harms they claim to eliminate. Instead, we need to restructure our systems of justice to center transformative and restorative justice. We call on the City of Madison and County of Dane to divest money from the Police and Sheriff’s office and invest this money in black-led organizations to practice restorative and transformative justice in our community.
- Reparations are often deferred as being an issue for national consideration, but they are fundamentally about creating justice within a community. Our community has instigated and perpetuated many varieties of racial injustice over decades and centuries. It is therefore our responsibility to create the conditions for equity and justice. This work could start with a truth and reconciliation commission to make public the history of racial oppression in Wisconsin and Dane County. Further, reparations could be made through the transfer of wealth directly to communities of color, particularly through housing and land.
- Decolonize education: We join the efforts of Ananda Mirilli and Ali Muldrow to decolonize public education. School curriculums should be revised to teach accurate history and inclusive cultural studies, while also creating classrooms that support children of color.
Socialists strive toward a world absent of oppression. The American carceral system is among the most expansive and violent to have ever existed, it is crucial for our collective survival that it be abolished. We must imagine and build a world without prisons or police while transforming the social and psychological processes that fuel our country’s drive to incarcerate.
- Demilitarize the police. There must be an immediate ban on police use of chemical weapons and “less lethal” weapons, leading to a progressive disarmament of police forces. Disarming our police force, denying and withdrawing any and all funds meant for instruments of violence, is only the first step toward safety for our community. Mountains of evidence show that police do not create safety, it is time for us to invest in our communities and defund police.
- Abolish cash bail, which burdens the poor, and in Dane County particularly, Black and Brown people. Dane County’s court system must move to end cash bail and eliminate opaque, racist AI and “evidence-based” safety programs.
- End prison labor, which is modern slave labor. Remove the Walker-era requirement for the UW system to purchase all furniture through a contract with Badger State Industries, which relies on prison labor.
- Defund the police, refund the community. Just as Dane County dedicates a disproportionate amount of resources to carceral space, the city of Madison directs over $80 million a year to its police force while it spends drastically less on other essential areas of civic life. We support the call of Freedom, Inc. for the 5% municipal budget reduction to be taken entirely out of the Madison Police Department budget.
- Terminate the Dane County Jail Consolidation project by refusing to approve any contracts to build the facility. The county should solve the “unsafe conditions” of the jail facilities in the City/County Building by closing that facility with the eventual goal of jail abolition.
Climate Change and Environmental Justice
With less than eleven years to adopt radical solutions to solve our climate change crisis, we call upon Dane County and the City of Madison to declare a climate emergency and begin immediate work to mitigate our climate disaster. We support the 2030 net neutral, 2050 all renewable plan of the City of Madison, but we demand more. We support a radical, worker-first, and union-friendly Green New Deal that includes the following concrete actions to improve our ecological footprint and achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions in Dane County by 2030:
- Develop a People First Transportation policy that puts people before cars, paving the way for free bus transit and a car-free isthmus by providing fare-free bus transit to Madison residents, prioritizing bus rapid transit options that favor buses over personal vehicles, ensuring easy bus accessibility to all members of the Madison community, including the disabled and elderly, and eventually expanding the State Street car-free zone to the entire isthmus when public transport works for everyone. Madison Metro workers must be supported by guaranteeing all new public transit jobs be Teamster jobs.
- Restore the sovereignty of Ho-Chunk people. Dane County and the surrounding area must build an active and good-faith relationship with the Ho-Chunk Nation, recognizing their sovereignty and right to self-determination. Cease production of the Line 66 oil pipeline through ancestral Ho-Chunk lands, and refuse to permit any new interstate oil pipelines.
- Perform a public buyout of Madison Gas & Electric (MG&E) and begin providing 100% renewable energy through city-owned assets. Guarantee the retention of MG&E’s unionized employees at the same or better pay, keeping their labor unions intact, and providing them with any and all necessary retraining.
- Prepare for more frequent “100-year floods.” In addition to implementing natural storm water management techniques, Dane County must begin immediate co-study with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources into how we can lower the lakes of the Lower Yahara Watershed back to their natural levels.
- Promote telecommuting. Enact policies that incentivize companies to allow and encourage their employees to work from the comfort of their own homes, reducing both road congestion and carbon emissions from personal vehicles.
Quality education is a fundamental right of all children and families. This means that schools must be equitable for students of color, queer students, trans students, and disabled students. Beyond creating “trauma-informed” schools, we must actively work to prevent and dismantle traumatizing systems of oppression in education. Public money should be used to prioritize student learning and family well-being by instituting:
- Universal Pre-K programming that will allow families to work and thrive while reducing the onerous costs of childcare. At the same time, our schools need to expand after-school programs so that all students can benefit from quality after-school care.
- Tuition-free education at all 2- and 4-year UW schools.
- Free, nutritious breakfast and lunch available to every K-12 student.
- Internet as a public utility is crucial for equitable education throughout our community, during the pandemic and afterwards. As the internet becomes essential to daily life, particularly to accessing education, it is crucial that we offer free and high-quality internet to everyone.
- Increase teacher and education worker compensation by the maximum allowable amount under Act 10 each year, until Act 10 is rescinded. This should be done while adding, not removing, staff positions from Madison Metropolitan School District in order to lower student/teacher ratios in the classroom.
- Racial makeup of teaching staff must at least match that of the student body. Whiteness is over represented among school teachers, and all students benefit when there is racial diversity among their educators.
- Implement teacher education programs to help teachers intervene and prevent bullying of queer and trans students.
- Keep cops out of schools: While Madison Public Schools terminated the contract for cops in schools, we want to make sure they stay out and that funding from the police department goes to services for communities. MMSD needs to invest the money of the ERO contract, and more, in the welfare and flourishing of black and brown students.
Mental Health Care
Healthcare in America is a system that can provide incredible, life-saving care and treatment, yet it is rationed out for only the wealthiest Americans to use. Health care is a human right and rather than piecemeal solutions, we need comprehensive and universal solutions like Medicare For All. These solutions need to recognize the struggles of workers in the mental health care industry—such as unionized workers at Journey Mental Health Center—and allow for workers to organize within their workplace. While we demand Medicare For All at the national level, our community can take steps forward to make universal mental health care a reality.
- Universal Mental Health Care: Regardless of the cause or condition, all people have a right to receive quality mental health and addiction treatment. Commercial insurance and privatized Medicaid have failed to provide care for the mental health of our community, and it’s time to find a new solution. We propose that Dane County implement universal mental health care insurance coverage that would cover all county residents, children and adults alike. The coverage would include outpatient therapy, psychiatry and medication, substance use and addiction treatment, and inpatient care.
- Emergency Mental Health Response: Currently, Dane County and Madison use law enforcement officers to respond to mental health emergencies. We support Mayor Rhodes-Conway’s proposal to build alternative emergency response services for mental health crises.
- Treatment, Not Prison: Countless people end up in our jails and prisons due to a lack of addiction and mental health treatment options. Often, incarceration is the result of a lack of resources and space available at existing treatment providers. We demand that Dane County build a crisis center providing non-carceral inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health treatment, as well as homelessness intervention.
Our community is in the throes of a crisis of housing. Far beyond an issue of affordability or availability, tenants face hostile landlords who destroy the lives of families through unjust evictions and substandard housing. We need to treat housing as a fundamental right of everyone in our community and build significantly more housing in Dane County, while also shifting power to tenants, not landlords. State law is no excuse for local paralysis when it comes to solving these crises. Wherever state law prevents municipalities from enacting these policies, we demand our political leaders pass trigger laws that can form the basis for a legal challenge to the state.
- Tenant Power: Just as workers deserve a voice in their workplace, so too do tenants deserve a voice in their living conditions. Madison should reinstate the 1970s rental relations ordinance that gave tenant unions the right to bargain with their landlords before a city board.
- Just cause eviction: Although it is illegal to refuse to renew a lease for retaliatory purposes, it is nearly impossible for a tenant to prove that this has happened. The City of Madison should establish a limited set of conditions under which lease non-renewal is allowed, and put the burden on landlords to demonstrate that those conditions have been met when they decide not to renew a tenant’s lease.
- Affordability: A person working for minimum wage needs to work almost three full-time jobs to afford rent on the average two-bedroom apartment in Madison. To stabilize this crisis, the city should implement rent control as well as eliminate single-family zoning, making it legal to build more affordable “missing middle” homes (duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes), as was recently done in Minneapolis.
- Legal representation: MADSA calls on the city to guarantee free legal representation to every renter facing eviction in the city
- Vacancy Tax: We need to make sure that homes are built for people, not money. We demand Madison implement luxury, vacancy, and AirBnB taxes similar to the one in Vancouver.
- Social Housing: We call for a social housing program to look beyond this crisis to a future where our city offers fair and secure housing to all. The City of Madison should take the $25 million it has in the Affordable Housing Trust and use it to directly buy or build truly democratic,affordable, and green housing. Public money should not be given to developers as subsidies and incentives, which only serve to profit landlords.
Immigration status is yet another way that people are segregated by class and race in our society, allowing for the separation of families, exploitation of workers, and horrible trauma to be inflicted upon people seeking a better life. Immigration detentions and deportations are inhumane and must end immediately.
- State citizenship for undocumented immigrants and “resident aliens.” The State of Wisconsin, and any municipal or county polity, should take steps to extend voting rights to any person who meets residency requirements of the state, including and especially undocumented immigrants.
- Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants: Undocumented immigrants cannot legally obtain a valid driver license because the DMV requires proof of legal residence. Anyone who lives and/or works regardless of their “legal” residency should be allowed to obtain a valid driver’s license, allowing them to operate a motor vehicle and carry on with daily life, wherever they may live. The only way this can happen is if the above two requirements are removed, and local governments should begin applying pressure to the state to make this possible.
- Boycott Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contractors: Dane County and the City of Madison should revoke or decline to renew contracts with ICE or with companies that contract with ICE. Any companies with contracts with the City of Madison that either cooperate with ICE’s employment compliance program (IMAGE) or have direct contracts supplying ICE with products or services should have these contracts terminated.
The body is an essential location for the intersection of ageism, sexism and racism; hatred and love; slavery and freedom. We believe that bodily autonomy is integral to liberation. We operate from a human rights framework of reproductive justice, which encompasses the right to have children if, when, and how we choose, as well as the right to terminate a pregnancy at any time and for any reason. Our society functions on stealing the autonomy of women’s bodies and the subsequent exploitation of women’s unpaid labor. To achieve gender equity, we must work towards reproductive justice that is centered around the bodily autonomy of all people, regardless of their gender.
- Repeal the abortion ban: With the Roe v. Wade decision under imminent threat from an illegitimate and reactionary supreme court, Wisconsin should move to strike the 1849 law that makes it a felony for doctors to provide abortions. If the court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, Wisconsin’s laws would immediately criminalize abortion.
- Abortion coverage for all people on state-employee health insurance and public-funded health insurance such as BadgerCare Plus plans. This must also include the legalization of telemedicine to administer abortive medication.
- End the practice of shackling inmates during childbirth: This practice still occurs in jails across the state and should end immediately.
- Childcare at public functions: Childcare is a significant barrier for people who want to be citizens involved in their communities. In order to make sure all voices can be heard at public meetings, the city and the county should provide free child care during all public meetings.
- Tax exemption for menstrual products: Menstrual supplies are a necessity. However, unlike other necessities, menstrual products are subject to sales tax in Wisconsin. Menstrual products should be added to the list of exemptions for the purposes of sales tax.
- Provide free menstrual products in all public buildings. Dane County has successfully piloted providing free menstrual products in the restrooms of all county-owned buildings. The City of Madison and Dane County should develop this program into an official policy that all public buildings will provide menstrual products free of charge to those who need them.
- Provide free over-the-counter hormonal birth control and long-term reversible birth control so that everyone who needs birth control, including minors, can have it.
We can’t achieve an equitable society without addressing economic inequality. We live in a class-based society that is organized to keep people poor in order to support the wealth of an undeserving few. Healthy, educated, and equitable societies cannot exist in the face of extreme economic segregation, and we believe that all people in society deserve economic dignity.
- $15 per hour minimum wage along with the abolition of the service industry wage and tipping so that anyone working a full-time job doesn’t have to live in poverty! Additionally, Wisconsin needs to put an end to the sub-minimum wage, which allows employers to pay some disabled workers as little as 4 cents an hour for the same type of work non-disabled workers perform. The state should also restore prevailing wage laws.
- Participatory budgeting at the municipal, county, and state levels of government. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to directly participate in the process of drafting public budgets so that it reflects the needs of our community, not corporations and lobbyists.
- Repeal Act 10 and Right to Work legislation: restore full bargaining rights to public employees and end “right to work” laws designed to weaken labor unions and bring down working standards.
- One year paid parental leave for all Wisconsin residents. The State of Wisconsin should levy taxes on corporations so as to fund a public system for paid parental leave. Guarantee two weeks of paid vacation and sick leave a year for all workers in Wisconsin.
- Reinstitute the requirement that employers pay the full contribution to workers’ retirement in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).
- Make Wisconsin a “Just Cause” state. Workers in the United States are employed “At Will” and can be terminated for any reason, save outright discrimination. Currently, only union workers have won “Just Cause” protections stipulating specific conditions for termination. Expanding Just Cause to all workers provides common sense protections and helps safeguards workers who want to organize unions by removing the fear of retaliatory firings.
- Build food sovereignty by investing resources into community-led agricultural programs to provide nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food to all, while opposing developments that would create or exacerbate food deserts.
- Fight wage theft (unpaid wages) with stronger penalties for employers who break the law and refuse to pay their workers.
- Ensure “union neutrality” for any businesses accepting public funding, subsidies, or Tax-Increment Financing. Businesses that receive public money should agree not to intervene in union organizing efforts and should recognize workers’ desire for union representation if they so choose.
Political freedom is light and air for the working-class movement to grow. Socialists are committed to winning the battle for democracy in order to bring the working class into power. Our vision for democracy is one in which all people have real power in the process of our collective self-determination. We draw on a long history of democratic projects beyond majoritarian legislative bodies in a call for building real democracy in Wisconsin.
- Lower the voting age to 16. Young people are informed of and engaged in politics. The decisions in this sphere will affect their whole lives. The franchise should be extended to them throughout the state.
- Voting rights for every resident. All residents, including felons, undocumented immigrants, and resident aliens, should have the right to vote in state, county, and city elections.
- Non-partisan districting commission. End the extreme gerrymandering of Wisconsin, which is anti-democratic, by creating district maps that maximize the representativeness of the legislature. This commission should be drawn up through sortition of Wisconsin residents and balanced to provide representation or over representation for oppressed groups.
- Automatic registration of all eligible voters.
- Default vote by mail: As the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, voting by mail at a large scale is feasible. Sending ballots for all elections by default encourages voter participation.
- Party-list proportional representation for legislative bodies. For the election of single officials and until this is introduced, range voting, preferably in multi-member districts.
- Eliminated the barrier to ballot access for third parties. This barrier makes independent working-class politics more difficult and benefits the bourgeois parties. This demand includes lowering required numbers of signatures and ensuring ballot design is fair to third parties among other measures,
- Legislate a repeal of Citizens United and publicly fund election campaigns. The unlimited fundraising and dark money of those who serve the capitalist class will never be on the side of democracy and social welfare. The legitimacy of candidates shouldn’t be tied to their capacity to fundraise, nor should elections be decided by access to media and staffing gained through fundraising.