Center for Democratic Values

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Center for Democratic Values was a think tank project of Democratic Socialists of America.

It was based at 10524 Elgin Huntington Woods, Michigan


Center for Democratic Values was created by Democratic Socialists of America to promote socialist views to the "mainstream".[1]

Over the past 20 years, the American Left has become marginal to public debate in the United States as the center of political gravity has shifted to the Right. Discussions have been taking place - about how best to manage the economy, the role of markets, the place of government, the rights of minorities, what are the nation's shared values - without the participation of Left intellectuals, whether academic, professional or activist...

Recognizing this, we are joining together to create the Center for Democratic Values. The Center is a network of academics, professionals and activists committed to gathering, exploring and rethinking progressive ideas on society, the economy, and government and making them part of the mainstream conversation. We will do this through clarifying our starting points and rethinking our positions on key issues, through organizing ourselves to make our presence felt, and through mastering the skills and techniques needed for reaching the mainstream.

Democratic Values

"Democratic Values : A Guilford/Center for Democratic Values Series" was a CDV literature project "designed to shift mainstream debate to the left";[2]

Democratic Values is a book series designed to shift mainstream debate to the left in the United States through the clear presentation of alternative analyses and policy proposals. Series titles will focus on current social and political issues as well as questions of values and culture. Specific volumes will address issues such as: the next steps for the labor movement; affirmative action and the assault on civil rights; corporate domination of culture; and foreign policy in the 21st century. Certain volumes will address more general topics such as: the role of government, the nature of the common good; the fate and future of feminism; and the future of the Left.The series seeks to help lay the groundwork for the ideas and the political program of the next Left.
To do so, we must not simply recirculate our conventional wisdom but rethink what the Left is today, and what it can be tomorrow - what are our shared values and beliefs, what kinds of changes we advocate, what are our critiques and programs, even who we are. And as we do this, we also need to learn,once again, how to talk to ordinary Americans in words and ideas that relate to their lives, concerns, and experience.
As these books are targeted to a mainstream audience, they will be nonspecialist in orientation, written in direct and accessible language, short (150-180 printed pages), and with a minimal scholarly pretentions. We expect to use them to generate policy debates in Washington and within trade unions, to provide new ideas and tools for political activists, and to stimulate intellectual ferment on campuses.

The series was particularly targeted at universities and labor unions.

They will be aggressively promoted to DSA's 12,000 members (through DSA's magazine, The Democratic Left, and in membership mailings, as well as at conventions and meetings).
An estimated 2000 members of DSA teach in colleges or universities, and we expect many of them either to adopt our books for class use or to recommend them to their students for outside reading. We would also hope that some of these colleagues will participate with DSA locals and student groups in arranging author's tours.

Each book should:

  • describe the problem or issue in depth and detail, including real-life depictions that hit home;
  • describe previous efforts to deal with it, both here and abroad, and the results;
  • analyze how the problem or issue connects with others, and what are its historical roots, deeper social origins and consequences;
  • describe any previous Left solutions, as well as why and how these have required rethinking;
  • spell out the values and basic principles driving the discussion;
  • present long-term solutions, even if they involve social transformation (the "best" solution);
  • present policy proposals for immediate action.
  • make "what you can do next" suggestions to the reader.

Series editor was Ron Aronson, chair of the Center for Democratic Values and Professor of Humanities at Wayne State University.

The Steering Committee included;

The Editorial Board included;

CDV Founding conference

The Center for Democratic Values, the think-tank project of Democratic Socialists of America, held its first national conference, "Arguing with the Right," November 6-7 1996, at the Clarion Hotel Columbus Ohio - In conjunction with the Democratic Socialists of America National Convention[4].

The conference will include historical and analytical sessions, plus skills workshops for contesting the Right's current dominance of American political discussion.

Contact Ron Aronson, Wayne State University


9:15 Panel on the Right's Success: Chip Berlet ("Eyes Right"); Eric Vega (anti-proposition 209 and 187 activist and DSA National Political Committee); Holly Sklar ("Chaos or Community")

10:45 The Right's Key Ideas: Jim Aune ("The Rhetoric of the Market"); Harvey Kaye ("Why do Ruling Classes Fear History?"); Jessica Jerome (University of Chicago), Paul Kockelman (University of Michigan)

12:15 Lunch - Keynote address: "Arguing with the Right about Public Schools," C. J. Prentiss (Ohio State Representative)

1:45 What is the Left's Core Identity?: Allen Hunter (Haven Center for the Study of Social Change); Herb Boyd (The Black World Today); Barbara Ehrenreich (DSA National Co-chair)

3:45-5:00 A: Reclaiming Religion, Values, and Morality from the Right: Duane Oldfield ("The Right and the Righteous"); Eugene TeSelle (Vanderbilt University Divinity School); Rabbi Melody Johnston

B: Is the Right Attacking Women?: Barbara Bergmann ("In Defense of Affirmative Action"); Christine Riddiough (DSA Political Director); Russ Bellant ("The Coors Connection")

C: How Contemporary Debate Gets Framed and How to Open it to the Left:Ellen Ratner ("101 Ways to Get Your Progressive Issues on Talk Radio"); Richard Schrader (former NYC Commissioner of Consumer Affairs); Mary Jean Collins (People For the American Way)

8:00 Does the American Economy Serve Democratic Values? -Cornel West and Barbara Ehrenreich for the Left, and David Frum and Stuart Butler for the Right

Friday, Nov. 7

8:30 Evaluation of Debate by Capital University Students, led by Guy Molyneux (Peter Hart Research)

9:30 Skills Training

A. Talk Radio: Ellen Ratner

B. Using TV and Video: Robert Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer (Host and Producer of "From the Democratic Left"

C. How to do Op-Eds: Holly Sklar and Allen Hunter

D. Arguing: Devin Burghart (Center for a New Community) and Deborah Halbert (Otterbein College)

12:00 - 1:00 Lunch - Keynote address: "Saving Our Children from Poverty," Barbara Bergmann (American University)

1:30 Issue Workshops: The Right's Key Ideas and the Left's Responses

A. Affirmative Action:Barbara Bergmann and James Upton (Ohio State University)

B. Arguing for Public Schools: Mary Jean Collins and Mary Jo Kilroy (Columbus Board of Education)

C. Living Wage: Dave Reynolds ("Democracy Unbound")

D. Arguing for Health Care: David Green (UHCAN!) and Cathy Levine (UHCAN! Ohio Issues Coordinator)

E Arguing for Unions: Milt Tambor (Michigan AFSCME)

F. Arguing about Racism: Herb Boyd and Ernest Green (Otterbein College)

G. Arguing over the Environment: Harvey Wasserman (Greenpeace)

H. Arguing about Crime: Kevin Pranis (DSA Youth Section Field Coordinator) and Lynn Chancer


  1. [PEN-L:7674] cdvnet: DEMOCRATIC VALUES Book Series (fwd) BAIMAN Sun, 1 Dec 1996
  2. [PEN-L:7674] cdvnet: DEMOCRATIC VALUES Book Series (fwd) BAIMAN Sun, 1 Dec 1996
  3. [PEN-L:7674] cdvnet: DEMOCRATIC VALUES Book Series (fwd) BAIMAN Sun, 1 Dec 1996