Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) was founded in 1947 by Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther, Arthur Schlesinger, and Reinhold Niebuhr, “to keep the New Deal dream … alive for generations to come”i.e., to promote “liberal politics, liberal policies, and a liberal future.” Closely tied to Democratic Party politics and agendas, ADA boasts that it “has played critical roles in every Democratic presidential campaign since Harry Truman’s, and has provided scores of senior advisors to Democratic Presidents, Senators, and Congressmen over the years.” The organization claims to consist of “thousands of members,” whom it urges “to lobby their Senators and Representatives” on issues of political and social import.
During each election cycle, ADA gives supportin the form of financial contributions and volunteer laborto “scores of progressive Congressional candidates.” Its political action committee “has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars” to help “elect liberals to the United States House of Representatives and Senate,” with priority given to “incumbents in close races and challengers who are women or minorities in marginal districts.” ADA rates the respective legislative voting records of all elected officials in Congress and proudly declares that it was “among the very first groups to support Barack Obama‘s Senate race in 2004.”
To disseminate its political views and recommendations as broadly as possible, ADA has established an Education Fund that produces periodic policy briefs, sponsors guest speakers who address a broad range of issues, conducts polling, and offers student-research fellowships.
ADA’s president is Lynn Woolsey. Its vice presidents include such notables as Elijah Cummings, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Jan Schakowsky. And among its honorary presidents are Barney Frank, John Lewis, Jim McDermott, George McGovern, and Charles Rangel. The organization’s national director is Michael Wilson, a former official with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
ADA is headquartered in Washington, DC and has additional chapters located in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Chicago, St. Louis, New York City, Long Island (New York), Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Guadalajara (Mexico).
Among ADA’s positions on issues of political import are the following:
Unemployment: ADA calls for “direct job creation by the federal government,” as well as the use of federal funds to “expan[d]” unemployment benefits, healthcare coverage, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for people who are out of work.
Health Care: Advocating a government-run “single-payer” healthcare system,” ADA regards the 2010 healthcare reform bill as “a good first step,” albeit one that is “far from perfect,” toward a “far more fundamental restructuring of America’s health care system.”
Tax Reform: “Restore progressivity to our personal and corporate income tax systems … to ensure [that] the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.”
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Lamenting that “an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq … has severely damaged America’s moral standing in the world, multiplied support for terrorists, and depleted our military,” ADA asserts that the U.S. should not only “open diplomatic relations and unconditional multilateral negotiations with any country,” but should also conduct its foreign policy “through multinational organizations such as the United Nations and NATO.”
Education: ADA says that to “combat educational inequality,” elementary and secondary education should be funded “by means of general taxes” collected from taxpayers nationwide, so that school budgets in low-income neighborhoods can be as high as those in affluent areas.
Energy: ADA supports a cap-and-trade policy which would tax businesses whose carbon-dioxide emissions exceed federally stipulated limits. Moreover, the organization calls for reductions in the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, in favor of greater reliance upon “wind power, solar power, and biofuels.”
Criminal Justice: Asserting that every facet of the justice system is infested with “racism and classism,” ADA recommends the use of alternatives to incarcerationby way of “education, drug and alcohol treatment, opportunities for recreation, and job-training programs.”
Women’s Rights: “The women of the United States have not yet achieved full economic, social, or legal equity, and are still denied the same opportunities available to men.”
Immigration: ADA condemns the “demagoguery and vitriolic scapegoating [that] have been directed at undocumented immigrants, the most deprived, exploited, and abused individuals.” Asserting further that “deportations should be suspended,” the organization says that illegals “should have full and equal access to all public services, including education, health care, and welfare assistance, and should … have the right to join a union, obtain a driver’s license, and pay in-state [low-cost] tuition at their state’s public universities….”
Defense Spending: Chastising America for playing the “role of policeman of the world” and thereby “undermining the role of the UN,” ADA calls for “massive reductions” in U.S. defense spending, including an end to “funding for development and deployment of a Star Wars’ ballistic missile defense, which violates the ABM Treaty.”
Guantanamo Bay: “Detaining civilians indefinitely is cruel and inhumane,” says ADA, and “should not be practiced by the United States.” Thus the organization advocates the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and calls for “criminal and legislative investigations … of torture and other forms of prisoner abuse.”
Death Penalty: ADA “opposes the death penalty on moral grounds.” It also asserts that capital punishment is applied in a racially discriminatory manner and “has not been a deterrent to crime.”
Gun Control: ADA proposes “that the manufacture of guns be restricted to military weapons, to be tightly controlled by the military, and hunting rifles and shotguns of reasonably limited design. The possession of all other guns should be prohibited.”
Voting Rights: ADA strongly supports all the provisions of the Motor Voter Bill and the abolition of “disenfranchisement laws for felons.” It also favors “same-day registration, in which citizens can register to vote on Election Day at the polling place itself.”
Living Wage: “To narrow the inequitable rich-poor gap and produce a more balanced and stable economy,” ADA supports the requirement that all workers should be paid at least a “living wage,” a term denoting the minimum hourly wage necessary for an individual to meet basic needs, including shelter, clothing, and nutrition.
Offshore Oil Drilling: Due to “economic [and] environmental concerns,” says ADA, “no further offshore oil drilling should be permitted along the American coastline.”
Employee Free Choice Act: ADA “is committed to use every means at its disposal to work unceasingly and tirelessly” to pass this legislation, which would deprive employees of the right to vote for or against the unionization of their workforce by means of a secret ballot.
ADA is a member organization of the National Jobs for All Coalition.
For additional information about ADA and its policy positions, click here.