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A Night of Social Justice Songs

By Kasia Kondracki

This has been a year of resisting and persisting for us all. A great deal of what is needed to be an activist and a change agent is to keep going, keep pushing yourself to give more and do more for the greater good. Many of us around the 10th Congressional District are resisting by supporting the local domestic violence shelter or homeless shelter, growing fresh produce for the local food bank, volunteering in an environmental rights campaign, collecting school supplies for a drive, rescuing animals from abuse, petitioning our government, even testifying before the EPA.

But another part of the giving is to never give up hope. And that’s when self-care is needed. Sometimes, self-care comes in the form of taking a break to put on music that speaks to you and to sing and dance and be joyfully surrounded by others who, like you, are resisting and persisting.

Last Saturday, August 5th, I pulled into the parking lot down a winding road in Gurnee lined with midwestern wildflowers.  The glass entrance of the Lake County Federation of Teachers building framed a warmly lit room of people standing and clapping and dancing on a starry summer night singing Social Justice songs together.

What are Social Justice Songs? I had emailed back in confusion at the initial invitation. Well, Tenth Dems had created a playlist of songs—inspired by Bernie and Hillary delegates who came together during the 2016 convention to sing these kinds of songs–that express Democratic values and have resonated over the years.  –“Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon, “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker, “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, songs about Rosa Parks, songs of the labor movement, folk songs from the early and mid-20th century–songs that have shaped our character as a country and which remind us all that we are in this together. Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, gospel, Peter, Paul, & Mary, Broadway—all reflecting Democratic values of inclusiveness and social justice.

The crowd was diverse in race, religious background, income level, physical abilities, age, and richness of vocal tone. When I walked in, three preschoolers were dancing with youthful abandon alongside women who had seen the feminist movement of the sixties. Some people were relaxing over pizza together, listening to a group of gospel singers, and reading the song lyrics projected onto a screen at the front of the room.

This was a night of solidarity, and I’m thankful to all those who organized it.

Tenth Dems is grateful to Andy Chusid, who organized this event, and to Olivia Love, a 2016 Bernie delegate, and Lauren Beth Gash, a 2016 Hillary delegate, who inspired it.

See photos from this event by Steve Rosenzweig at

President Trump May Have Stage Four Malignant Narcissism

By Steven Gan

The afternoon of Saturday, July 29th, I was watching one of my favorite CNN news analysis hosts, Michael Smerconish. Having followed him for a couple of years, I find his commentary to be insightful and his interaction with guests to always be civil, polite, and informative.

On his program that day ( were two psychiatrists, Drs. John Gartner and Prudence Gourguechon, who were discussing whether psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals should be able to voice their personal opinions on the mental health status of public figures, specifically focusing on Donald Trump. The discussion centered on the medical and legal appropriateness of giving a broad opinion of a public figure’s mental well-being, or lack thereof, without the opportunity to make a complete diagnosis.

This was a topic of discussion because recently the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) emailed its members stating that the APsaA no longer stands by the “Goldwater Rule,” that only on a personal basis can its members opine on public figures’ mental health. The “Goldwater Rule,” the informal name given to Section 7 in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics, says that it is unethical for mental health professionals to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements. The rule was named after 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and it arose from an article published in 1964 in Fact Magazine, “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.” The magazine had asked some 1800 psychiatrists whether Senator Goldwater was fit to be President of the United States and published the results. Goldwater later sued the editor of the magazine for libel and eventually won $75,000 in compensatory damages.  But today many mental health professionals believe that the Goldwater Rule unreasonably limits their ability to speak out about important issues—like the mental health of a sitting president. Such sentiments apparently inspired the APsaA’s email disavowing adherence to the Goldwater Rule.

During the discussion with Smerconish, Dr. John Gartner opined that Donald Trump had “malignant narcissism” and implied it was at a “stage four” level. In hearing the term “malignant narcissism,” I thought Gartner was only being colorful in describing another one of President Trump’s personal deficiencies, like noting that Trump personifies “crass materialism.” It was said so quickly, I didn’t give it much thought, since day in and day out we are besieged with Trump’s mind-boggling antics on every political, mental, and emotional level.

Strangely, though, later that night when I was watching Law & Order, in one courtroom scene a psychiatrist testified that the defendant suffered from “severe malignant narcissism.

Now I had heard this term twice in less than10 hours, so I decided to look it up on Wikipedia. Here’s what I found:

“Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, aggression, and sadism. Often grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate.

When we think of the countless statements and tweets containing Trump’s nonstop bragging, boasting, attacks, name-calling, threats, uncontrolled anger, lies, delusions, and fantastical accomplishments, does this definition not describe our president to a T?

Dr. Gartner is one of 27 psychiatrists who have contributed to a new book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump ( The book should help us understand more about our president’s psychological condition. And, in view of the six months of this historically dysfunctional, chaotic, and out of the universe president and his administration, the book promises to be a best-seller.

Summer Interns Bring Talent, Energy, and Enthusiasm to Tenth Dems

By Orli Sheffey

This summer, nearly 20 energetic young Democrats joined Tenth Dems’ 2017 intern class. As the 10th District is one of the most closely watched districts in the nation, our interns enjoy an exceptionally hands-on political experience at the grassroots level and can immerse themselves in the endless opportunities Tenth Dems has to offer. Tenth Dems’ educational and fast-paced environment allows the interns to connect and familiarize themselves with the real climate of today’s politics. By helping coordinate and staff events, analyzing political data, conducting research, and working closely with elected officials and candidates, interns learn the necessary skills to excel in a wide variety of fields. Specialized assignments allow the interns to personalize their experiences to cater to their career interests and ambitions.

Following their time at Tenth Dems, numerous former interns have pursued advanced degrees in politics-related fields and obtained major positions working for elected officials in both Springfield and Washington D.C., in the hopes of making positive change in people’s lives. And some have gone on to hold elective office.  As the 2017 interns engage in meaningful work to promote Democrats and Democratic values, the skills learned from this internship will allow them to leave a lasting impact on the world for future generations.

Meet some of the 2017 intern class!

Andrew Barnett: This is Andrew’s second summer interning at Tenth Dems. A recent graduate of Highland Park High School, Andrew will be attending the University of Edinburgh in the fall. Andrew has previously interned for Brad Schneider’s congressional campaign and is currently interning for Daniel Biss’s gubernatorial campaign, in addition to his internship at Tenth Dems. Besides politics, Andrew enjoys fencing and playing chess. He hopes to work for more Democratic campaigns in the future and perhaps one day to run for elected office.

Nick Berklan: Nick is a rising senior at Libertyville High School, and this is his first summer interning at Tenth Dems. At school, Nick is on the Model United Nations team where he has won numerous awards, and he plays the saxophone in band. Nick is also deeply involved with Boy Scouts, and one of his greatest accomplishments was becoming an Eagle Scout. When Nick attends college, he hopes to major in International Relations.

Mariel Boden: This is Mariel’s second summer as a Tenth Dems intern. She moved here from Singapore in 10th grade and soon became a member of Stevenson High School’s Model United Nations team, Chinese Honors Society, and National Honors Society. She also participated in Girl Scouts, where she won the Girl Scouts Gold Award. In the fall, Mariel will attend McGill University in Montreal, where she plans on majoring in International Development with a concentration in economic development and living conditions, with a double minor in East Asian Languages and Microbiology/Immunology. She hopes to ultimately get a Ph.D. in global health with a concentration in infectious disease control in East and Southeast Asia, after which she wants to work for the WHO, CDC, NIH, or an NGO as a health policy advisor or infectious disease control specialist.

Arad Boxenbaum: Arad is a rising junior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. He interns at Tenth Dems because of his deep interest and passion for politics. At his high school, Arad is a member of Stevenson’s Model United Nations team, debate team, band, theatre program, and choir. Arad is hoping to major in Political Science and Journalism when he attends college.

Danny Ivanov: Although this is Danny’s first summer as a Tenth Dems intern, he has had a great deal of political experience. Danny has been a field organizer for various campaigns in both Illinois and Florida. Danny recently graduated from the University of Miami in three years with a triple major in Economics, Political Science, and History. He will be attending law school this fall at George Washington University. During his free time, Danny enjoys basketball and fishing, and he hopes one day to run for elected office.

Prajnaa Jain: Prajnaa is a rising junior at Glenbrook North High School. She decided to intern this summer at Tenth Dems to have the opportunity to participate in work that she is passionate about. Prajnaa is on Glenbrook North’s Student Board, Feminism Club Board, World Language Honors Society Board, and Advisory Board. She is also a member of Peer Mentors, Key Club, and the debate team. Prajnaa’s greatest accomplishment was receiving the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence at her former school.

Emma Johnson: Emma is a rising junior at Lake Forest High School, where she is the founder of Habitat for Humanity, a secretariat for the Model United Nations team, a Teen Court attorney and juror, a cellist and orchestra executive, and a member of the cross country team. Emma is hoping to attend college on the east coast and pursue a double major in International Relations and Political Science. Following college, Emma plans to attend law school and wants to become an international lawyer with a concentration in environmental or humanitarian law. Emma decided to apply for a Tenth Dems internship because she believes that outside of activism, the only way to make substantial change is through working on local, regional, and national levels to promote progress and awareness and fight apathy.

Carrie Kisicki: Carrie recently graduated from Highland Park High School, where she was one of six salutatorians. She will be attending Carleton College in the fall, where she hopes to major in political science and then attend law school. Carrie interned for Brad Schneider’s congressional campaign in 2014, and following the November 2016 election she wanted to continue her involvement in Democratic politics.  That’s why she decided to intern with Tenth Dems. Some of Carrie’s other high school activities  include the soccer team, Model United Nations team, Scholastic Bowl, orchestra, and Link Crew.

Joshua Krupp: Josh returned for a third summer as a Tenth Dems intern. He recently graduated from Michigan State University, majoring in Comparative Cultures and Politics. In addition to his time at Tenth Dems, Joshua interned for State Rep. Sheldon Neeley of Flint Michigan this past semester, and he is currently interning for State Rep. Scott Drury, a Democratic candidate for governor. Josh’s favorite part of Tenth Dems is the various opportunities he’s been given to meet many Illinois candidates and elected officials. He hopes to work for a government agency in the future.

Christina Li: Christina returned for a second summer as a Tenth Dems intern and is a rising freshman at Stanford University. When Christina was in high school, she was on Glenbrook North High School’s debate and badminton teams. She hopes to continue some form of policy study in college–perhaps international relations or public health.

Matthew Nevin: Matt is a rising junior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School where he is a member of the Law Club. When Matt goes to college, he plans to major in Economics with a minor in Political Science. Following college, Matt hopes to attend law school and, one day, to run for elected office. Matt believes that political change begins locally, and although he is not old enough to vote, Matt wants to help those with good intentions steer our state and country in the right direction.

Sean O’Reilly: After interning last year, Sean returned for a second summer as the Internship Coordinator. Sean first interned at Tenth Dems due to his desire to engage in the political process. Sean is a rising junior at Grinnell College in Iowa and is pursuing a double major in Economics and Music. He has played the drums for numerous bands and is currently a member of Grinnell College’s cross country and track and field teams. Next summer, Sean hopes to obtain a political internship in Washington D.C.

Annika Peterson: A recent graduate of New Trier High School, Annika is a rising freshman at Cornell University. At her high school, Annika was on the rowing team and will continue rowing in college. Annika plans to major in Policy Analysis and Management and hopes to attend law school following college. She decided to intern at Tenth Dems this summer to learn how political offices and grassroots organizations function on a daily basis.

Jack Scullion: Like Annika, Jack is a recent graduate of New Trier High School. Jack will be attending Michigan State University in the fall where he hopes to pursue a major in Public Affairs. He was first drawn to Tenth Dems due to his passion for politics and desire to promote change. As a first-year intern, Jack participated in the Expungement Summit where he experienced first-hand the need for Illinois criminal justice reform. In high school, Jack was a member of the all-state debate team, and he is an improv comedian in his free time.

Orli Sheffey: Orli is a rising sophomore at Deerfield High School, and she is the Deputy Internship Coordinator this summer. She interns at Tenth Dems to engage in the political process and to promote Democratic candidates in future elections. Orli is a member of Deerfield High School’s Model United Nations, cross country, and track and field teams. She holds leadership positions in Warrior Buddies, a club that works with special needs students, Deerfield’s Hebrew Honors Society board, and Deerfield Students for Israel. In the upcoming school year, Orli is co-founding a club called GEM (Gender Equality Movement) to promote gender equality locally, nationally, and internationally.

Teodora Simic: Teodora is a rising senior at Niles West High School where she is on the debate team and tennis team. She also participates in feminism club, French club, Honors French Society, and Serbian club. Teodora has competed at the state level for debate and the science fair. After high school, Teodora will attend college; she is still deciding between pre-law and pre-medical courses of study. When Teodora first heard of Tenth Dems, she was immediately drawn to the political experience Tenth Dems offers.

Andy Steiner: A recent graduate of Deerfield High School, Andy will be attending Northwestern University in the fall. He hopes to pursue a double major in Economics and History. While this is his first summer as a Tenth Dems intern, Andy volunteered for Brad Schneider’s congressional campaign in both 2014 and 2016. Aside from his passion for politics, Andy loves music; he is a drummer and classical pianist and he participated in both marching band and jazz band throughout his high school years. Additionally, he was the editor of Deerfield’s literary/art magazine. As for his future plans, Andy is taking everything one step at a time.

A Special Kind of Energy

 By Marci Jacobs and Neesa Sweet

A “phenomenal evening,” a “topnotch affair,” an “inspiring night.” This is just a small sampling of the accolades bestowed upon the Tenth Dems Candidate and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner held at the Deerfield Hyatt July 19, 2017, by some of the nearly 300 in attendance.  Even Keynote Speaker Jason Kander, former Missouri Secretary of State, U.S. Senate candidate, head of Let America Vote, and recognized by President Obama as a rising star of the Democratic Party, decisively distinguished this event from the many he attends, noting a “special kind of energy in the room.”

An extensive album of photos from this event can by found at

From the delectable food – grilled vegetables, Caesar salad, and a variety of pastas – to the impressive lineup of speakers, to the extraordinary number of hosts, the night was a resounding success.   The festive ballroom, festooned with balloons, township placards, a variety of campaign buttons, and the welcome life-size cutouts of former President Obama and First Lady Michelle, reflected the mood of the evening.

The dinner was held to honor the individuals who took the big step of putting themselves forward to run in this year’s elections and the volunteers who helped them.  The evening’s theme was “Grassroots in Action,” as speaker after speaker told their personal stories and underscored how anyone could and should make a difference at the local level.

Lauren Beth Gash, Founding Chair and 10th District State Central Committeewoman, and Bonnie Berger-Neel and Marguerite Hampton, Co-Chairs, welcomed the crowd and spoke about Tenth Dems.  Dan Pierce, Northshore Sanitary District Trustee and 10th District State Central Committeeman, closed the evening.

The program began with a dedication to the loving memory of Nancie Blatt, one of the founders of Tenth Dems and a tireless lifelong supporter of Democratic and progressive causes.  Numerous grassroots volunteers and up-and-coming Democratic candidates followed.

Jackie Epstein, Leadership Committee, and Danny Ivanov, one of this year’s interns, spoke about community engagement.  Carolyn Rivers, a newly elected Zion Park District Commissioner who has helped run the Tenth Dems Waukegan office, told her personal story of progressing from volunteer to elected official.

Gail Schnitzer Eisenberg, New Trier Township Trustee, recounted her introduction to Democratic politics as a Tenth Dems intern more than a decade ago.  Gail introduced Daniel Didech, newly-elected Vernon Township Supervisor.  Daniel came into township office with a Democratic slate that ousted a slate of entrenched Republicans, and he acknowledged the important role Tenth Dems played in the Democratic victory.

Niki Warden, former Fox Lake Clerk and a candidate in 2016, introduced Waukegan Park District Commissioner Marc Jones, who celebrated the night’s honorees –all the Democrats who ran in the April 2017 local elections and the volunteers who support them and Tenth Dems.  Marc’s energizing speech called all present to action.  As he so eloquently reminded us, the most important things you need when you run for office are “a heart full of grace” and a “soul full of love.”

Former Village of Mundelein Trustee Holly Kim then spoke about the importance of every single vote, as she recounted her loss in the April 2017 election for Mayor of Mundelein by… wait for it… five votes.

Among the other elected officials who addressed the gathering were Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, State Senator Julie Morrison, some gubernatorial candidates—in person or through surrogates, and our 10th District Congressman Brad Schneider.  Although Brad couldn’t leave D.C. midweek while the House was in session, he arranged to address the gathering via a specially prepared video in which he congratulated the candidates who, win or lose, made the 2017 election such a success for Democrats across the 10th District. Brad also thanked the volunteers who continue to promote our Democratic values.

Keynoter Jason Kander, an advocate for voting rights, an army veteran, and the first millennial to hold statewide office in the United States, inspired the gathering with his easy-going conversational tone and compelling narrative.  Identified by President Obama as a rising Democratic star, Kander narrowly lost a Missouri U.S. Senate race in 2016.  His campaign famously featured a commercial showing him affirming his support for gun safety while assembling a rifle in 30 seconds, blindfolded.  Kander revealed that the motivation for this campaign ad, which went viral, were his “F” rating from the NRA and Wayne LaPierre’s special interest in his candidacy.  LaPierrre personally travelled across the State of Missouri to campaign against Kander.

Kander seemed to be the embodiment of the evening’s theme as he explained how he ran the NRA out of his very red state, by being honest about what he believed in: background checks.  He related that the reason he out-performed every other Missouri Democrat on the 2016 ballot and nearly toppled Republican incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt, was that he “didn’t pretend to be something he was not, a conservative Democrat.” Everyone knew he was a progressive Democrat.  Kander’s philosophy:  voters prefer honesty to being “tricked” or “pandered to.

Kander’s major cause now is voting rights.  He told how, after hearing “the biggest lie ever told by a sitting president” (that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election), he founded Let America Vote, a national organization that pushes back against attempts to restrict voting rights. This cause has become even more critical in the wake of the Trump “voter fraud commission,” which Kander refers to as the more aptly named, “voter suppression commission.”  Kander’s rallying cry is, “If you make it harder to vote, we make it harder for you to get elected.

Kander pointed out that Republicans think the only way they can win is by excluding people from the process, while Democrats know that they win by including people in the process.  In recognition of the importance of national efforts to combat voter suppression and protect voter rights, Tenth Dems presented Kander with a donation to Let America Vote.

Kander reminded the audience that it would take grassroots groups like Tenth Dems to push back against efforts by President Trump and other Republicans to impose their right-wing agenda.  “Americans are not meant to fear the future. They are meant to shape the future,” he said.

Our keynoter ended with a message of hope: “We can be a unifying force because the truth is on our side…and if we all work together, we can save the American dream,” Kander said.  He continued, “Together we can save the American dream from the American nightmare that is Donald Trump!” These final words brought the crowd to its feet, as Kander received a long and enthusiastic standing ovation.

Kander’s acknowledgment of the “special kind of energy in the room,” was spot on.  A big thank you to all the Tenth Dems volunteers and supporters who contributed to the success of this memorable event!

Shouldn’t All Working People Earn a Living Wage?

By Herb Brenner

Cities have been at the forefront of the minimum wage story in the past few years and the reason is quite simple – large cities have a much higher cost of living than the rest of the country, especially housing costs.  The federal government minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not increased in eight years, while it has been nine years since the last Illinois minimum wage rise to $8.25 per hour.

Contrary to popular belief, minimum wage workers are not only teenagers looking for part-time work or senior citizens with time on their hands. Nearly one-third of Chicago area workers ages 18 to 64 are currently working in jobs not paying enough to support a family without public aid or charity. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for one adult living in Cook County is $12.56 per hour. The living wage for an adult and one child is $24.89 per hour. The current Illinois minimum of $8.25 an hour, which equates to an annual wage of $17,160 a year, is closer to a poverty wage than a living wage.

In recent testimony before Congress, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute said that minimum wage workers today are paid between a quarter and a third less than what similar jobs paid almost 50 years ago in inflation-adjusted terms.   He reported that the majority of low-wage workers earning less than $12 an hour rely on a combination of food stamps, Medicaid, tax credits, and energy subsidies in order to afford their basic needs.

Moreover, the National Partnership for Women and Families says more than 41 million people and nearly 75 percent of child-care and food service workers don’t have a single paid sick day. Since many cannot afford to lose even one day of pay, they come into work sick and allow their children to go to school sick, risking the health of co-workers, customers, and classmates. This is clearly a threat to public health, to businesses and to our economy.

These are the reasons why the Northbrook Working Families Coalition is fighting for a living wage and guaranteed sick leave in Northbrook. The Coalition participated in the Northbrook July 4th parade and the July 5th farmers market, because many residents were unaware that Northbrook had opted out of the Cook County ordinance guaranteeing an initial $10 per hour minimum wage and five days of sick pay.

The parade featured 69 entrants, and the Northbrook Working Families Coalition was right toward the middle.  All along the route there were expressions of interest in the cause, plus lots of applause and thumbs up.

There has been some good news recently from nearby suburbs. Neither Evanston nor Oak Park took a vote to opt out of the Cook County ordinance, which went into effect in their communities on July 1. Skokie, in a tie vote, also decided not to opt out.  These positive results prove that residents of a community can have an impact on the decisions of their Village Boards.  It is now possible that communities that have previously opted out will revisit the issue and repeal their ordinances to opt out.