DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) is the activist organization that I “fuck with,” fuck with being a younger person’s slang/trendy term used to describe the persons/places/things/ideas that one is down with. All fucking aside, I’ve been a member of DSA for a few years now, and currently the national DSA organization is debating whether to formally endorse Bernie in 2020, so at our March organizing meeting here in Santa Cruz we dedicated a good bit of the meeting to discussing the Berning question. For us it’s kind of an odd subject matter because we mostly focus on local politics/activism, not so much on national politics or national issues.
I thought I might post a short recap for my comrade, Larry, who wasn’t able to make the meeting. Now that I think about it, my brother wasn’t able to make it either, so this one’s for you, too, bro!
Should the DSA endorse Bernie??? Initially I thought this was an issue that was sort of not very important, then later my thinking changed and I thought it should be obvious: of course a democratic socialist organization should endorse a democratic socialist who is running for president, especially since it happens so rarely. But an endorsement is a big deal for DSA, with many ramifications, and I don’t think we’re merely overthinking.
Our Secretary opened the discussion by reading off a lost of questions that he had drafted. He said that in total he had a hundred questions that came up regarding an endorsement of Bernie. I thought that maybe he was kidding about a hundred questions but I’m honestly not sure. In any event, I jotted down a couple of good questions that he raised:
- Do we agree with his positions?
- If no, then which issues are there disagreement on, and…Do we endorse, despite differences, for the purpose of to moving him closer to our positions? Or would this represent a door if sell out kind of compromise?
- What would it mean to endorse, in terms of how we would approach an endorsement?
When we opened it up for discussion, there was a lot of input and many folks weighed in, including myself (which is rare for reasons that will be made clear in the last bullet point):
- A male comrade disagreed with Bernie on this comments and recently stated position on Venezuela, etc…. Do we believe in electoral politics?
- Another male comrade: Bernie will help grow the organization. We’ve been riding his coat tails. [This is a good thing.] It’s a good way to build the movement…. Plus there’s no one else we could endorse.
- A dude who has family in Venezuela was disappointed with Bernie’s response… Also he does not agree that we are riding Bernie’s coat tails, believes that growth of DSA is due to other factors.
- Male comrade: How would endorsing Bernie advance the cause of socialism? Does not want Bernie to become an end in itself.
- [Good natured comment from the Chair of the meeting regarding the fact that it has thus far only been male comrades weighing in. Response: a good deal of snapping of fingers from members indicating support/agreement.]
- Female: Since Santa Cruz went strong for Bernie, then what do we do locally to build on that in our community?
- Another female echoed this. How can we use the support for Bernie with local causes and promotion of local DSA.
- Female: We could use this for more radical action.
- Female: Supporting Bernie is not an either-or thing. [Much snapping of fingers]
- Female: When have we had a chance to endorse an anti-capitalist candidate. Bernie can be pressured to change
- If we endorse and Bernie loses, is that demobilizing/demoralizing?
- Female: no two socialists ever agree…
- Need to combine an endorsement with political education. (DSA in Santa Cruz just started a political education working group.)
- Older dude gave some history from the sixties.
- Use the Bernie candidacy to target specific issues like the Green New Deal, i.e. to further political education
- And I chimed in as well, although in hindsight I shouldn’t have. I hate speaking up in meetings, it’s the anxiety of public speaking thing. Plus I was at the tail end of the comments and we were running out of time so the meeting Chair made the (logical) decision to cut comments to one minute for each remaining person — so I had time pressure in addition to the normal discomfort that I feel when speaking publicly, and to top it off I was sitting in the back, so as soon as it was my turn to talk all fifty folks turned, pivoted and otherwise shifted to see me, and it created a good deal of noise, as well as leaving no doubt that I was the center of attention. It’s all kind of a blur in mind. I do remember that I looked up and away so as not to make eye contact, but I think I spoke too fast and perhaps too loud. I kept it short, but when I looked up at everyone at the conclusion of my sixty seconds of fame, everyone was looking at me as though waiting for more, as if they were still waiting for me to make my point. Maybe that big shift to see the speaker in the back created a heightened sense of expectation. In any event, I finally had to motion to the Chair that I was finished so as to put myself out of my misery. I do recall that I was trying to make some point about the cultural impact of the President, i.e., that if someone like Trump can divide us and bring out the worst in our culture then someone like Bernie has the potential to help us heal, i.e. something along the lines of a cultural revolution in addition to Bennie’s political revolution — it seemed like a good idea at the time but, alas, my elevator pitch didn’t seem to pack much punch.
At the end, someone made a motion to endorse Bernie but it was decided to table until we had more discussion and until the national organization weighed in. It’s still early, after all.