Priority Resolution for support of DSA-LA for Bernie 2020 Campaign Working Group
Summary: By prioritizing the Bernie 2020 working group that was formed with a majority support of a chapter-wide vote, DSA Los Angeles is dedicated to securing Bernie Sanders’ victory in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and general election, DSA Los Angeles can engage with prospective new members, advance chapter building around issues on which we are in accord with the Sanders platform, reshape the chapter to better reflect the ethnic composition of the city by targeted organizing in non-white areas (where, also, the campaign is in need of outreach) and significantly augment the infrastructure of an L.A. left through coalition building with issue organizations and intensive canvassing in selected neighborhoods for Bernie and, in some areas, down-ballot candidates or referenda/initiatives.
Text of Resolution
- DSA has grown to 55,000 members in the past 3 years, but that’s just a miniscule slice of the 13 million who voted and hundreds of thousands who volunteered for Bernie in 2016. The Bernie campaign was a significant driver for membership recruitment to DSA-LA in 2016 and can drive further membership growth in 2020.
- The immediate demands of Bernie Sanders creates an opportunity for DSA-LA to provide democratic socialist perspectives on key platform points including but not limited to Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, Affordable Housing and Tuition Free College,
- DSA-LA has an infrastructure through our branches, existing electoral work and coalitions that will not only help elect Bernie Sanders but can be broadened and deepened through this campaign to create a stronger and better-skilled base on the left capable of mounting city-wide campaigns in the future and electing socialist-aligned candidates in many districts.
- The strategy allows for DSA-LA to expand its capabilities and effectiveness for electoral campaigns of down-ballot candidates, measures and propositions,
- There is opportunity for DSA-LA to further establish itself as a politically powerful and relevant organization in Los Angeles.
- With the California democratic primary moved to March 3 (Super Tuesday), and the delegates to the nominating convention apportioned according to the percent of the vote, a strong LA campaign could help push Bernie on to an ultimate victory.
The existing field of Bernie organizers in LA County is fragmented among a number of democratic clubs, online activist networks, and varyingly active Our Revolution locals, many of which count DSA members among their membership. By hosting a strong countywide network of canvasses, phonebanks, actions, and educational events, DSA-LA can become a go-to group for Angelenos looking to support the Sanders campaign, and build stronger coalitions with unions, Labor for Bernie, and political groups that oppose the centrist candidates. To be clear: any DSA-LA work under the purview of the “Bernie 2020 Working Group” would be fully independent of the official Bernie 2020 campaign or any organizations directly affiliated with the Democratic Party, as compliant with the National Independent Expenditure rules
Be it resolved that:
- DSA-LA endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Presidential Primary.
DSA-LA will establish a Bernie 2020 Campaign Working Group consisting of:
- 1 Agit-Prop Leader per Branch - Appointed by Agit-Prop Committee (SUGGESTED)
- 2-3 Canvass Leaders per Branch - Appointed by Electoral Politics Committee and affirmed by the Branches through election (an up-or-down vote, simple majority) (REQUIRED)
- A campaign-wide Financial Compliance Officer - Appointed by the Finance Committee (REQUIRED)
- A campaign-wide Membership Director - Appointed by the Membership Committee (SUGGESTED)
- A campaign-wide Press Secretary appointed by the Communications Committee (REQUIRED)
- A campaign-wide Bernie 2020 Policy Subcommittee - Consisting of appointments from each Issue-Based Committees (SUGGESTED)
- At least 1, and up to 2, members of the DSA-LA Steering Committee (REQUIRED)
- The DSA-LA Steering Committee will have veto/removal power of appointments by simple majority.
- The Campaign Working Group may choose to elect its own chair(s) and outline decision-making guidelines in accordance with Chapter bylaws. Such chairs shall have reasonable autonomy to create new positions or remove positions with the good faith intention of having sufficient and appropriate working group members for the responsibilities this working group intends to carry out. Committee membership as a rank-and-file member, and all working group meetings, will be open to all members of the chapter.
- All appointed positions shall be superseded by elected representatives from the relevant committees, relevant to approval of Steering as per subsection 2.h.
- A petition of at least 10 members of a committee or branch may petition to hold an up-or-down vote to approve of their respective representatives. If a majority of committee or branch members in a subsequent poll, with a quorum of 25 members, vote not to approve this representative, elections to replace the appointee will be held.
DSA-LA will create a new member pipeline consisting of:
- Building an intensified schedule of new member orientation and DSA 101 and 102 trainings for potential new members who come in via the Bernie campaign
- Holding a series of educational events, some focused on local issues through the lens of the Bernie campaign, which can provide a socialist perspective on Bernie’s platform for members/volunteers
- Dedicating a brief portion of the canvass training time to outlining upcoming chapter projects , and inviting canvassers to direct actions and other meetings.
- Holding regular social events for canvassers and the Bernie-curious
- DSA-LA will create a DSA-LA Bernie+ Campaign by folding a handful of down ballot candidates, ballot measures, or large-scale direct actions into the larger campaign effort. These will be voted on by the chapter or relevant geographic subset of the chapter at or immediately following a chapter meeting in late 2019, with proposals for endorsement appearing before the membership following the procedure set in the bylaws
- Should Bernie 2020 continue past March, further campaign work will be contingent on the April 2020 DSA-LA Convention. Should the Bernie 2020 campaign end before the March primary, the Chapter will reorient it's remaining Bernie 2020 resources around local & statewide electoral campaigns.
Resolution Description & Timeline
The Democratic nomination of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is not only achievable, but necessary to challenge capitalist extremism. The nomination would be a historic defeat to neoliberalism, nationalism, and the capitalist class, as it would be a vehicle for mass working-class mobilization. Establishing a Campaign Working Group that would focus on the Bernie 2020 primary would result in an organized recruitment strategy for DSA-LA, ushering voters curious about democratic socialism into the chapter by means of Bernie’s platform.
The working group will require the following resources:
- A dedicated webpage on the dsa-la.org website for Bernie 2020 news, updates, and resources including a Campaign Kit which would allow individuals to self-organize;
- Bernie Issue Town Halls to develop a strong, outward-facing political education program as a component of DSA-LA’s Bernie 2020 campaign;
- Videos and other campaign materials for the Bernie 2020 campaign;
- Provide materials related to Bernie 2020 at all general Chapter events, especially events focused on recruitment and outreach;
- Printing funds for flyers, banners, and other campaign materials,
- A short period of time at each Branch meeting to report on Bernie work occurring within the Chapter;
- Translation of all materials to Spanish, at the minimum;
- Special DSA 101 & 102 trainings for volunteers who come in via the Bernie campaign;
- Chapter treasury funds for canvassing materials, renting community spaces, and other campaign-related expenses.
This working group will be supported by the following resources from DSA National:
- Access to voter information databases
- Access to text banking software
- Access to website hosting services and event mapping
- Compliance resources
- Management of expense reporting to the FEC
When doing voter roll canvassing, the working group will adhere to campaign best practices by utilizing VAN to cut lists for each canvass and phone bank and focusing on accurate collection of voter data. All canvasses and phone bankers will be trained in VAN software and instructed to collect data as thoroughly as possible. Limited options in VAN scripts will be included to allow canvassers to mark those interested in DSA to allow for immediate follow-up.
While the Bernie 2020 Sub-Committee was organized by neighborhood, the addition of access to voter information databases provided by the national, and potential support of down-ballot candidates both creates a need and allows for more precise voter targeting. This working group will adhere to the districts identified and cut by the Electoral Politics committee. In other words, canvasses will be organized under the framework of existing political districts such as Congressional or City Council districts. This allows canvassers to properly inform voters about which down ballot races are relevant to the voters. This distinction is key, as some neighborhoods are composed of multiple districts and so organizing purely on neighborhood can create inefficiencies and inaccuracies in voter outreach
- July 2019: Establish DSA-LA’s Bernie 2020 Campaign Working Group. Designate Regional Coordinators per Branch, an Agit-Prop Lead per Branch, 2-3 Canvass Leaders per Branch, a campaign-wide Financial Compliance Officer.
- August 2019: Convene the first Campaign Working Group meeting open to all members to present strategies and solicit feedback. Recruit members to Campaign Working Group. Build campaign materials, including Bernie 2020 Campaign Kit, organize database, create agit-prop, and develop policy research including talking points. Begin voter registrations at DSA-LA events.
- August 2019: Host Bernie-specific messaging/talking points trainings so that every DSA subgroup can weave this campaign into their work should they choose. Host field lead training.
- September 2019 - October 2019: Continue to train canvassers as spokespeople. Coordinate with other groups to put on events and actions while working to ensure the primacy of DSA talking points and branding. Begin building regional field operation.
- November 2019 - Feb 2020: Carry out regional field operation with increasingly frequent regional canvasses and phonebanks. Hold a chapter meeting to determine down ballot asks to add to Bernie canvassing and communications. Host at least one Town Hall per branch, bottom-lined by the Campaign Working Group. For the full month of February there should be weekly canvassing and phone banking in all neighborhoods. Prioritize mail-in ballots.
- March 2020: On March 3rd California Democratic Primary takes place. Should Bernie 2020 continue past March, further campaign work will be contingent on the April 2020 DSA-LA Convention. Should the Bernie 2020 campaign end before the March primary, the Chapter will reorient it's remaining Bernie 2020 resources around local & statewide electoral campaigns.
Relevant Organizational Priorities & Motivation
This proposal recognizes and enacts at least the following two Priorities, as defined in the DSA-LA Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities:
Develop and implement training materials and protocols for a variety of skillsets that empower members to act as effective rank-and-file organizers and step into new leadership roles confidently.
Electoral work is not the only focus of DSA, but elections are clearly focal points in the minds of the DSA-curious. Movement building is more than participation in electoral campaigns, but these campaigns provide concrete and accessible work that can be used to attract new members to DSA, train new leaders from our existing membership, and spread the reach of our issue-based campaigns.
Electoral work is also extremely useful for developing new leaders and electoral talent. Through our electoral campaigns, DSA-LA has recruited and developed new leaders, who lead canvasses, run committees, facilitate meetings, participate in planning and strategy sessions and go on to be leaders in the organization in both electoral and non-electoral campaigns. It can be argued that traditionally one of the hardest tasks when starting a new non-DSA electoral campaign can be to identify talent, in particular field talent. This campaign provides an opportunity to train members on fieldwork, data management, compliance, fundraising, communications, and research skills. Building a bench of skilled members and leaders will only help strengthen all our campaigns.
Undertake to exchange resources, build solidarity, and engage in campaigns with other DSA chapters regionally, and nationally.
With the prospect of a high-profile national campaign, this is an opportunity to strengthen the statewide collaboration with other DSA chapters and the DSA Nationally. We will work with other DSA chapters around the state to coordinate our field strategy and to collaborate statewide. Once we have lists of Bernie supporters, we can use those positive IDs to increase the effectiveness of future campaigns regionally and statewide. In addition to coordinating with national for resources, data, and strategy, DSA-LA will have an opportunity to exchange tactics with other chapters engaged in Bernie work, especially those with earlier primaries.
Membership Engagement Opportunities
The most effective way to both grow as an organization and achieve some concrete local goals, regardless of Bernie’s success are as follows:
As much as possible, events and canvasses should be built around an issue where DSA and the Sanders campaign are in close agreement, especially those issues on which DSA-LA has already been organizing (see Component IV below) . Canvasses should, where possible, involve coalition partners (e’g. Environmental grass-roots groups in climate change canvasses, tenant unions in housing-related canvasses. Except where there is compelling reason such as a down-ballot candidate or referendum that DSA-LA strongly supports, canvass locations should be selected primarily on the basis of issue salience (e.g. fracking threat or eviction epidemic) . A central principle is to recruit people to Bernie’s cause through locally relevant issues, and among volunteers already committed to Bernie, that we try to deepen their involvement in one or more priority issues.
The bulk of campaigning will be targeted towards non-DSA members who express interest in some aspect(s) of Bernie’s platform, informing them about various DSA activities and educating them on broader democratic socialist perspectives in the hope that this will promote recruitment into DSA-LA.
- Convince as many pro-Bernie Angelenos as possible to canvass, phonebank, or generally volunteer for Bernie with DSA-LA. With that in mind, organizers will try to identify an allied organization to partner with for canvasses and phone banks so their members come into contact with our own membership, ideology, and opportunities to support our movement.
Create a number of onboarding and organizing structures to turn new volunteers into core organizers both within the Bernie 2020 Campaign Working Group and across our chapter.
These onboarding & organizing structures should include:
- Recurring neighborhood-based canvasses/actions, led by consistent leaders in as dense a pattern across the city as possible, who are encouraged and supported in coming up with innovative ways to engage their neighborhoods in support of the Bernie campaign
- An intensified schedule of DSA 101 & 102 trainings for volunteers who come in via the Bernie campaign
- A series of educational Town Halls focused on local issues and providing the socialist perspective on Bernie’s platform for newer members and/or volunteers
- A portion of the canvass training time will be dedicated to outlining upcoming chapter projects, and inviting canvassers to direct actions and other meetings. Each canvass and phone bank should have at least one current member assigned to the role of interacting with every non-member there to identify shared interests/opportunities and persuade them to get involved in the chapter
- These onboarding & organizing structures should include:
Local Subgroup Platform Goals
This strategy outlines a Bernie 2020 Campaign Working Group - Consisting of appointments from each Issue-Based Committee, and appointments by the Membership Committee and Agit-Prop Committee. Specifically, we would like to highlight the below:
Climate Justice: Bernie Sanders persistently has called climate change the greatest existential threat to humanity. His campaign will be an opportunity to present an ecosocialist perspective on the Green New Deal and how climate change locally impacts Angelenos. Ecosocialist analysis should highlight how climate change is converting members of the Global South into climate refugees. Green New Deal advocacy will be integral to canvass messaging and ideally the subject of a Bernie 2020 Town Hall.
Healthcare: As a champion of Medicare for All, the Sanders campaign will engage voters on Medicare for All and the need to dismantle the private health insurance system. DSA-LA can expand on the argument connecting it to local debates and explaining how the proposal could be more inclusive such as covering undocumented immigrants and how it would benefit communities of color. DSA-LA should amplify the role of reproductive rights in the 2020 election and put forward a socialist feminist analysis of Medicare for All. Medicare for All advocacy will be integral to canvass messaging and ideally the subject of a Bernie 2020 Town Hall.
Labor: Bernie is the best candidate for unions, the labor movement, and the broader working class. As part of the DSA-LA campaign for Bernie, we must keep labor at the center of our organizing conversations. For example, a common talking point against Medicare for All is that union members shouldn’t be forced to “give up” the health insurance plans that their unions worked so hard to negotiate with their employers. As democratic socialists embedded in labor work, we can inoculate working people against this talking point by pointing out that aside from looking out for their non-union counterparts, union members should support Medicare for All because it will actually take healthcare off of the bargaining table, allowing union members to instead turn their focus on wages, other benefits and working conditions. More broadly, wherever possible, we should work in tandem with L.A. Labor for Bernie, as well as the rank-and-file members and staff of unions and other labor organizations.
YDSA: The Bernie 2020 campaign offers an opportunity to build on the structure and political relationships with local Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapters in High Schools and Colleges all across Los Angeles. In the 2016 primaries, Sanders won 29 percent more votes among millennials than Trump and Clinton combined. Bernie’s campaign promise to make higher education tuition free and dramatically reduce student debt is aligned with YDSA’s College for All priority. The Bernie 2020 campaign can help mobilize, recruit, and develop future leaders of DSA. College for All advocacy will be integral to canvass messaging and ideally the subject of a Bernie 2020 Town Hall.
Housing and Homelessness: Taking off from Bernie’s commitment to more affordable housing, our campaign would link spiraling rents, arbitrary evictions, and homelessness to lack of public housing, insufficient section 8 acceptance, gentrification and the exile of people of color from the California coast Our campaign will acknowledge that the housing crisis is exacerbated by local, statewide, and national politicians who are oblivious to resident needs, due to real estate and moneyed interests
Electoral Politics: The Electoral Politics Committee will likely end up coordinating closely with the Steering Committee to establish the Bernie 2020 Working Group and they’ll likely have a significant amount of involvement with this working group. As written in its platform, the Electoral Politics Committee, “exists to help the chapter gain the power and knowledge necessary to work towards and realize its various goals using the existing power of the state as channeled through elected office.” Organizing for Bernie 2020, advances this purpose. The skills and experience that come from our Bernie 2020 organizing will have a positive impact on the committee's overall project.
Political Education: One of the top reasons for engaging in the Bernie 2020 campaign is to educate potential voters about democratic socialism. Bernie’s platform is an opportunity to “expand our collective understanding of socialist concepts, histories, and strategies.” Through various means including town halls, DSA-LA can have a democratic socialist response to virtually every one of Bernie’s immediate demands. An argument to work on Bernie 2020 within DSA-LA is that critiques regarding the candidate’s stances on key issues such as Venezuelan intervention, boycott-divest and sanction, border security, and SESTA/FOSTA are encouraged alongside active campaigning.
Membership: Regardless of whether DSA organizes in support for Bernie, membership will grow as a result of the campaign. A reason to organize Bernie 2020 in DSA-LA is that we can maximize potential recruitment and it will also be far easier to manage intake and anticipate orientation needs post-election.