The Electoral Politics Committee of DSA-LA 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.
At the moment, many of the chapter’s goals—achieving universal healthcare, universal housing, universal education, universal bread, universal roses, and destroying capitalism—involve appealing to the power of elected officials to enact, enforce, and repeal laws. Save some rare instances of individual moral decisionmaking, elected officials make decisions because of financial, social, or political pressure—in other words, they do things for money, fame, or votes.
As a volunteer socialist organization, we’re unlikely to achieve our goals by outspending our ideological enemies. As coordinated and committed activists with some of the resources of Los Angeles’s culture industry at our disposal, we are capable of applying public social pressure to achieve our goals. But unless we can show that our activism and visibility translates into votes, whether votes gained for a strong socialist candidate or votes lost for an opponent, we run the risk of being ignored by the powerful and undermining our other work. A failure to engage with electoral politics in Los Angeles, California, and the nation at large is a failure to engage seriously in the struggle for a better future free from the depredations of capitalism.
In the long term, our goals are ambitious. We want to work with the voters of Los Angeles—in solidarity with the city’s most disenfranchised communities—to put people in power at every level of government who will use their popular mandate to work for a socialist future. We want to work with allied groups and organizations to put pressure on elected officials who are in positions to advance our chapter’s goals. We want to challenge the power of the corporatist two-party system by running third-party candidates when practical and pursuing alternative power structures that better serve the people. And we want to build the knowledge and relationships necessary to make DSA-LA as a whole as effective as possible.
To these ends, we want to coordinate running DSA members as viable candidates in local and state elections, and recruit existing candidates with allied politics to join DSA in exchange for our material support in assisting their campaigns. We want to assist other committees in compelling sitting politicians to change their actions to align with our goals in response to the exhibited discipline, power, and dedication of our members. And if nothing else, we want to keep our members (and the voters of Los Angeles at large) informed about upcoming elections, enhance electoral political education throughout the chapter and the city at large, and defend voting rights and ballot access for all.
Short-term (6-9 months)
In the short term, our goals are (a hell of a lot) more modest.
First, we want to standardize the documents and protocols for sending out questionnaires to candidates (which includes collaborating with DSA’s various committees and working groups to establish baseline litmus tests and policy positions necessary for candidate support), for submitting potential endorsements to the chapter as a whole, and for otherwise engaging with electoral politics as a committee and chapter.
Second, we want to continue to develop the Committee’s political landscape power mapping project to the point of including information on the current ambitions, powers, financial support, and political history of every major politician with an electorate in Los Angeles county so that members across the chapter can quickly conduct research for new or ongoing projects. From this, we will produce an LA political landscape primer for new members unfamiliar with the city and state power structure, and maintain the landscaping project online as a public resource.
Third, given that every state assembly seat and half of the state senate seats are up for election in 2018, we want to organize two or more members from each district to research the race in their district, organize candidate outreach and analysis, and otherwise engage with their upcoming local contest, culminating in (at least) a voter guide for each district.
Fourth, if possible, we want to identify, encourage, and support DSA members who could mount viable and/or strategically significant campaigns for elected office—at all levels, from LA Neighborhood Council and local school board positions to statewide and national seats—in 2018 and beyond.
Internally, we want to create and maintain a robust network of member liaisons with DSA-LA’s other committees to enable the Electoral Politics Committee to serve as an internal resource to the chapter. Liaisons will stay in contact with their chosen committee’s leaders, attend that committee’s meetings, and report back/provide a channel of communication between that committee and Electoral Politics to ensure our engagement in electoral work is aligned with the political goals of the chapter.
Some possible ideas for goals beyond a six-month timeframe:
We would like to help create DSA liaison teams to the LA city council, consisting of two (or more) residents in each district who can regularly meet with city councilors (or their staffers) to share concerns coming from DSA’s committees and working groups.
We would like to research San Francisco’s Proposition N (and the ballot initiative/proposition process in general), which allowed non-citizen residents with children enrolled in the public schools to vote in local school board elections, and pursue the idea of enfranchising resident non-citizens in local elections in Los Angeles.
We would like to hold a series of voter registration and get out the vote drives throughout the city to both increase voter registration and raise DSA’s visibility in the public sphere.
We would like to research, educate, and organize around promoting alternative methods of voting and democratic decisionmaking—namely ranked-choice voting—that could structurally improve upon our current voting systems..
We would like to humbly endorse the inanimate carbon rod for president.