Socialists for Sanders

Lead Contact: Brandon Rey Ramirez

Introduction

Summary: By prioritizing the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential primary campaign as a chapter-wide organizing opportunity, DSA Los Angeles can engage with prospective new members, advance democratic socialist analysis of the Bernie 2020 platform, and improve the material conditions of the working class by helping deliver an electoral victory for the Sanders campaign and down-ballot candidates and ballot measures.

Whereas:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, and Tuition Free College,
  3. DSA-LA has a city-wide infrastructure through our branches, existing electoral work and coalitions that will not only help elect Bernie Sanders but will build a strong, well-equipped base on the left to push meaningful policies and help elect future campaigns,
  4. The strategy allows for DSA-LA to expand its capabilities and effectiveness for electoral campaigns of down-ballot candidates, measures and propositions,
  5. There is opportunity for DSA-LA to further establish itself as a politically powerfuland relevant organization in Los Angeles.
  6. With the California democratic primary moved to March 3 (Super Tuesday), and the delegates to the nominating convention apportioned according to the % of vote, a strong LA campaign could help push Bernie on to an ultimate victory.

The official Bernie campaign structure is still TBD, but the existing field of potential 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 and political groups that oppose the centrist candidates. To be clear: any DSA-LA work under the purview of the “Socialists for Sanders” priority resolution would be fully independent of the official Bernie 2020 campaign or any organizations directly affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Be it resolved that:

  1. DSA-LA will establish a “Socialists for Sanders” - Bernie 2020 Campaign Working Group consisting of:
    -   2 Regional Field Directors per Branch - Appointed by Electoral Politics
    -   1 Agit-Prop Leader per Branch - Appointed by Agit-Prop Committee
    -   2-3 Canvass Leaders per Branch - Appointed by Branch Coordinators 
    -   A campaign-wide Financial Compliance Officer - Appointed by Treasurer
    -   A campaign-wide Membership Director - Appointed by the Membership Committee
    -   A campaign-wide Press Secretary appointed by the Communications Director
    -   A campaign-wide Bernie 2020 Policy Subcommittee - Consisting of appointments from each Issue-Based Committee
    -   At least 1 member of the DSA-LA Steering Committee
    -   The DSA-LA Steering Committee will have veto/removal power of appointments by simple majority

  2. 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 the socialist perspective on Bernie’s platform for members/volunteers
    -   Dedicating a brief portion of the canvass training time to outlining upcoming committee meetings, and inviting canvassers to direct actions
    -   Holding regular social events for canvassers and the Bernie-curious

  3. Create a DSA-LA Bernie+ Campaign by folding a handful of downballot candidates, ballot measures, or large-scale direct actions into the larger “Socialists for Sanders” 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 2018, with proposals for endorsement appearing before the membership following the procedure set in the bylaws

I. 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 an historic defeat to neoliberalism, nationalism, and the capitalist class, as it would be a vehicle for mass working-class mobilization. Prioritizing the Bernie 2020 primary would result in an organized recruitment strategy, ushering voters curious about democratic socialism into DSA-LA by means of Bernie’s platform. While the resolution calls for a Campaign Working Group to manage the majority of the work, this is an opportunity that will require significant chapter resources.

The resolution will require the following resources:

  • A dedicated webpage on the dsa-la.org website for Bernie 2020 news, updates, and resources including a “Socialists for Sanders” 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.

Timeline

  • May 2019: Establish DSA-LA’s “Socialists for Sanders” 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.
  • June 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.
  • July 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.
  • Aug 2019 - Sep 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.
  • Oct 2019 - Feb 2020: Carry out regional field operation with increasingly frequent regional canvasses and phonebanks. Hold a chapter meeting to determine downballot 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 phonebanking 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.

II. ALIGNED ORGANIZATIONAL PRIORITIES

This resolution 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.

III. MOBILIZATION AND MEMBER CAPACITY

Outline the ways this resolution would offer opportunities to engage new and active members, and intentionally build a broader base of engagement and membership in our organization throughout Los Angeles County.

The most effective way to both grow as an organization and achieve some concrete local goals, regardless of Bernie’s success are as follows:

  1. All campaigning will be targeted towards non-DSA members with the expressed goal of presenting the democratic socialist perspective of Bernie’s platform and recruitment into DSA-LA.

  2. Convince as many pro-Bernie Angelenos as possible to canvass, phonebank, or generally volunteer for Bernie with DSA-LA.

  3. Create a number of onboarding and organizing structures to turn new volunteers into core organizers both within the Bernie 2020 campaign 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 campaigns
        -   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 dedicated to outlining upcoming committee meetings, and inviting canvassers to direct actions

IV. COMMITTEE AND WORKING GROUP COOPERATION

Across all applicable Committee and Working Group platforms, identify relevant goals which this resolution supports and advances.

This strategy requires a campaign-wide Bernie 2020 Policy Subcommittee - 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 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.

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.

Electoral Politics: The Electoral Politics committee will likely end up coordinating closely with the Steering Committee with establishing the Bernie 2020 Working Group and having a significant amount of involvement with the group. As written in its platform the 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 learnings that come from the Bernie 2020 will have a positive impact on the committee's capacity.

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.

Click here to view signatories