Strategic Engagement with Bernie 2020: Building our Organization and Advancing our Demands

Lead Contact: Steering Committee

Introduction

Whereas:

  • Over the past two years, the Democratic Socialists of America has grown to over 55,00 members nationwide. Much of this growth can be traced to Bernie Sanders’ historic 2016 presidential run as an explicitly socialist candidate whose platform broadened the horizon for political possibility.
  • Currently, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country. A Bernie 2020 presidential campaign that foregrounds class-conscious politics and components of the DSA’s political program will generate new and renewed interest in our organization at the national and local level.
  • Further, California is likely to be a major focus of attention, as the 2020 California Primaries will move from June (when the primary is all but settled) to Super Tuesday (the first Tuesday in March ) — allocating the country’s largest number of delegates at a critical time in the primary season.
  • Engagement with a Bernie 2020 presidential campaign is already a topic of considerable conversation and debate within our organization. As a multi-tendency, member-led organization, DSA-LA must have the opportunity to deliberate and define how we locally engage with major issues of national attention and concern in a multi-tendency way.

Therefore:

  • With an understanding of ourselves as an organization with the capacity to strategically engage with and benefit from a Sanders campaign, the DSA-LA Steering Committee proposes an independent DSA-LA campaign in support of Bernie Sanders for President for members’ consideration at our local’s Annual Convention.
  • This campaign would be organized in support of three key goals: 1) Expand the base for socialist politics in Los Angeles County, 2) Strengthen our organizational capacity for mass mobilization, and 3) Elevate and build support for our political demands.
  • To implement this resolution and advance these goals, the DSA-LA Steering Committee would convene consultative processes across all Branches, Committees, and the broader, multi-tendency membership.

I. RESOLUTION DESCRIPTION & TIMELINE

When millions of people are talking about socialism, it is incumbent on us to have a plan to talk to those millions of people — to ask them to share our struggle and expand the base of workers who understand themselves as protagonists for a socialist politics in LA.

However, we understand that a Bernie presidency would not be the ultimate victory for our organization or our class. We haven’t won until our class struggles together to organize, demand, and ultimately control our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. It is with this understanding that this resolution emphatically does not commit our chapter to traditional GOTV-style campaign at the service of candidates for political office. Nor is DSA-LA’s participation in a Sanders campaign to be understood as a facet in a broader “Democratic Party-realignment” strategy.  Instead we propose an independent, strategic campaign designed around the three following goals:

1.) Expand the base for socialist politics in Los Angeles County:

  • Engage in the campaign to thoughtfully and intentionally expand DSA-LA’s membership across the racial and socioeconomic divisions of Los Angeles.
  • Expand recruitment into DSA-LA by organizing recurring, neighborhood-based events where attendees can tangibly contribute to the campaign (by, e.g., canvassing, phonebanking, tabling, creating materials, etc.).

2.) Strengthen our organizational capacity for mass mobilization:

  • Strengthen our own field infrastructure, expand opportunities for member leadership in campaign work, and bolster our organization’s capacity for coordinated mobilization across LA County.

3.) Elevate and build support for our political demands:

  • Amplify DSA’s political priorities at the local, state, national, and international level — such as the decriminalization of homelessness, repeal of Prop-13, a Green New Deal — including demands that go beyond or run contrary to Bernie’s platform, such as the Abolition of ICE, and support for BDS.
  • DSA-LA has already fielded requests for comment on a Bernie 2020 run. We aim to ensure our independent messaging is an influential tool that emphasizes the limits of Democratic Party politics in fully realizing our demands and underscores that DSA-LA is an organization capable of building toward these demands in a way the Democratic Party is not.

Timeline: For readability, the below timeline begins in May but will  commences at whichever point comes later the passage of this resolution at the Annual Convention or when Bernie announces his 2020 candidacy.  

May - June 2019: Campaign development

  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall work with Branch Coordinators and the Membership Committee to develop a neighborhood-based campaign plan that supports branch sustainability and growth (includes recruiting neighborhood leads, identifying locations, etc.)
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall work with Branch Coordinators and Membership Committee to articulate a robust, intentional engagement pipeline for active members, inactive members, new members, and interested community members.
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall convene a consultative process with AgitProp, the Communications Committee, and the broader membership to build independent, multi-media messaging and materials for the campaign.
  • The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall work with Issue-Based Committees to incorporate their demands into campaign messaging, and work with all individual Committee/Working Group leaders and members to develop plans and resources to host local, neighborhood-based campaign programming.

July - September 2019: Campaign commences:

  • Commence neighborhood-based campaign programming across the city (at least) monthly.
  • The DSA-LA Communications and Agit-Prop Committees will commence implementing a robust media plan, including video production, press outreach, and social media engagement.

September 2019: Campaign assessment. Chapter wide check-in on campaign — reconvene consultative process and adjust strategy accordingly.

October 2019 -  March (Super Tuesday) 2020

  • Re-commence neighborhood-based campaign programming across the city at an increased frequency.
  • The DSA-LA Communications and Agit-Prop Committees will commence larger media efforts, releasing campaign videos and doubling down on press outreach and social media engagement.

II. ALIGNED ORGANIZATIONAL PRIORITIES

This neighborhood-based model for ongoing organizing and campaign work would advance the following Internal Organizing and Infrastructure priorities:

  • Build organizational structures that can support and manage anticipated growth of the chapter.
  • Build an organizational culture that embodies our socialist ideals, and a welcoming community that supports all members to engage in collective work to dismantle systems of oppression, in accordance with our shared values.

This membership-building resolution will feature defined paths of engagement for active, inactive, new, and potential members across neighborhoods. This would be designed and implemented in support of the following Mobilization and Member Capacity priorities:

  • Articulate ongoing numerical benchmarks and defined paths for member engagement, ensuring that we can meet every new and experienced member where they are at.
  • 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.
  • Recognizing that learning and growth as organizers includes and requires being challenged, encourage and support learning and growth in all members by offering opportunities to develop new skills and take on additional responsibilities.
  • Develop internal capacity to recruit, engage and retain our members across the racial and socioeconomic divisions of Los Angeles, and connect members to each other regionally, while also challenging instead of reifying those divisions.
  • Maintain systems and protocols that enable us to continually map and understand our memberships needs, strengths, and resources.
  • Ensuring ongoing development and support of organizers and leaders within our organization.

The consultative, cross-committee process through which campaign messaging and materials will be defined, supports the following Internal Organizing and Infrastructure priorities:

  • Maintain transparent decision-making processes which allows all members to democratically shape and engage in chapter decisions, avoiding top-heavy hierarchies and “gatekeeping”.
  • Maintain workflow systems that support and empower all members to take on significant responsibility for ongoing cross-chapter communication and collaboration.

III. MOBILIZATION AND MEMBER CAPACITY

For many Angelenos, “politics” happen during presidential election cycles. Central to our proposed campaign is a commitment to engaging and re-directing portions of the massive political energy surrounding presidential electoral politics towards our chapter’s multi-tendency organizing efforts—which, it goes without saying, are always ongoing, and certainly do not cease when the enthusiasm and focus around presidential politics inevitably ebbs.  

Every effort will be directed at cultivating an influx of new (and newly activated) members  who are excited by Bernie into the work of DSA-LA—including, crucially, its numerous non-electoral projects—beyond the 2020 election. To accomplish this, we are committed to building robust neighborhood-based campaign programming and defined pathways for engaging active, inactive, new, and potential members.

Neighborhood-based campaign work

Many current members joined DSA because they are both affirmatively interested in socialist politics and, perhaps, because they are  not already members of time-consuming communities that require much of their free time. We’re proud to have more of these people working together than any socialist organization in recent history. Yet, to become a truly mass organization embedded in communities across the diversity of Los Angeles, DSA must ensure that we meet busy working people where they are.

To build a deep base for socialist politics in LA, we need to be engaging those who are already embedded in—and we must be embedding ourselves in—those already-existing communities. Hearing our message alone is often not enough to engage someone who already has many other community and family responsibilities competing for their time. This proposed neighborhood-based campaign removes important barriers to participation and promises to dramatically expand opportunities to engage with DSA-LA. In addition, this campaign fosters a second reason for passive supporters to actively engage with DSA — a tangible way to advocate for ambitious, transformative goals that have a fighting chance to win.

The neighborhood-based model will be geared, in large part, towards strengthening members’ political engagement in their local communities. The model will offer smaller, networks that will allow new, existing, and potential members to develop organizing connections with politically-aligned members of their communities, and will offer low-stakes opportunities to engage or re-engage with DSA-LA.  

Defined pathways of engagement

The DSA-LA Steering Committee shall work with Branch Coordinators and Membership Committee to articulate a robust, intentional membership pipeline to:

  • Expand opportunities for leadership among active members by asking them to take on increasingly levels of responsibility in the campaign such as becoming  neighborhood leads
  • Activate passive members by providing a clear pathway for engagement-asking them to join the campaign then, when appropriate, take on increasing levels of responsibility within the chapter
  • Collect contact information from interested community members and implement a defined, systematic plan for sustained engagement after canvasses, tabling, etc.
  • Connect new members to the campaign and other chapter work through several mechanisms: inviting them to attend introductory DSA-LA trainings, inviting them to join their next monthly neighborhood hangout, or inviting them to attend a local, issue-based event after which they will be connected to a geographically-based mobilizer who will engage in long-term membership engagement, continuously connecting them to the work of the chapter at large.    

Our mobilizers should play a an important role in intentionally fostering bonds within their neighborhoods, particularly among those who support supportive of Bernie but who have yet to engage with DSA. Mobilizers will be critical, sustained points of DSA-LA’s engagement with the campaign—and an enormous resource in immediately integrating members into the work of DSA-LA and retaining the energy of new or newly engaged members beyond the presidential election.

Additionally, this campaign will build on our work in support of Proposition 10 and Jackie Goldberg for LAUSD, by intentionally and systematically collecting contact information from interested members and implementing a defined, systematic plan for sustained engagement after canvasses, tabling, campaign events, etc.

Finally, the DSA-LA Steering Committee and other interested members shall work with the YDSA Coordinator to expand our independent campaign to college campuses in support of building YDSA across Southern California.

IV. COMMITTEE AND WORKING GROUP COOPERATION

Our independent DSA-LA for Bernie campaign will amplify the political priorities we share with Bernie while at the same time using his platform as a departure point and  opportunity to elevate DSA-LA Committee and Working Group demands that go beyond Bernie’s platform, or even run counter to it. Ensuring ongoing opportunities for Committees and Working Groups to host neighborhood-based campaign events will enable us to  embed our political demands in the campaign and connect members to work that extends beyond the presidential election cycle.

For example, in a neighborhood that is especially aggrieved about rising healthcare costs and waiting periods for care, the neighborhood lead could work with the Healthcare Committee to incorporate  discussions on #Medicare4All alongside neighborhood events featuring canvassing or tabling. In a community where concerns around ICE and over-policing are prominent, the Immigration Justice and Prison Abolition Committees could work together to organize popular educationals that highlight the gap between Bernie’s platform and steps for true structural change, and pair these discussion with campaign work.

Listed below are a few non-exhaustive examples of specific Committee and Working Group demands and goals that could be elevated in connection with an independent DSA-LA campaign for Bernie. If the membership votes to prioritize this resolution, we look forward to supporting all Committees and Working Groups in developing meaningful contributions to the DSA-LA for Bernie campaign.

Issue-Based Committees and Campaign-Based Working Groups

Climate Justice: Build support for the Green New Deal and the goals of local, state, national, and international ecosocialism.

Healthcare: Advance an uncompromising call for Medicare for All as a step towards a fully socialized healthcare system.

Housing and Homelessness & NOlympics: Foreground the right to the city and the decriminalization of poverty  as central to a society that elevetaves human need above private profit.

Labor: Use demands like Bernie’s calls for liveable wages and a jobs guarantee to raise worker class consciousness and power within the local economy.  

Prison Abolition: Extend Bernie’s call to abolish for-profit prisons to a transformative demand for the abolition of all forms of the carceral state and significant support for  communities that foster a fair and equal society.

Immigration Justice: Expand upon Bernie’s call for immigration reform to articulate a politics that decriminalizes immigrant work, pushes for the abolition of ICE, citizenship for all who want it, and more.

Internal Resource Committees

Agit-Prop: Work alongside the Communications Committee to build independent, multi-media messaging and materials for the campaign that elevate our political demands and center DSA as an organization capable of realizing them in a way the Democratic Party cannot.

Membership: Increase membership by collaboratively working to design and implement defined pathways for membership engagement for active, inactive, new, potential members across the city for the campaign and beyond.

Electoral Politics:  Grow field infrastructure and organizational capacity for mass mobilizations around elections and develop a program for DSA-LA members to move allies in our personal and social circles to voting for socialist candidates.

Political Education: Ensure that neighborhood-based campaign programming links Bernie platform issues to a socialist analysis of power and features ongoing opportunities for education and learning to all people.

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