Obviously the vision I have put forward for a Bernie 2020 is way beyond the scope of just electoral canvassing. This vision is only possible if it has significant buy-in from the membership. We need to avoid a situation where the Bernie 2020 campaign is just another campaign competing with other Working Groups for member interest, time, energy and resources. The Bernie 2020 campaign must function in concert with all of the work we do. All campaigns, electoral and otherwise, would compete with Bernie for volunteers, unless we, as a chapter, develop the structures to integrate this work.
In accordance with these values I would propose reviving the Electoral Committee with a resolution giving it explicit purview over the chapter’s electoral work, under control of the GBM and Steering. This would follow a model where we could pass explicit Strategy Resolutions guiding our Bernie 2020 electoral work, making it clear that our goal is to engage workers about a democratic socialist platform, Bernie, and our down-ballot local candidates. We must build this chapterwide campaign with input from all working groups and campaigns. We must work to engage new people, expand our membership, train more organizers, and protect and grow our existing campaigns. One of the major concerns that electoral organizers always have is that we’re going to find ourselves competing against each other for canvassers instead of working together to allocate our resources most efficiently.
The Sanders campaign presents great risks. DSA refusing to engage with the campaign would result in isolation from the broader progressive community, bleeding members to left-liberal progressive groups without an explicit socialist outlook, and marginalization as a political organization. While smaller organizing projects that radicalize workers in small groups are the backbone of our work, we must recognize that “politics begin where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions.” If we are to win the majority of the working class to socialism, we must engage in politics at a mass scale, trumpeting the demands of workers with the largest megaphone we can find. The other risk of the Sanders campaign is co-option by sending our members to liberal groups or the Sanders campaign itself. We must agitate around a message of socialism to working class people, not knock on the doors of liberal “supervoters” to tell them why Bernie Sanders should be president without connecting it to a broader message of class struggle. Our campaign must be independent and geared towards growing the socialist movement, and growing DSA as its vehicle. Despite these risks, a well-planned and executed Bernie 2020 campaign could drastically grow our membership, our organizing capacity, and internal infrastructure. This is an opportunity we can’t afford to mess up.
With such a comprehensive project it is important that the membership, including those that are not able to attend planning meetings, are able to provide their input and oversight. I would encourage the GBM to debate and pass:
In total I could see allocations for all of these various projects totaling somewhere north of $5,000 (pre-fundraising), which is well within the financial capacity of our chapter that has nearly $15,000 cash on hand.
Most importantly, a Bernie 2020 campaign should be used as an opportunity to get us all marching in the same direction. We don’t all have to be doing the same thing, but it’s the first time in a long time that we’ll have a big project to unite around. This campaign is a major opportunity for our organization and especially our local. We’ve achieved a lot over the last few years, but I can only imagine what we can achieve as an organization through engaging in mass politics like this.