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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Summing Up the DSA Convention

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his Facebook page:

Leaving aside some of the nutty resolutions like the Open Borders one, how should we assess the DSA convention as a whole? Harold Meyerson offers some thoughts, especially focusing on the Bernie or Bust resolution, which has fairly immediate implications. He also does a good job of discussing some of the disciplined caucuses like the Trotskyist-inflected Bread and Roses and the quasi-anarchist Build.

He concludes:

“Making plenty of errors along the way, like many of the youth organizations that DSA demographically resembles, I think the majority of DSA members will succeed in keeping the group from descending into the Scylla and Charybdis of sectarianism and anarchy. The electoral successes of DSA members running as Democrats—and there are now roughly 100 DSA members in elected office—will not just build the organization but help anchor it in the real world.

And the presidential runoff of 2020? I think DSA’s national political committee might take a leaf from the group’s Atlanta local during Stacey Abrams’s 2018 campaign for governor. At the time, the local wasn’t endorsing nonsocialists, and some of its members likely believed—rightly, I’d say—that a DSA endorsement would be one more cross Abrams would have to bear in her bid to carry Georgia. Nonetheless, every other progressive group inside and outside the state was enthusiastically backing her, and many DSA members were eagerly working on her campaign. Here’s what the local said:

“For many reasons, we cannot endorse Abrams ourselves, but neither can we stand aside while our friends and allies fight for something they know will make their lives better. We voted to encourage our members, if they feel so moved, to stand up and fight in this election cycle.”

In 2020, DSA’s friends and allies—in immigrant communities and communities of color, in groups seeking to combat the climate crisis and save the planet, in organizations of working people seeking a radically more equitable economy and society—will be fighting for their lives to replace Trump with a Democrat. It won’t be a battle between socialism and barbarism, but it will be a battle against barbarism, and the Atlanta statement offers a way that DSA can join it.”

Worthwhile reading and considerably better than the New York Times story. For a completely different perspective you might want to check out libertarian socialist Nathan Robinson’s take on the convention in Current Affairs. Robinson’s politics aren’t mine but it is an engaging piece with some vivid anecdotes.

This Jacobin piece is good on what actually happened at the convention–what passed. what didn’t and how organizational questions were dealt with (always more important than people think they are). The author. Andrew Sernatinger is from my old stomping grounds in Madison, WI, so I feel a certain kinship with him.

Sernatinger was, however, responsible for the Bernie or Bust resolution. which I am not too enthusiastic about. According to Sernatinger, the dominant strand on thinking in the DSA on electoral work is to build toward a “dirty break” with the Democrats and form their own independent party.

Good luck with that.

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