Written by Nathan Newman (Bronx/Upper Manhattan DSA)
Co-signed by Ted Auerbach (S. Brooklyn), Steve Max (At-Large), Rafael Noboa y Rivera (Queens), Jay Shaffner (Lower Manhattan)
To co-sign, add your name at this link.
New York City DSA should endorse and organize to help Cynthia Nixon win the Democratic nomination for Governor against Andrew Cuomo.
To many of us, this should be one of the most obvious endorsement possible for DSA, given you have a candidate promoting one of the most progressive statewide platforms in modern New York history facing off against the most conservative Democrat in modern New York history.
Supporting her and Jumaane Williams running for Lieutenant Governor is a critical campaign for socialists in New York.
Cynthia Nixon Would Improve the Lives and Strengthen the Political Power of Working People in New York
That Nixon now defines herself as a democratic socialist is nice but largely irrelevant, since the goal of DSA’s electoral work should not be building its own version of Tammany Hall where only its own clubhouse of candidates can be endorsed. We don’t have the power or even the ideological commitment of the majority of the population to vote directly for socialism at the ballot box across the nation or state, but we can help elect candidates who move us in that direction. The goal of our electoral work should be results-oriented, namely which candidate if elected will lead to policies that strengthen the power of the working class and oppressed communities to take on capitalist power in all aspects of their lives.
On that score, Cynthia Nixon is a clear choice.
DSA should want to associate its organization in voters’ minds with enacting policies that concretely improve their lives. At this juncture in history, that can’t be done just by supporting members of its own organization but requires support and alliances with progressive candidates to build a working majority to enact those changes. Democratic primaries are a key tool for showing that we can replace a Democrat like Andrew Cuomo who blocks real change with someone like Nixon who will help move policy forward.
Supporting Nixon and Removing Cuomo Will Strengthen DSA Political Power and Alliances at the Grassroots
Andrew Cuomo is a problem not just because he promotes austerity economics and has blocked a wide range of progressive policies in alliance with the IDC-GOP-controlled state senate. His dominance of state politics restricts political support for progressive candidates around the state. The upsurge of activity challenging IDC Democrats, Julia Salazar’s campaign, the successful campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against Rep. Joseph Crowley – these are all part of a broad rebellion against Cuomo and the conservative New York political status quo.
Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Crowley will not just add a socialist voice in Congress; it removed the head of the Queens Democratic machine which had undercut more progressive candidates for decades. It is no coincidence that in the wake of Crowley’s defeat, Democratic politicians like New York City Speaker Corey Johnson rushed out to endorse insurgent candidates against the IDC, including the launch of a new challenge by John Liu to IDC Senator Tony Avella in Queens itself, while it seemed to embolden local politicians and Representative Nydia Velasquez to endorse Julia Salazar.
Removing Cuomo would have a similar thunderclap impact on politics throughout New York State, opening space for progressive candidates to run with the support of other local leaders without fear of retribution to from the vindictive Andrew Cuomo. If electing Cynthia Nixon did nothing but remove that ongoing assault on local progressives driven by Andrew Cuomo, it would be a tremendous gain for progressive power and will open up spaces for DSA to organize that had not been as possible before. DSA should concentrate resources on supporting our friends, but punishing our enemies, which means supporting non-socialists in many cases to defeat those enemies, should be a part of our strategy as well. Nixon happily identifies with DSA politics but even if she didn’t, she’s a weapon to take out Cuomo, which should be a key socialist goal in New York.
More broadly, this upsurge against Cuomo and the IDC is part of the broader mobilization of womens, people of color, LGBTQ, environmentalist, worker, community and immigrant rights organizations activated by the threat of the Trump administration. The broad base of the Democratic Party is demanding change and is receptive to socialist ideas but the best way to reach them is by working side-by-side with them in shared campaigns. DSA’s own growth has been tied to that energy and the Nixon campaign is one vehicle to build further alliances that will strengthen our non-electoral campaigns and recruit new members.
Having members working in the name of DSA with those other organizations supporting Nixon throughout the New York City region is a tremendous opportunity to deepen relationships with activists in other social movements energized by the current environment. That relationship-building will also strengthen DSA’s ability to hold candidates accountable AFTER the election as well.
Supporting Nixon Will Build DSA Activism, Not Detract from Other Campaigns Such As Julia Salazar’s
Some opponents of a Nixon or Williams endorsements act like DSA activism is a zero-sum game, where any hour done in the name of DSA for Cynthia Nixon or Jumaane Williams will mean an hour less canvassing for Julia Salazar. But activist energy doesn’t work that way, especially in a broad tent organization like DSA.
Those excited by Julia Salazar’s campaign will still travel from around the City to support her because she is an outstanding candidate and they are excited to support a fellow DSA member gain political office. Endorsing Nixon won’t make them drop that enthusiasm.
But thousands of other NYC DSA members are grounded in local politics and/or have limited time, so will welcome having a way to incorporate DSA work and messaging into neighborhood electoral work they would likely be doing in any case.
There is zero reason for anyone involved in the Julia Salazar campaign to divert time to the Cynthia Nixon and/or Jumaane Williams campaigns. If DSA endorses them, there will be plenty of other DSA members who will undoubtably step up to help organize DSA work on the campaigns in their neighborhoods and to help coordinate around the City. Some may be currently inactive DSA members who are already strongly excited about the Nixon/Williams campaigns and will happily work on developing DSA literature and organize DSA-organized events and outreach working with the campaigns.
And here’s the thing- by talking to other activists around the City about DSA’s work on behalf of Nixon and Williams, we can also talk about other work such as Julia Salazar’s campaign, which may excite new activists not currently connected to DSA at all to go support her campaign. Endorsing Nixon and Williams would very likely end up increasing the number of activists supporting the Salazar campaign.
Because that’s what happens when you build broad alliances—the energy you put out supporting others leads many of them to support your work.
There is a reason why Ocasio-Cortez and Salazar have endorsed and been endorsed by Cynthia Nixon; they recognize political activism is not a zero-sum game but one where we are collectively more than the sum of our parts.
Or as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said when she endorsed Cynthia Nixon, “The only way you counter a machine is with a movement. Movements are not done alone…and they are only powerful when they come together.”
Democratic Socialists of America as an organization should be part of the movement to overthrow the Cuomo machine in New York State.
Go to this link to add your name as co-signer,
We invite you to join us as founding members of a new caucus within Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). For now, we are calling ourselves DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy. You can find our provisional statement of principles here. We are going public on May Day in honor of International Workers’ Day.
We are reaching out to DSA and YDSA members in all geographic regions of the country, and we are asking those of you receiving this statement to help with that outreach. Our movement right now in 2018 must focus on defeating as many of Trump’s allies in the Republican Congress as possible. To do that, we must ally with a broad array of forces in the resistance to the Trump Administration and its enablers.
The provisional statement of principles expands on our purposes for organizing. Suffice it to say here that all of us are committed to democracy as both a means and an end. Socialism cannot be achieved except through democratic struggle. “Come the revolution,” a society shaped by that struggle would be profoundly democratic and egalitarian. In advancing that struggle now, we all believe that socialists need to engage in the fights people are already waging for immediate demands. Most immediately, we define ourselves as loyal participants in the resistance to the Trump Administration and its allies in the Republican Congressional majority. Defeating Republicans in the 2018 election and removing Trump from office are minimal conditions to restore decency and democracy right now. We’ll work with lots of non-socialists to achieve those ends. And we will be clear that those minimal conditions are just that—minimal. In the broad majoritarian struggle, we will work alongside our allies while seeking to educate them and the broader US public about the need for fundamental changes in our economic, political and social life.
It’s an exciting time to belong to DSA. The most recent elections in Virginia, Montana and elsewhere demonstrate the great potential for democratic socialists to engage in and begin to transform US politics. We’re still living off some of the fantastic momentum of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, where Senator Sanders forced his opponents and the media to deal with his self-identification as a democratic socialist. DSA has grown to more than 30,000 national members, with organized groups in nearly every state in the union. In many locations, DSA chapters have developed great programs of activity, ranging from Medicare for All advocacy, to electoral engagement, to defense of immigrant communities, tenant organizing and more.
So why organize a caucus at all and why now?
As stated above, socialists are starting to enter and to transform US politics. Keeping an eye on the prize of transforming US politics is what all of us signing this statement of principles think DSA is about. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some less healthy developments in the organization. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates to the recent national convention voted to reject any joint work with Our Revolution, the group explicitly organized by Senator Sanders’s supporters to carry on the work begun in the 2016 campaign. What was the objection to Our Revolution? It’s not pure enough. It doesn’t support only explicitly socialist candidates. That stance of political purism has a long and not a very proud tradition in US left politics. Those holding it end up isolating themselves—and DSA—from the very people we need to reach.
Even more disturbing, we’ve seen a trend of people, often operating through anonymous social media but sometimes identifying themselves openly, behaving in a manner that can be only described as toxic. They demonstrate a willingness to scrap any hint of due process or democratic deliberation and to organize digital mobs to enforce some sort of orthodoxy. If DSA heads down that path, the best outcomes would be driving good people away from DSA and a descent into irrelevance; a much worse outcome would be that an organization with a toxic internal culture infects the larger liberal left.
DSA can and must do better.
We hope you can and will choose to join the caucus by signing our provisional statement of principles.
Here’s our plan:
We’d appreciate your response to this letter and to our statement of principles. If you support the statement of principles, please sign on as a founding member of our caucus. If you disagree, we’d welcome further discussion.
DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy
See who we are: www.dsanorthstar.org
This space will have a wide range of debate in coming weeks but for today please head over to our Statement of Principles and join if you agree.
In the meantime, just a quick way to show support is to add DSA North Star icons to your twitter and Facebook profiles.
For adding a DSA NorthStar emoji to your Twitter handle, use a combo of the Eight Pointed Star available in twitter with a red rose. You can copy from each of these URLs directly into your twitter profile next to your name when you edit your profile:
Add a DSA Northstar Frame/Icon to your Facebook profile picture
The opinions expressed here are those of members of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.