Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect
At its biennial convention last weekend in Atlanta, DSA (which, with 56,000 members, is now the largest American socialist organization in the memory of anyone under 80) passed a headline-grabbing resolution declaring that it would not endorse any Democrat save Bernie Sanders in next year’s November presidential runoff.
The vote on the resolution was actually fairly close, though support for Sanders in the primaries is overwhelming within the organization. And its proponents provided a number of qualifications and caveats, making clear that DSA members are free to campaign for the eventual Democratic nominee if they so choose, and that in 2016, DSA locals did campaign against Trump (and members for Hillary) in swing states.
Still, inasmuch as DSA locals work closely with immigrant-protection groups, and the national organization has called for the abolition of ICE, it could be difficult to explain to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, facing deportation and family separation, why the group won’t join its allies in a forthright fight to dump Trump.
However, I find myself of two minds in assessing DSA’s position. As a member of the organization and one of its predecessors (the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee) for the past 44 years, I’m embarrassed and regretful that my organization hasn’t grasped the primacy and urgency of joining, in a public and full-blown way, the battle to rid the world of Trump. In 1944, the U.S. Communist Party effectively, if temporarily, self-abolished so its members could support Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election bid, as part of the fight against fascism. To be sure, that move came at the behest of Joseph Stalin, whose nation was allied with ours in the existential battle against Hitler. But for all its myriad and ultimately fatal flaws, and granting that its self-abolition was a typical CP overreaction, the U.S. Communist Party understood the gravity of the fascist threat. Why not DSA?
That’s the reaction of my DSA mind. But partly through my long-ago work with DSOC, which led to my political work for some left-wing unions, which led to my own work for left-wing candidates and causes, I also seem to have a political-consultant mind. And that mind tells me that the eventual Democratic presidential nominee needs the formal endorsement of DSA like a hole in the head. Where DSA is strong and where socialist and progressive candidates can win—generally, in cities with substantial populations of millennials, immigrants, and minorities—a DSA endorsement can make all the difference, producing scads of the most tireless precinct walkers and dedicated phone-bankers. It has made that difference in New York, Chicago, and any number of smaller cities. In nearly every state, and certainly in the nation at large, however, a DSA endorsement would be one more item on the bill of particulars the Republicans would hurl at the Democratic nominee in hopes of revving up more of their right-wing base. In every encounter with reporters, the nominee would be pressed about DSA’s endorsement. Just as well, says my consultant mind, that DSA takes a pass—particularly since I have no doubt most of my fellow members will end up helping that Democratic nominee in states where that help matters.
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The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.