For Immediate Release, March 12, 2019
SMDSA Co-Chairs Kate Sykes & Jon Torsch
A petition has circulated asking members and chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to call to defer the decision to endorse Bernie Sanders to the highest body of our organization – the National Convention – where delegates from every chapter have a say. Signatories already include chapters and individuals in early primary states (Iowa, Nevada), in Super Tuesday states (Alabama, California), and the entire Libertarian Socialist Caucus. Maine has not set its 2020 primary/caucus date yet, but in 2016 it was among earlier caucus states.
Our chapter organizes in a rural, purple, low-population state. We utilize multiple tactics to win both power and improved material conditions. The fights we have taken on include mandatory paid sick time for workers, increased campaign finance reporting, and increased notice for tenant evictions and rent increases. Our victories have stemmed primarily from holding to our core tenet – that everyone affected by a decision should have a say in that decision. For this reason, and others discussed further below, our chapter has voted to sign this petition.
Makeup of the NPC
The National Political Committee (NPC) of the DSA is a body of representatives responsible for guiding DSA’s major organizational goals as determined by the delegates to the National Convention. The NPC consists of sixteen (16) individuals elected at our biennial National Convention. Since election in 2017, four (4) NPC members have been replaced by individuals appointed solely by the NPC. Of the current makeup, roughly twelve (12) of the sixteen (16) members of the NPC are from large cities (populations over 700k).
The NPC appoints members to a National Electoral Committee (NEC). NEC members are not elected, and similarly, roughly eighteen (18) of twenty-five (25) members are from large cities (700k+). Still, the NEC is the national body empowered to execute the NPC’s political strategy by assisting locals and recommending national endorsements.
In October 2018, the NPC voted to bypass the NEC and form a separate “Exploratory Committee for the 2020 Presidential Primary” consisting of nine (9) appointed members. This committee was charged with drafting a proposal for an endorsement process in the 2020 presidential primary as well as develop a “high-level” campaign plan for a potential 2020 presidential campaign, and reporting that proposal back to the NPC.
In January 2019, the Exploratory Committee reported back to the NPC, again bypassing the NEC, with their “Report from the Exploratory Committee for the 2020 Presidential Primary”. The NPC received alternate proposals and amendments but rejected all of them – including those proposing more bottom-up input, such as adding voting members from the states with early primaries – to ultimately approve their commissioned Exploratory Committee proposal.
The approved process required the NPC to vote on endorsement within a month of Sanders announcing his presidential campaign. In response to the critique that members were not being consulted in this decision, National DSA released a poll to all members. The poll is primarily flawed in that it is a “non-binding advisory poll,” but further concerns include only allowing “Yes” or “No” responses and not including decisions or feedback on implementation, level of resources to commit, whether we should do an Independent Expenditure, what the timeline is, or if the decision should be deferred to the National Convention.
Several NPC members have stated publicly how they will be voting on the endorsement. Making these statements prior to the completion of the advisory poll implies that poll results or chapter statements will not impact their decisions.
Concerns with Campaign and Candidate
The proposal itself introduces several problems that need more time to be addressed. The merits and challenges of a Bernie endorsement need to be discussed further. The Independent Expenditure campaign introduces questions of legal liability and the possibility of schisms between members who want to work with both DSA and the official Bernie campaign. We should know how much of our finances – primarily funded by member-paid dues – are going to be committed to this project. Members should be provided the National budget alongside this, which is now almost two months past-due, in order to determine how much we feel comfortable committing. DSA members have been struggling for sex work decriminalization, an end to imperialism, and immigration justice; the decision to endorse a candidate who has a complicated background with the very issues we care about must come from membership. We need to have a discussion as an organization if we even want to endorse candidates that haven’t asked us for endorsement. These are just a sample of the issues that rank and file members still don’t have answers to.
We feel that the NPC should implement decisions made by members, rather than the other way around. We believe we need an organization that hears these critiques and answers these questions in order to create an alternative, direct democracy. We believe in a bottom-up model of power, not in restricting power to a select few with the time, ability, resources, and connections to hold higher offices.
Southern Maine DSA is joining the call to ask the NPC to defer the question of endorsing Sanders to the 2019 National Convention. We believe, above all else, that anyone affected by a decision deserves to have a say in that decision, and we do not feel that this tenet has been a cornerstone of this process.
For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or this statement please contact us by email at DSA.SouthernMaine@gmail.com