Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Yes on Portland Question 2: 42-day Pre-Election Report

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Yes on Portland Question 2: 42 Pre-Election Day Report

PORTLAND, ME – On Monday, October 15, at their general membership meeting, the Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted to endorse a charter amendment requiring all Portland municipal candidates to file a 42-day pre-election report disclosing their campaign donors. The referendum, conceived by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the League of Women Voters was introduced by Councilor Belinda Ray and passed by the Council on August 13, with only Councilor Kim Cook voting in opposition. A charter amendment requires citizen approval, and will appear to voters as Portland ballot Question 2 on the November 6th ballot.

Municipal candidates are currently required to disclose their donors 11 days before the election. However, by that time many voters have already cast early absentee ballots without the benefit of this information. Question 2 aims to fill this gap by mandating that candidates also disclose their sources of funding 42 days before the election. This additional report would match reporting requirements for state-level candidates.

“An informed electorate is foundational to a functioning democracy. Often it’s not the candidate’s agenda we need to understand, but that of their donors. Lack of transparency at the municipal level in Portland disenfranchises voters from the truth behind councilor votes,” said Kate Sykes, chapter secretary. “It’s time to open the blinds. Passing Question 2 is the first step toward a government that answers to the people of Portland.”

The DSA supports issues that align with its mission of organizing and empowering working class people in Southern Maine to stand together to improve our material and social conditions.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around the country. Southern Maine DSA is endorsing six democratic socialists and one ballot question in the upcoming election.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA, this press release, or its endorsement process, contact


This is a Rescue Mission

by Todd Blanchette

What is democratic socialism to me? I could go a number of directions with this. I could explain that democratic socialism is my blue-collar, pro-union Pépère who struggled as a train station worker his whole life. Or that it seeped into my consciousness from my mom, an educator whose union fought so her family could enjoy health and dental benefits. But the clearest meaning of what socialism means to me comes from my father.

My dad worked as a photographer for the Bangor Daily News starting in 1977. He was a good employee and didn’t complain that he got Sundays and Tuesdays off, instead of a normal weekend, which meant he only got one actual full day per week with us, his sons, during the school year, and rarely, if ever, got two days off in a row.

In 1992, my father joined the movement to unionize Bangor Daily News employees under the Newspaper Guild, part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). He got involved in the organizing efforts and did his best to convince people of the benefits that would come from the collective strength of a union. It came to a vote and, though close, the vote failed. In 1995 he took part in a second ill-fated attempt to unionize the paper. This attempt didn’t even get to a vote before falling apart. One year and one day later management let my father go. They could do this without cause, because there was no contract protecting BDN employees.

I witnessed my father, once a solid Democrat, suddenly come face-to-face with the reality that he might not be able to provide for his wife and three sons as well as he wished. He was, and remains, a man instilled with a strong sense of paternal duty. Being without a job caused him a great deal of shame and insecurity. But he swallowed his pride and took a late night job at a call center.

Over the next year or so his anger, and our debt, started to grow. His anger was mostly expressed through verbal outbursts over the smallest perceived infractions, with the rare slap upside the head for whatever annoyance might catch his eye. Then, in 1998, fumbling to regain a sense of control over his life again, he started a  small business fashioning Windsor chairs in our basement and selling them on the burgeoning new internet. He slowly turned from Democrat to avowed Republican, listening to Rush Limbaugh while, covered in sawdust, he toiled in his dim workshop, becoming more vehement in his hatred of Bill Clinton and the terrible liberals for perceived infringements upon his rights and dreams as a business owner.

His income hovered between the red and black, and our family’s economic security could rarely be predicted for more than a couple months at a time.We could never play hockey because the equipment was too much money. If we wanted to learn music, we had to settle for sharing one trumpet between the three of us, with no budget for us to choose a different instrument. We all had to forego the popular name-brand clothes our friends had. All three of us attended state university because of the tuition deal my mother received as an educator in the system. If not for that, I don’t know how, or if, we could have afforded the decent college education we were lucky to receive.

I began to resent my father. His anger disturbed me, his close-mindedness bothered me, and his income insecurity led my brothers and I to feel like we missed out on opportunities our friends were getting. And, all along, I felt like our struggles were my parents’ fault. In my immaturity I took all of this to mean that they were out of touch with what I wanted.

It was in high school, and again in college, that I started reading Marx, then Gramsci, then Marcuse and Lukacs. I started to see the injustices of the capitalist system reflected in my father’s trajectory. I had always been upset at my dad. A quick-tempered conservative filled with subtle racism and homophobia; a man who made sexist jokes at dinner and had taken up a false class consciousness, identifying with the capitalist class, unable to see how he was its casualty. It became easy for me to dislike him.

It has only been in the last ten years or so that my understanding of socialism and socialist theories has evolved, and with that evolution my dad has stopped appearing to me as the cold, angry, uncaring man I had seen him as since I was a teen. When I actually tried to understand his choices, I saw him for who he was: a person who had been lied to and manipulated. A person who had devoted his career to a private system that would betray him simply because he had dared ask that he and his coworkers be treated better. A man who wrapped himself in the myth of the nuclear family and chauvinism, not consciously, but because that’s what American media and education had taught him to believe. Underneath all the bursts of anger, what drove my father all along was a desperate concern for his family. Underneath this union supporter-turned ultra-conservative lay a fragile human doing what he thought was necessary to see a roof over our heads, food in our mouths, oil in our furnace, and healthcare when we ailed.

I see my father in lots of struggling, working people today. People who harbor angry or racist or sexist thoughts not because they’re inherently bad people, but because they’re afraid. Afraid for the social standing and stability of their families and themselves. Afraid because they live under a sprawling economic system that encourages a dog-eat-dog mentality and says that if you’re not rich, it’s your fault and you’re the failure.

Todd Blanchette with his family.

I don’t dislike my father anymore; and every day I try to remind myself that I don’t dislike these other misled people, either. I love them. I love my dad. And I’m involved with DSA in the hope that some day, working together toward a more just, classless society, we can help people shed their false consciousness, their economic insecurity and hate, so they can reclaim their lives. This is a rescue mission motivated by love and understanding.

That’s what democratic socialism means to me.

Every month, we ask a member to share their story of what Democratic Socialism means to them. If you’re interested in telling yours, please email the chair.

Get revved up about revolution this October

Happy October, comrades! It’s the month of revolution. So, what better way to spend it than by reading about a historic revolution from Octobers past?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a major achievement in the socialist movement, a blow against capitalism and its hold over the world. It’s also still hotly debated and dissected today, 101 years later. To help you get through this time in history and the years that followed, the Southern Maine DSA Education Committee has compiled a recommended list of books on the Russian Revolution.

All of these books are available in the Southern Maine DSA library, and you can borrow any of them by filling out this request form, or by requesting one of the books from our chapter librarian, Marc Normandin, at one of our meetings or events.

And, if you would like to learn even more about the Russian Revolution, the Education Committee will be hosting a presentation and discussion of the historic event on October 22, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Room in the Reiche Community Center. Todd Chretien, editor of Eyewitnesses to the Russian Revolution, will lead this event.

To wrap up our month of focus on the Russian Revolution, this month’s book club entry is V.I. Lenin’s The State and Revolution. You can find this book in our library, at various booksellers, or for free online at This book club meeting will be held at Quill Books & Beverage in Westbrook, ME, on November 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.


My Socialist Roots

By Ken Bailey

My parents were children of the Great Depression, living on government cheese and powdered eggs. Dad was a WWII vet who worked in the Post Office. Mom was a nurse who started as a Nurse’s Aide and went to night school at Bellevue Hospital in New York City to complete her R.N. degree. Dad was a rank and file member of the fledgling U.S. Postal Workers Union, and Mom worked with the Hospital Workers Union in the early 1960’s. In my neighborhood, the Pullman Porters Union had three members within a block of my house. They voted for Democrats, except when they voted for Eisenhower in 1952.

It was the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War which made me see the necessity of an alternative to the Democratic Party. People like W.E.B. Dubois, founder of the NAACP, and A. Philip Randolph, President of the Pullman Porters Union, were Socialist. And I read about Eugene Debs in college. They convinced me that the Democrats were too compromised to advance the country.

Ken Baily speaks at an anti-war demonstration in Columbus Ohio, 1970

I learned about the Veteran Bonus Marchers of the 1930’s and how they were beaten by soldiers and trampled by mounted police. The Republic Steel Strike Massacre of 1937: 10 dead, 30 wounded by police gunfire, all white. The Civil Rights workers, killed in the 1960’s: black and white comrades, martyrs for a better America. It became clear to me that the working class, white and black, had the same class enemy.

We have to unite – whether it’s at the border in Texas, at the Keystone Pipeline, around women’s choice, gay rights, or Black Lives Matter. It is the same corporate forces aligned against our interests.

I want to leave you with a quote from a fallen comrade named Fred Hampton, Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, who was murdered by the Chicago police:

“You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water…We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We’re gonna fight capitalism with socialism. Socialism is the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself.”

Every month, we ask a member to share their story of what Democratic Socialism means to them. If you’re interested in telling yours, please email the chair.


Democratic Socialism is Love

By Jon Torsch

My name is Jon, and my pronouns are he/him/his. I’m an engineer, atheist, millennial, cat-dad, and democratic socialist. There, the labels are out there.

Every month, when the Southern Maine chapter of Democratic Socialists of America meets, we reserve a few minutes for a member to speak on what democratic socialism is to them. This may not be expected from an engineer, but at the risk of rolling eyes, the short answer for me is that democratic socialism is love. For the longer answer, I’ll give you some backstory on who I am and how I came to that conclusion. I’m from central Maine, which is both relatively conservative and very working class.

My father was a mechanic and my mother worked in customer service. Neither are well-paying jobs, and so my family struggled economically. In addition, in my family I’ve borne witness to struggles with addiction, sectarian evangelism, and a misdiagnosis that led to untreated cancer. As a child in primary school, I was both an advanced learner and vehemently (and actively) anti-authority, neither of which my public schools were prepared to handle. This led to truancy, suspensions, and almost failing out. When I applied to the University of Maine in my senior year of high school, I was rejected.

I dove fully into working multiple part-time jobs. I bounced back and forth between them, cumulatively working sixty hours a week, all on low wages with no benefits to fall back on. I eventually landed a management position with Blockbuster, but then a few years later they went bankrupt and I found myself laid off in my early twenties.

That’s a cliff-notes version, but these experiences all have direct ties to the issues that we discuss and assemble action around in our chapter and in our organization: unlivable wages, poor medical treatment, a lack of acceptance and treatment around addiction, under-funded and archaically structured public education, inherited poverty on a mass scale, and a lack of true labor protections. There a lot of parallels, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my chapter, my city, or my state in having lived through them.

Now I can’t earnestly insist that it was all bad. I started taking college classes a few weeks after the layoff and went on to get my A.A.S. in Electrical and Automation Technology at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and my B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology at the University of Maine in Orono. I volunteer at my alma maters and at public STEM events, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen that my proudest accomplishment to date is having completed all of that with a 4.0 GPA.

But in telling that story, I make it clear that I don’t point to that as validation of self. To me, that success represents that even kids from homes with addiction, poverty, medical calamity, and other struggles have invaluable potential, the obstacles to which are primarily set by a society that allows capitalism to take root.

Capitalism retrenches funding for public education, rerouting it to privatized education. Capitalism spikes health care costs so that affordable care isn’t quality and quality care isn’t affordable. Capitalism diminishes the quality of life of the working class by stagnating wages down to unlivable swarf. Capitalism fights unions, guaranteed benefits, and other worker protections with no concern for humanity. The do all of these things for one reason and one reason only: Profit.

I realized that in life, these weren’t hardships that I was facing by chance, luck, or omen. These are all features of a capitalist economy that seeks to infinitely increase profit with finite resources, and they’re exacerbated by a government that at worst props that system up and at best thinks it can be “reformed.”

It’s just self-preservation to identify the blockades put in one’s own path. It’s something else entirely to break those blockades down.

That’s what Democratic Socialism is. Breaking down those barriers and replacing these capitalist “features” in with equitable, shared solutions that provide for all members of society. What do you call investing yourself in ensuring that others reach their fullest potential and happiness? I cannot honestly think of a better word than love.

Every month, we ask a member to share their story of what Democratic Socialism means to them. If you’re interested in telling yours, please email the chair.

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Zak Ringelstein for US Senate

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Zak Ringelstein for US Senate

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 to endorse Zak Ringelstein for US Senate. In August, the National DSA endorsed the campaign, making Ringelstein, the only candidate for US Senate to be endorsed by the organization.

Ringelstein, a DSA member, has pledged to take no money from PACs, corporations, or special interest groups in order to be a true public servant who only answers to voters. He intends to introduce and support legislation to reverse Citizens United, end corporate campaign lobbying, and institute a federal voting holiday to make the polls more accessible to working people.

“As socialists, we are fundamentally opposed to the idea that corporate money has any place in politics, or even a fair and equitable society,” said Meg Reily, SMDSA Chair. “We’re happy to endorse someone who would prioritize reversing Citizens United and increasing voting rights, two issues that go hand-in-hand,” Reilly said.

“As a public school teacher and the son of a social worker, I am blown away by the way the DSA truly fights to increase the power of working Americans. It is not just an honor to receive their endorsement; we are now a mightier force for change because of the hundreds of passionate DSA members at our side who are ready to get money out of politics and unrig the system to create a more free, democratic, and humane society for all,” said Ringelstein.

Ringelstein came to politics from a former career as a public school teacher. As a rank-and-file union member, he helped form and lead PowerToPublic, a teacher-led campaign to expose billionaire Betsy DeVos’s attempts to defund our public schools. He wants to enact democratic socialist reform in Washington, including Medicare for All, public ownership of natural resources, including groundwater, increasing protections on public land, holding corporations accountable for their emissions, and divesting from fossil fuels. He supports medicare for all and full, publicly-funded reproductive healthcare for women, including abortion. He condemns the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians and the US’s part in funding these actions, and he rejects the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.

Ringelstein is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face off against Independent incumbent Angus King in the Fall. Ringelstein expresses frustration at the lack of accurate media coverage on King’s voting record on gun control, as well as King’s sources of campaign financing. “One of the reasons I’m running is to force those conversations into the open,” Ringelstein said.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This press release has been update to reflect Zak’s membership status and the endorsement of National DSA.

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Mike Sylvester for Maine State Representative, District 39

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Mike Sylvester for Maine State Representative, District 39

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted unanimously on Monday, March 12 to endorse Mike Sylvester for Maine House of Representatives District 39. In August, the national DSA also endorsed Sylvester, who is running for a second term, is a co-founder of SMDSA and the chapter’s first member to be elected to a state-level office.

“We’ve always been incredibly proud to be home to one of two open democratic socialist state representatives in the country,” said Meg Reilly, SMDSA Chair. “Mike is a longtime union organizer who walks the walk in the state house, and we’re looking forward to another term of him representing democratic socialist ideals in Maine’s capital.”

Sylvester currently sits on the House Labor Committee and serves as Organizing Chair of the Bull Moose Caucus, a body of 37 legislators willing to vote for progressive legislation regardless of Party affiliation.

During his term of office he has submitted many bills founded on socialist principles, including the Local Option Sales Tax bill to spread the financial benefits of tourism statewide and lower property taxes. He supports single payer healthcare and has been active in helping to pass ranked choice voting. He is a proponent of public sector right to strike, worker safety, safe consumption sites for opiods, and living wage legislation.

“I hope to speak and cast my vote for the people who are left out of the political process or who have given up hope that anyone is listening. An endorsement by groups like Southern Maine DSA, groups who are working on the ground and having conversations about how our state can be better, those are the groups whose endorsements mean the most to me,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester is running as a Maine clean elections candidate, and has pledged not to accept campaign money from corporations, lobbyists, or PACs. He is currently working to organize more DSA chapters across the state of Maine, and recruiting and mentoring democratic socialist candidates who wish to run for office.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This release has been update to reflect the endorsement of the national DSA.

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Jeremy Mele in June primary for Maine State Representative, District 19

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Jeremy Mele for Maine State Representative, District 19

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted unanimously on Monday, March 12 to endorse Jeremy Mele for Maine House of Representatives District 19. “We’re incredibly lucky to have a candidate like Jeremy running for office,” said Meg Reilly, Chair. “Jeremy’s compassion and drive shone when he was Vice Chair of our chapter, and we’re excited at the prospect of Representative Mele continuing the fight in Augusta.”

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the group,” Mele said, “I like to think it’s because I showed a commitment to the principles of Democratic Socialism and because I am campaigning on issues that are important for the wellbeing of society and the working class.”

Mele’s campaign focuses on a defense of direct democracy via citizen’s referendums, something that he notes representatives in Augusta have been reluctant to respect in recent years. According to his campaign blog, Maine state government “has moved away from respecting democracy and the will of the voters, and it has moved toward a paternalism that indicates a disregard for the wants and needs of Maine voters.”

Mele is an ardent supporter of social policies that empower the working class, including single-payer healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, and reducing the cost of post-secondary education. He supports the current referendum campaign to provide Mainers with universal homecare coverage.

Mele is a Maine clean elections candidate, and will not be accepting any campaign money from corporations, lobbyists or PACs.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This release has been update to reflect Jeremy’s status as a Maine clean elections campaign candidate.

Ask a Socialist: “Do socialists really think that no one should work?”

By Jeremy Mele

There’s a common misconception that socialists are “lazy” and that we only want “free stuff,” that we are “moochers.” If that’s the case, we must be really bad at those things, because volunteering for socialist organizations, campaigning for working class power, and running donation drives where we actively give away goods to folks in need are certainly funny ways to be lazy moochers.
Socialists are not anti-work; we respect the value of an honest day of labor as much as anyone else. What we are against is work as it exists in a capitalist context. Not everyone is able or wants to own their own business; therefore, under capitalism, most of us must labor for a capitalist if we want to live. We need to put ourselves in the service of the wealthy in order to afford the necessities of life. That means that the only work we will be doing for the majority of our life—40 hours per week until we retire, or, as retirement is becoming less and less affordable, die—is work that capitalists deem profitable. No matter what our actual interests are, we must labor as the wealthy dictate, often in work that is demeaning, unhealthy, and limits our potential.
Socialists do far more work than capitalists do. Capitalists merely chase profit, hiring only as many people as are strictly needed, and letting everyone else starve, for all they care! Many do no work at all, profiting only by letting their money grow at the hands of their portfolio managers, often in off-shore accounts that rob our nation of tax revenue that would help fix our roads, fund innovation, and educate the next generation of workers.
Socialists want to work, but we don’t want our labor exploited by a system that concentrates wealth and power at the top. Socialists fight for a world where everyone can work, where the value of our work benefits the workers, not just employers, and where everyone can work on our own terms.

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It is Happening Here…

Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America Presents:

A Staged Reading of “It Can’t Happen Here”

Adapted from the play by Sinclair Lewis and John C. Moffitt and based on the Lewis Novel

On the Anniversary of the Inauguration: January 20, 2018

7:00 pm (Doors), 7:30 (Curtain)9:00 pm

Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St, Portland, ME 04102, USA

A donation of $10-20 is requested at the door.

Sinclair Lewis was the first American writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature and also the first to decline the Pulitzer, which, in 1926, was given “for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.” [1]

Best known for his critical treatment of American materialism, sexism, commercialism and capitalism, Lewis, the man, remained true to the democratic socialist ideals that fueled Lewis, the writer. “In America most of us—not readers alone, but even writers—are still afraid of any literature which is not a glorification of everything American, a glorification of our faults as well as our virtues,” Lewis declared in his Nobel acceptance speech in 1930, going on to describe the country as “the most contradictory, the most depressing, the most stirring, of any land in the world today.”[2]

Five years later, and over the course of only four months, Lewis would write the semi-satirical novel, It Can’t Happen Here, about the swindling of the American presidency by a dangerous demagogue, a so-called “man of the people” who rises to power by promising greatness for his militant followers, while vilifying immigrants, non-Christians, the poor, and the free press. Lewis was writing from a place of fear—namely that fascism, which was on the rise in Europe, could take hold in America.

His fears were not unfounded. In 1930, the country was digging itself out of the Great Depression: unemployment was up; manufacturing was down, and people were desperate to follow any law-and-order candidate who promised to restore their prosperity and self-respect. A 1939 pro-Hitler rally in Madison Square garden, attended by tens of thousands of fascist followers—all of them Americans—is a stark reminder of how close we came to the brink.

It Can’t Happen Here became a bestseller, spawning radio, theater, film and television adaptations that have reached millions. Fascism did not sweep across America in a great wave, razing all democratic institutions in its path, as Lewis imagined—but of course that is only how it happens in novels. In real life, fascism takes hold by degrees so small and incremental that we barely notice the creep of authoritarianism until it is too late to turn back the tide. Lewis understood, more than any other writer of his time, that in order to prevent fascism from suffocating the flame of freedom, we must continually remind ourselves that it can happen here.

Cast of Characters:

Doremus Jessep – Herb Adams
Mary Greenhill- Mikayla Damon
Fowler Greenhill – Krys Bigosinski
David Greenhill – Meg Reilly
Lorinda Pike – Kate Sykes
Shad Ledue – Bob Mahue
Francis Tasbrough – Kelly McDaniel
Effingham Swan – Carl Pease
Julian Falck – Kenny Lynx
Henry Veeder – Seth Berner
Mrs. Veeder – Tracy Allen
Clarence Tubbs – Vinney O’Malley
Dan Wilgus – Barney McClelland
Adalaide Tarr Gimmitch/Narrator – Cynthia Handlen
Mr. Dimmick – Meg Reilly
Jim Nickerson – Cynthia Handlen
Walt Trobridge – Zach Ringelstein
Pastor Prang – Jack O’Brien
“Buzz” Windrip – Harlan Baker
Adelaide Tarr Gimmich – Cynthia Handlen
Narrator – Cynthia Handlen
Commentator – Joey Brunelle


[1] The Sinclair Lewis Society

[2] John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 15th edition, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980), 791 via Wikipedia