DSA Cleveland Chapter Statement on Proposed National DSA Bernie Sanders Endorsement

DSA Cleveland Calls on the DSA National Political Committee to Defer the Questions of Endorsing Bernie Sanders and the Strategy for Endorsement to the 2019 National Convention, and for New Restructuring Allowing for More Voices Around National Decision Making.

As DSA’s National Political Committee (NPC) rolled out its efforts to push for an endorsement of Bernie Sanders for president and a de facto endorsement of a specific campaign strategy, it has become clear that we are witnessing another example the unwieldy, unresponsive, and largely distant NPC that our chapter has experienced over the last few years.

It has been clear from the beginning of this process that what the NPC wants is not simply an endorsement of Bernie Sanders, but the adoption by our organization of a particular electoral strategy (a proposed Independent Expenditure campaign), in which large amounts of DSA National’s resources would be commandeered in order to create a separate campaign infrastructure independent of the Sanders campaign itself. DSA would then become simply one more part of the Sanders movement despite the appearance of being an independent political force. None of this was discussed widely or forthrightly in the run-up to the Sanders endorsement poll. The poll sent out by national was closed on March 12, with the NPC to take into advisement at their emergency meeting on March 21. At this meeting, the NPC plans to vote on the endorsement plan as it stands. March 21 is before all chapters have held debates on the endorsement issue, as well as before the final 4 regional conferences have been held.

The yes-vote on the poll will likely be taken by the NPC as a tacit endorsement of an intensive campaign strategy, the full implications of which (especially in terms of the time, energy, resources, & labor of DSA chapters) have not been dealt with candidly in the NPC’s communications. By presenting membership’s options as an either/or choice between a Bernie endorsement which in reality was yoked to a particular plan or simply not endorsing at all, and giving very limited time for debate on the issue, the NPC has boxed our membership into a narrow dichotomy of options, while not revealing the full extent of the program which members have de facto voted on. This is a profoundly undemocratic method whether intentional or not. Instead of acknowledging alternative strategies coming from chapters, the NPC’s efforts seem designed to wish them out of existence. This is not a sustainable form of national governance, especially for an organization purporting to be based on democratic socialist principles.

The haste of this process has caused other side effects. Since the poll’s launch, we have witnessed members of the NPC attempting to clarify their understanding of the legal issues around an independent strategy on Twitter, as multiple chapters and individual members point out the pitfalls and complexities of national’s chosen strategy. Clearly, there has been a lack of information sharing even within the NPC. This is all the more indicative of the necessity for broader involvement in decision making on the national level. The choice to endorse and what strategy should be taken ultimately should rest with the national convention.

DSA is no longer the organization it was two years ago. These last two years have been a shakedown period, in which new chapter- and regionally-based organizing methods have evolved largely parallel to the structures of our national organization. The Bernie endorsement process has been an example of the failure of the NPC and national staff to adapt to how our chapter oriented structure has evolved. It is clear that this issue is a test for DSA, likely to have wider ranging implications than those entailed by Bernie Sander’s run itself. This lays bare the structural deficiencies between a weak but centralized national and robust but disconnected chapters and regions. Addressing a deep restructuring of DSA’s organization to make it broader, more representative of chapters and regions, and able to truly function as a democratic national organization is critical as we grow. The issue of how to approach Bernie is entwined within this broader question. It is not one that we dare risk avoiding.

Resolution passed by general membership of DSA Cleveland on March 14, 2019.