By Maria Svart, DSA National Director
We have been living under the Donald Trump regime for three years. Our skyrocketing membership growth the instant Trump declared victory, the mass protests embodied by the Women’s March, and the airport protests are behind us. At this point, people are tired.
Trump has appointed one in every four judges on federal courts of appeals and there is a reactionary majority on the Supreme Court. In addition, Trump has a massive war chest and is building an independent communications empire to speak to his millions of supporters directly and use big data to shape their perceptions of reality. This helps him mobilize his base in the other formal arena of power—elections. We cannot rely alone on the impeachment strategy being pursued by congressional Democrats.
Fortunately, we don’t have to.
Although protesters who might show up at the National Mall in Washington, DC, may be exhausted, the surge in workers striking in their workplaces is still going strong and involves building power in our own communities rather than simply watching hearings unfold inside the beltway. In 2018, nearly 500,000 people struck, the highest since the mid-1980s. In 2019, it wasn’t just high-profile, victorious teacher strikes in Democratic strongholds such as Los Angeles and Chicago, it was also nurses in Ohio, grocery workers from Massachusetts to Oregon, locomotive workers in Pennsylvania, mineworkers in Arizona, and autoworkers across the country.
The rise in strikes is critical because it blocks the profits of the owning class, and because they teach us our own power when we do so.
DSA has grown because, in the face of Trump’s 2016 victory, people wanted an alternative to the neoliberalism of establishment Democrats. We are a vehicle for collective struggle, and we understand the value of strikes, while still understanding the value of contesting for political power. And we understand the limitations of the courts.
Last month, we helped elect 20 locally or nationally endorsed candidates to office, from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our total is more than 100. We’re building the pipeline of experienced elected officials and the capacity of our chapters to do electoral work. This is how we will get more folks on “the Squad” with DSA Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, and how we will do it without relying on the mercenary campaign consultants who charge big bucks for stale advice.
Throughout 2019, DSAers led or supported struggles in our workplaces and communities, from joining picket lines at General Motors plants or Stop & Shop stores to helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the students of striking teachers, organizing against Amazon’s tech contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or closed-door deals to secure tax breaks from local governments, and confronting landlords, whether a local slumlord or the multi-national Blackstone Group.
As we look ahead to an all-important election year, I take hope not just from our DSA for Bernie campaign, but from the work of our Ecosocialist Working Group, which has reached out to United Auto Workers members to build solidarity and ties between the environmental and labor movements. I take hope from our Immigrant Rights Working Group, which links immigrant-bashing at home to our government’s foreign policy under both Republicans and Democrats that has done so much to turn the “pink tide” in Latin America. They are but two examples of how we keep one foot in the electoral arena and one out; how we bring together struggles across issues and across countries, how we build the unity we need if we’re to transform our world.
In this issue of Democratic Left, we take a closer look at some of our work in the coming period. Cecilia Gingerich surveys the top-polling Democratic candidates on the question of child care, while Cari Luna describes the Portland DSA campaign for free universal pre-K paid for by, yes, taxing the rich. Peter Dreier looks at the housing crisis and advocates for a national renters’ movement, while Christine Lombardi highlights books for your housing-advocacy bookshelf. Alec Ramsay-Smith tells why we’re for Bernie Sanders, and Marlin Foreman describes on-the-ground canvassing for Bernie. Charles Du asks what it would take to build a more multiracial DSA, and Ariel Zakarison writes about security training for chapters through our national Red Rabbits team. Don McIntosh surveys local chapter successes.
And take note: If you donate, join for the first time, or renew your DSA membership December 17-31, we’ll send you a Housing is a Human Right union-printed sticker!