Our national electoral strategy was formulated by a coalition of electoral organizers from our chapters across the country and was recently unanimously passed at our National Political Committee meeting on January 27th, 2018. You can read it in its entirety below.
Click here to see our endorsements so far in 2018.
National Electoral Strategy
Formulated By a Coalition of Local Electoral Organizers
In August the DSA National Convention passed a priorities resolution that established electoral work as one of the three top foci of our organization (along with Medicare for All and Labor Solidarity.) The electoral segment of that resolution reads:
And whereas local electoral work, particularly in favor of openly democratic socialist candidates but also anti-corporate progressives, can both defeat the Right and take on neoliberal Democratic Party establishment candidates;
This convention mandates that the national staff, National Political Committee and relevant national working groups aid chapters in developing DSA’s universal health care, labor and electoral work.
Be It Resolved That:
III. Electoral Work
While DSA will prioritize social movement work and public socialist education, we also recognize that who holds legislative power affects the possibilities for democratic social change. We also understand that for many people open to radical politics their first political experiences come through electoral politics. In a world of big-money politics, DSA’s electoral capacity is mostly tied to the volunteer power of our chapters.
Thus, the convention commits the NPC to expand the work of the National Electoral Committee in supporting chapters’ efforts to develop and run viable openly socialist candidates for office (either in Democratic primaries or as independents). The NEC will also work with other relevant national committees and working groups, the national training team and chapter mentors to share electoral “best practices” of DSA locals and ways in which electoral political activity can build DSA.
In addition, where relevant, DSA chapters should work with post-Sanders groups such as Our Revolution (or local variations thereof), Brand New Congress, etc., to expand the anti-corporate trend in electoral politics and to develop strong coalitions with progressive groups rooted in communities of color and the feminist, LGBTQIA+, and disability movements. Only truly multiracial electoral coalitions can build working-class political power. In 2018 we recognize that there will be mass mobilization to defeat Republican rule at the state and national level, particularly among constituencies most vulnerable to the nativist, racist and anti-labor politics of the far right. Therefore, DSA chapters may also choose to support progressive, anti-corporate candidates who do not openly identify themselves as socialists. However, concrete national support will prioritize the work of chapters backing open socialist candidates. In accordance with our long-term objective of building a mass socialist political formation in the United States, it is essential that National DSA prioritize cultivating and supporting socialist candidates who will be accountable to DSA’s political agenda and who can serve as the base for increasingly assertive and widespread independent socialist electoral activity in the coming years. This work will be critical to the development of a genuine alternative to the neoliberal third-way politics of the corporate establishment within the Democratic Party.
This document expands on that priorities resolution and outlines an electoral strategy for DSA It was passed by the DSA National Political Committee January 27, 2018. It was worked on collectively and has well over 100 signatures from electoral organizers across the country. You can read them all here. Incorporated into the document is the resolution on tiered endorsements passed by the NPC on December 24, 2017. The strategy is based on the following set of principles:
- Locals will have the authority to choose their own electoral strategies.
- The National Electoral Committee will be elected, transparent, and accountable, and its primary role will be to support locals in their electoral work through skills building.
- The NEC will focus on helping to build each chapter’s capacity to create independent electoral structures and facilitating cross-local collaboration and communication.
- Electoral work, as only one aspect of building power, will to the greatest extent possible be the natural extension of other local campaigns around issues like housing, racial justice, mutual aid, etc.
The Electoral Option and the DSA Consensus
Why should a socialist organization engage in electoral work? The question is an old one, but the Bernie Sanders campaign has invested it with new life. Today, socialist majorities are still on the distant horizon, but as Sanders and others have demonstrated, electoral work can make enormous contributions to advancing socialist politics and building a majoritarian left-wing coalition.
First, electoral campaigns can advance popular demands and force their recognition by the establishment, as the Sanders campaign did for Medicare for All on the national stage and Kshama Sawant’s election did for the Fight for $15 in Seattle. Second, electoral work can politicize and organize people; an electoral campaign is an ideal platform for stretching people’s vision of the possible and for involving whole communities in the fight for better lives. Third, effective electoral work provides leverage: DSA chapters all over the country are discovering the importance of pressuring politicians on issues like housing, healthcare, and workers’ rights, and an organization that can credibly threaten to run and win elections has a stronger hand in negotiations with politicians than one that can’t. Fourth, it gives us a ready-made way to demonstrate credibility to potential allies, such as labor unions and community organizations. Finally, placing leftists in office gives our movement a permanent, public platform to advance its demands; elected officials bring the moral authority and legitimacy of a whole community to the causes they take up.
Yet many socialists, including many in DSA, are suspicious of electoral work—and they’re right to be. They worry that working to elect candidates grants legitimacy to a system dependent on the disaffection and cynicism of the voter-citizen; that socialists elevated to office will find themselves a powerless minority, forced either to vote in coalition with compromised liberals or consign themselves to irrelevance; that electoral work expends the energy of the movement in advancing the career of an individual who is likely to be captured by the careerist ambitions of the political system; that electoral work leaves activists in the role of passive spectators after the election is over, hoping (but incapable of ensuring) that their elected officials represent them well; and that the start-stop rhythm of the election cycle disrupts and detracts from the long-haul task of building mass movements for change.
We believe these concerns have some validity and deserve a response; in this document, we will attempt to offer one. But we don’t think these concerns should stop us from engaging in electoral politics. Any project within a capitalist society short of full scale revolution will be fraught with similar dangers; electoral work tends to throw these into sharp relief. But socialists need to struggle for power using every tool available to us; the electoral field is too important to leave in the hands of our enemies. Electoral strategy has a key role to play in building a mass movement to bring the left to power; for us the question is no longer whether to engage in electoral work, but how and why. How can we use electoral work to build not just campaigns, but movements?
The Old Model: Assisting the Campaign
Historically, many progressive organizations have approached electoral work in a campaign-centered way. In this model, when a candidate espousing progressive positions ran for office, the organization supported their campaign by channeling donations and volunteers to it and by giving its public seal of approval to the campaign through endorsement. The goal was simply to elect as many people as possible who were sympathetic to the left. The link between candidate and organization here is quite weak: the organization may endorse an indefinite number of politicians, and the candidate, in turn, is likely to seek dozens of such endorsements.
In this model, candidate accountability is a very serious problem. After a successful race, the candidate possesses not only elected office and the power of incumbency, but all of the resources (staff, skills, experience, a donor list) required to run a successful campaign and stay in office; the organization, meanwhile, has little leverage over the candidate and little to show for the work of its volunteers.
Organizations that operate this way often settle for access to the candidate rather than accountability over him or her; the candidate may take meetings with the organization’s leadership, or attend its events. But over time, there is an inverse relationship between the imperatives of access and accountability: the organization will find itself lowering its standards merely to maintain access to those in power, in the vain hope of wielding influence over the officeholder, while perpetuating the concentration of power with the leaders of the organization who can enjoy that access.
The New Model: Building the Organization
The old model serves a purpose, but its limits are real. DSA chapters all over the country in 2017, together with other left and progressive electoral organizations, began assembling a new model: a model centered not on helping campaigns but on building a sustainable socialist political organization. Instead of loaning out our volunteer capacity to political candidates, we have begun to build electoral capacity within DSA—capacity responsible directly to the organization and democratically controlled by its members. What does this entail?
First and foremost, chapters that endorse candidates would build an independent field/canvassing operation trained and run directly by DSA, not the candidate.
Canvassing is the single most important factor in down-ballot races; equipping the chapter to control its own canvassing team immediately increases its capacity for electoral and non-electoral projects alike. Second, DSA should collect and maintain its own data. The enormously valuable data generated by field operations, which campaigns and party machines usually hoard, should stay with the DSA volunteers who generate it, for use in future campaigns—electoral and otherwise, allowing us to map neighborhoods and communities, in the same way we would do a workplace for a union drive. Third, DSA should have independent messaging. Locals should retain their own voice and canvass on their own issues with their materials and scripts, not merely borrow the messaging of the campaign. Fourth, DSA should have its own research capacity. Locals should be able to evaluate electoral opportunities and policy issues, and should not be forced to rely on the expertise of others on issues of candidate viability.
In other words, DSA chapters should strive to develop the full range of capacities required to run a down-ballot campaign from start to finish. It goes without saying that this goal is aspirational: Few if any DSA chapters currently have the skills, experience and capacity to fully embody it. But we believe it’s a long-term goal worth pursuing, for several reasons.
First, it will allow us to operate strategically and independently as an electoral force. Rather than simply reacting to the candidates available, a DSA chapter operating on this model would even be able to recruit and run its own candidates for office. Eventually, rather than passively evaluating candidate platforms, our chapters will be able to run candidates on the issues they consider important, in coordination with non-electoral work they are doing. And they will have increased leverage over the candidates they do run because they will have significantly more power to put them into—and hence to take them out of—office.
Second, it will allow us to break out of the election cycle and transform electoral work into organizing work that will help us grow our chapters, identify and train more leaders, and build up our collective capacity to achieve all of our chapters’ goals. The skills and knowledge required for electoral work, after all, are enormously useful in other kinds of campaigning: an organization that canvasses for a candidate one month can use the skills and data it collects to canvass for tenants’ rights the next month, if in canvassing for a candidate it has built its own campaign apparatus rather than loaning out volunteers to the candidate. All of us hope that DSA will be an organization that fights on many fronts in many ways, not only winning elections but organizing tenants and workers and pressuring the state for reform; we can best accomplish this by doing electoral work in a way that contributes to our organizational capacity rather than distracting from it.
Third, it will build working-class power independent of the Democratic Party and its local fiefdoms. Discussion of independence from the Democrats tends to revolve around the question of the ballot line, but it shouldn’t: most party power rests not in ballot access as such but in the network of consultants, politicos, lawyers, and party functionaries who control the means of electioneering in each state. Like most in DSA, we see the ballot line question as a tactical one to be addressed by local chapters in accordance with local circumstances—but we consider it essential that DSA escape the welter of Democratic patronage networks that have controlled and limited politics in the US for too long. To operate independently of this network we need to build our own electoral capacity, democratically controlled by DSA. Ultimately, it is not the name of the party under which a candidate runs that governs their decisions while in office, but the material conditions that inform the composition and capacity of the groups that form their coalition.
Local Strategy, Chapter Focus
DSA can make no claim to have invented this model. Left electoral experiments along the lines suggested by this proposal have sprung up all over the country, from the Richmond Progressive Alliance in California to New Haven Rising in Connecticut to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in Jackson, Mississippi, to the Progressive Party in Vermont. Each has used an electoral model centered on organizations rather than candidates, together with deep, community-based non-electoral organizing, to build left power. Our best chance at working-class electoral power is a thousand Richmond Progressive Alliances. But it’s worth emphasizing one thing all these organizations have in common: they began with a sharply local focus, aiming to express the will and serve the needs of a single city, rooted in a local union or community organization. This is not an accident. The kind of power we want to build is inextricably rooted in local communities.
In contrast to these local efforts, many national left of center political organizations have had only limited success in putting together a true nationwide grassroots movement. Democracy for America, Progressive Democrats of America, Move On, and Organizing for America, for instance, all started with much fanfare about their national organizing strategies to keep voters engaged as activists, but have ultimately become vehicles for raising and distributing money and collecting email lists: astroturf rather than grassroots. It is likely too soon to see whether Our Revolution will break free of this pattern, but if it does it will be because it continues to value and respect the local networks that sprang up around the Sanders campaign.
Ultimately, a national organization is no replacement for focused local organizing; even if DSA had ten times the membership we do, 300,000 people wouldn’t be capable of projecting the electoral strength of a few dozen people laser-focused on advancing power in a particular community through grassroots organizing and a sound electoral strategy. DSA’s electoral strength must build through hundreds of local races, and only the locals can do that building. National’s role should be to help the locals do this work. Locals are already engaged in a multitude of electoral experiments. Rather than instituting a top-down approach, DSA National can be most effective through building skills, making collaboration possible, and amplifying the work of locals where appropriate.
The philosophy outlined above can guide our national strategy, but ultimately, building left political power requires trusting locals to make choices about their own electoral work. Letting locals take the lead has value both because it is the best way to implement an electoral strategy that makes DSA a powerful political force and because it reinforces the best aspects of DSA’s democratic structure. Ultimately, a successful left electoral strategy will rely not just on the thousands of current members of DSA, but the preferences of millions of working-class people around the country—what we do now is just the beginning of a long process of engagement. Locals are natural laboratories for different electoral strategies in different electoral contexts. None of us can pretend to be experts on how to elect socialists and build a socialist party, or build working-class power within the American political structure in the twenty-first century. Rather than requiring locals to conform to a predetermined top-down set of mandates, the national electoral strategy should be to let one hundred flowers bloom.
In addition, DSA should begin collaborating with both movement and electoral-focused organizations on the left with the intention of exploring building a mass working-class party in the long-term depending on the conditions on the ground. This means rooting the organization in strategic base-building work, building a base constituency, and reorienting our electoral work toward much more strategic aims which help build independent socialist political power.
DSA recognizes that the Democratic and Republican parties are organs of and represent the interests of the capitalist ruling class. However, we will work with and relate to the most progressive forces within the Democratic Party while we develop strategic work to build independent socialist political power and organization as a long-term goal.
DSA should begin formal communication and consultation with other anti-capitalist electoral formations. Examples include other socialist parties and organizations nationally and internationally, the 1996 Labor Party, and other groups with an independent, working-class electoral focus. The lessons of past attempts at party formation must be studied intently by DSA’s leadership and rank-and-file, and national DSA should conduct political education to examine these issues.
As a tactic for base-building, political education, and winning reforms, ballot questions (also known as measures) sidestep some of the more complicated aspects of candidate campaigns for direct engagement on an issue. Ballot question campaigns should be given comparable resources as candidate campaigns in electoral work as a way to center our socialist politics.
As socialists, we should encourage support for candidates who are members of DSA or other socialist organizations and who are running as explicit socialists on a socialist or independent ballot line.
There are cases where independent ballot access is made very difficult, and where socialist candidates may seek to run on the Democratic ballot line. While we should be critical of that decision, there are some special cases where this might constitute a strategic decision.
DSA should consult the legal working group, legal subcommittee, and staff in order to explore working with other organizations to fight and defeat ballot access hurdles across the country.
The National Electoral Committee
The National Electoral Committee (NEC), comprised of DSA members engaged in electoral work around the country, is the national body empowered to execute the NPC’s political strategy by assisting locals and recommending national endorsements. The structure and role of the NEC should follow from the electoral strategy adopted by DSA; this following outlines how the NEC can best empower chapters to run the best campaigns they can in their local contexts, building electoral power for DSA, while remaining democratically responsive to DSA membership. The NEC should be (1) local-focused; (2) collaborative; and (3) democratic, transparent, and accountable. The NEC is a 25-person body with 5 seats that are reserved for chapters that have less than 250 members. The NEC additionally has a cap for number of representatives per chapter.
In all its work, the NEC should focus on amplifying local work beyond what a chapter could achieve on its own.
- Because the national organization has a limited capacity to affect local campaigns, the NEC should focus on those areas where it can assist locals to reach their fullest potential.
- The NEC should organize trainings, skills-sharing, workshops, etc., aimed at giving local electoral groups the skills and knowledge they need to effectively run the campaigns they want to run.
- Important skills include using campaign data tools, running press operations, legal and compliance work, etc.
- First question is always what the local requests by way of national assistance.
- Locals and national should together consider what will help build the local’s political power. What will help elect the candidate in a way that makes them accountable to DSA? What will help create lasting socialist political power in their community?
- The NEC’s relationship is with the local, rather than the candidate, and should be focused on building the local’s power, not assisting any particular campaign directly.
- The NEC will be empowered to immediately form an Electoral National Training Team of electoral organizers, including non-NEC members. The Electoral National Training Team will work with interested members on how to form an electoral working group and the basics of how to run a campaign. Through this program, the goal will be to train at least 100 people from at least 20 locals throughout the country who can then serve as trainers themselves in the future. The training team will work in collaboration with the existing National Training Teams.
- If in-person trainings of local electoral activists are logistically feasible, a small team of the most knowledgeable members of the NEC and Electoral National Training Teams should be formed to conduct them, with approval from both the NEC and NPC. Trainings should be skills based, focused on core competencies such as field organizing, communications, and data management.
- The model for trainings shouldn’t be top-down instruction, but collaborative skills-sharing across locals, facilitated by the NEC.
- Many locals have expressed the desire for more organized and sustained intrastate collaboration; the NEC should help facilitate statewide tables and other regional partnerships that are essential for electoral work, for both practical and legal reasons.
- The NEC should facilitate and encourage regular communication via national email groups and other means to build relationships between locals, to help build a community and encourage cross-branch collaboration, such as projects like phonebanking.
- Establish an internal network for DSA elected officials to develop a mentorship system with incumbents and newly elected officials to discuss how to caucus, govern, and respond to constituents as a socialist in office.
- Establish an external network for a select group of DSA elected officials to engage with national membership with a mutually beneficial relationship where they share best practices for what worked and we offer ways to help them in office.
Democratic, Transparent, and Accountable
NEC members should be democratically nominated and elected by the electoral working groups or other body making electoral decisions of DSA locals engaged in electoral work nationwide
- If logistical difficulties posed by such an election are impossible to overcome, at the very least, all NEC members should be nominated by their local electoral working group or equivalent before selection
- The NEC should be larger rather than smaller, to guarantee diversity in geography, race, gender, people with disabilities, age, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and to ensure that the time commitments for NEC don’t become unmanageable
- The NEC should be comprised of subcommittees organized by the skills and knowledge necessary to run a campaign: field, communications/social media, compliance, fundraising/finance, and research, etc.
- Each subcommittee should include people with experience in these arenas, including with political campaigns.
- The NEC should have two co-chairs, democratically elected by the membership of the NEC, and two co-chairs for each subcommittee.
- NEC should facilitate and seek feedback from DSA members doing electoral work, so that the NEC’s support structures can be improved and remain accountable to local members doing the work.
- The NEC’s membership should be published on DSA’s website with email contact information.
- Regular reports should be provided to the NPC and made public to membership.
Ultimately, of course, the NEC is subordinate to and subject to ratification by the NPC; any decision to overrule a decision of the NEC should be brought to a vote of the full NPC.
- The National Electoral Committee should have two co-chairs selected from the body itself – one member of the NPC that serves on the NEC and one non-NPC member from the NEC, both selected democratically by the NEC.
- The NEC will be comprised of no more than twenty-five voting members. The non-NPC NEC members should be democratically nominated and elected by the electoral working groups or other appropriate decision-making bodies of DSA locals engaged in electoral work nationwide. A committee to determine the rules of the election, and in particular to set quotas that ensure representation from geographically diverse locals and smaller locals will be formed from the current members of the NEC, with those rules publicized for comment among DSA nationally prior to final adoption. Non-NPC NEC members may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the NEC for failure to perform their duties or otherwise obstructing the work of the NEC. The NEC may add further non-voting members and representatives from other national working groups, caucuses, or committees by a majority vote. The NEC will, by a majority vote, appoint a representative to the Medicare for All political subcommittee, and appoint one point person for direct communication and planning with the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission.
- The current NEC will continue to operate to implement these proposals until a new NEC is elected, which should be on or before March 31, 2018. In addition to starting the training team proposal and running the new NEC election, the current NEC should also focus on identifying all locals engaged in electoral work and connecting with them.
The National Electoral Committee of the NPC will propose endorsements to the NPC in the 2018 elections. These endorsements will be tiered as follows:
- Tier 1 – we would provide the extensive support that the candidate requests.
- Tier 2 – we would provide more limited support such as social media promotion.
- Tier 3 – candidates could use the DSA name on their literature and website but no other support would be made available.
The number of endorsements in the top tier would be limited by national DSA’s capacity to meet our obligations to the endorsed candidate.
The NEC should provide assistance and programming to any local that wants to take advantage of its resources, regardless of whether they are working on a nationally endorsed campaign. However, national endorsements still have a role to play under this electoral model.
Any candidate endorsed by national should be thoroughly researched and vetted. Before endorsing any candidate, national should establish that the local chapter has a plan to ensure that a victory for the endorsed candidate will be a victory for DSA, not just a victory for the lesser evil. Candidates should be running to win, meaning they should have a credible path to victory, and be endorsed by their local DSA chapter. The flexibility and knowledge of local conditions gained by basing much of the organization’s decision-making power in the chapters will be the greatest asset available for guidance in this area.
National DSA is well placed to build a coherent narrative in the media about the rising tide of socialism, by strategically spotlighting nationally endorsed candidates and using the megaphone provided by DSA social media accounts to elevate chapters’ electoral work. Furthermore, nationally endorsed candidates can be aided by national DSA’s assistance with fundraising.
The ultimate goal for the NEC should be first, to see the local achieve its electoral goals, and only second, to ensure any particular candidate is elected. While running to win the elections we enter into is key, the goal of DSA’s national endorsements should always be to build long-term local power, not to get a slightly better breed of progressive politician into office.
Socialist electoral campaigns offer extraordinary opportunities for DSA. Elections can mobilize hundreds of thousands or millions of people around a socialist vision, far beyond the reach of most other organizing campaigns within our capacity. Winning elections will allow us to implement vitally needed reforms that build the power and confidence of working-class people. Perhaps most vitally at the moment, developing and running campaigns is a key way for our locals across the country to build power where they are organizing right now. Electoral organizing can and should be an integral part of DSA’s work, and we fully support the decision of the membership to make it a national priority. Socialists must be relentless in struggling to build power in a hostile climate – electoral power is too important to leave in the hands of our enemies.
In order to build a movement that can, one day soon, claim hundreds or thousands of elected officials, our priority should be to build powerful independent electoral operations in DSA locals around the country. It is the thousands of activists in these locals who will develop specific local strategies, win elections and policy victories, and refine the mechanisms to hold elected officials accountable in the face of inevitable opposition from the one percent.
The Bernie Sanders campaign demonstrated that there is an enormous desire among millions of Americans for democratic socialism. Translating that desire into a sustained socialist movement of millions will require long term work, starting from the bottom up in communities across the country, rooting our efforts in an independent, democratic organizing model. Above all else, the key to a successful national electoral strategy is empowering DSA’s locals to experiment and grow in the pursuit of that vision.
National Candidate Questionnaire
Many thanks to the DSLC, Ecosocialist Working Group, Veterans Working Group, Disability Working Group, Immigrant Rights Working Group, and Afrosocialist Caucus for their help in crafting this questionnaire. This questionnaire is a template; the NEC may decide to adapt this questionnaire for federal, state, and local offices as appropriate.
- Name three of your top priorities as an elected official and explain your reasoning.
Universal Health Care
- Do you pledge to be a champion of healthcare for all at the state and federal level – supporting Medicaid expansion, fighting for Medicare for All, advocating for single-payer healthcare at the state level, advocating to take profit out of healthcare, and fighting against the insurance industry?
- Do you support universal and free access to reproductive healthcare for all, including abortion on demand, provision of all contraceptive methods, fertility support, prenatal and obstetric services, and postnatal support for new parents? Do you consider yourself unwavering on all reproductive justice issues?
Labor Solidarity and Support
- Please describe your past/present labor and union experience if any.
- Democratic Socialists of America has set the labor movement as a national priority. Please describe how you will prioritize the labor movement and unions in your campaign, and if elected, during your time in office (referencing what particular issues and approaches you value most).
- Do you support or oppose allowing employers and unions to enter into agreements which, when ratified by a majority of employees in a given collective bargaining unit, require all employees who benefit from the union negotiated wages and conditions to pay their fair share of the union’s cost of negotiating and administering the collective bargaining agreement?
- Do you support or oppose a $15 minimum wage, inclusive of all industries and tipped workers?
- Do you support or oppose a guarantee of full employment, inclusive of a jobs guarantee?
- How do you plan to both fight legislation like Right to Work at a state level as well as draft and support legislation that makes it easier to form and join a union, like card check at the federal level?
- Do you pledge to fight for universal pre-k, for full funding of public schools, against residential and school segregation, against school vouchers and for free college and technical programs for all?
- Would you support legislation to abolish student debt?
- Would you support legislation that enforces a student loan debt interest cap to ensure nobody pays back in fees or interest payments more than the total amount of their original borrowing?
Climate and Environment
- Given that the US is one of the greatest producers of carbon emissions worldwide and that smaller and less industrialized nations are more affected by of global warming, what steps will you take to ensure a truly just transition to renewable energy on the international level?
- The Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the United States. What would you do to force the DoD to pay for studies and the clean up of the toxic chemicals they have permitted to contaminate the environment on bases and training areas?
- How would you encourage the US to take firm leadership on climate action on an international scale, including but not limited to the UNFCCC? How would you lead fossil fuel divestment at a local level and support a transition to clean energy?
Civil Rights and Discrimination
- The United States is the world leader in incarceration rates. The majority of people currently incarcerated in the U.S. are there for violent offenses, so any reduction in incarceration rates must involve reducing the numbers of those imprisoned for those crimes. What policies would you support to reduce the large number of people imprisoned for violent offenses and ensure that they do not end up reincarcerated?
- Do you support a national and/or statewide prohibition on exclusionary school discipline (i.e., suspensions and expulsions)? What other steps would you support taking to end the “school-to-prison pipeline”? Please include your views on the role of police in schools, if they have one.
- How would you improve current laws designed to aid disabled people?
- How can disabled people be integrated into our socialist future?
- Can you talk about the relationship between the responsibility of the United States for destabilizing other nations and regions, and its responsibility for peoples who are now immigrants, refugees, and TPS recipients in America?
- What should be done to protect immigrants from both the US government and their employers once they’re here in America? In particular, immigrants who travel on visas sponsored by their employers are vulnerable to those employers. What will you do address this imbalance of power?
- What steps do you think are necessary to build a true Sanctuary environment in your state/city/locality?
- Would you launch investigations into conditions in detention centers? How would you make the realities of immigration detention more transparent?
- Do you support pushing back on attempts to discriminate against LGBTQ people, including opposing religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws, bathroom bills, etc.? What will you do to support LGBTQ rights in your community? What will you do to address high rates of violence against transgender people, particularly women of color? Will you support full access to healthcare for all, including healthcare needed to support transgender persons?
- Do you pledge to move away from the United States’ historic relationship with Native Americans from paternalism and control toward one of deference and support? How would you fight to ensure tribal nations have the autonomy and authority to protect their own peoples?
- Do you consider yourself a feminist? If not, why not? What would you do in office to address the problem of sexual harassment and assault against women in precarious situations, whether in housing, immigration, or low-wage work, that imperils their livelihood, homes, or presence in this country?
Ensuring A People’s Democracy
- Do you support basic reforms to increase voter registration and participation by working people, including Election Day registration, automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, and increasing opportunities for early voting?
- Do you support alternative voting systems to first past the post, like ranked choice voting? Do you support a move towards multi-member districts or proportional representation in the United States? If your state doesn’t currently have fusion voting, do you support allowing it? What steps will you take to make it easier for multiple parties to participate in the political system without acting as a “spoiler”?
- Do you pledge to accept no money from for-profit corporate donors, for-profit corporate PACs, real estate developers, or lobbyists for for-profit corporations? How will you ensure your donor base is primarily small-dollar donors?
- Do you support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Buckley v. Valeo? Do you support public financing of elections?
- What would you do to oppose our imperialist foreign policy and the runaway influence of the military-industrial complex?
- What is your stance on decriminalizing all drugs? Would you support legislation allowing for legal marijuana business licenses to people previously incarcerated for marijuana possession and/or distribution?
- Do you favor public ownership of utilities and how would you support and develop policies to increase worker ownership and control of industries?
- Do you support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement?
- Please list other significant endorsements you have received for this position or for prior races.
- Would you allow your local DSA chapter to build their our own canvassing raps and a field team which trains its own canvassers and runs its own canvasses? Would you allow us to keep and manage our own data for future DSA projects? Would you speak at a DSA rally? Would you include the DSA logo on your endorsements page?
National Questionnaire to Locals
- Who will be the point person from your local to the campaign?
- Have any other DSA chapters endorsed this campaign? If so, please list them.
- How does this campaign build working-class power?
- How do you foresee this campaign growing your chapter and advancing democratic socialism?
- How many doors do you think your chapter can realistically knock for your candidate? How many volunteers do you think you turn out consistently on a weekly basis? How does that compare to the overall contact number needed to win projected by the campaign?
- What kind of events would you want to put together for your candidate?
- How much do you think your chapter will fundraise for your candidate? Does your city or state have a public matching funds program? How much money has the candidate raised already? What is the overall amount of money you think is necessary for them to raise to win?
- What institutional support, if any, does your candidate have? List any endorsements from unions, PACs, political organizations, parties, etc.
- What endorsements or institutional support is the candidate seeking or anticipating?
- What do you think the campaign’s chance of winning is? Why?
- Will the campaign share internal polling, if they have it, with your point person?
- Have you powermapped your town/city/district before? Where do you think you’re strongest within the district?
- Do you plan to build your own field team which trains its own canvassers and runs its own canvasses? If so, do you plan to keep the data from it and use it for future campaigns?
- Do you consider your chapter to be the primary driver for the campaign or a junior partner in a coalition primarily led by other organizations?
- What are you hoping to get out of a national endorsement for your candidate that you can’t provide at the local level? What kind of support will you need from national?