Search for a Mass Politics: The DSA Beyond Bernie

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1868 ... August 6, 2019

Search for a Mass Politics: The DSA Beyond Bernie

Sarah Mason and Robert Cavooris

Last November, in one of the most hostile rental markets in the world, in a city where a majority of residents are renters, a local rent control ordinance was defeated on the ballot by a margin of 38 per cent. In the year running up to Election Day, organizers, including our own local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), were faced with a question of how to build the power of tenants in order to win things like rent control.

In the beginning, we pursued a two-pronged approach. We held meetings with tenants from specific developments and talked concretely about the issues they encountered there. Additionally, we engaged in door-to-door canvassing (of renters and homeowners alike) to gather the signatures needed to get rent control on the ballot. However, once the measure, Santa Cruz Measure M, was on the ballot, the temporal demands of the election subsumed all other organizing efforts. Canvassing for votes was king. Looking back,... we think this experience may tell us a lot about why we were ultimately unable to pass rent control and build tenant power more broadly.

At the national level, the DSA is now facing a similar issue in our approach to another electoral project: the presidential candidacy of avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

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