Early in the meeting, before a secretary role was assigned, several topics were discussed, among them the website, SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), and upcoming screenings of the Ava Duvernay film, "The 13th" that will be happening soon in Vallejo and elsewhere. A member also discussed the topic of First Friday tabling in Oakland as a potential venue for recruitment and raising awareness of issues. Another member discussed the personal impact her recent trip to Standing Rock had and suggested that those present try to take a week if possible to visit the protest site. The urgency of the work of protesters at Standing Rock fighting peacefully to stop DAPL was emphasized.
After the role of a secretary was assigned, the following topics were discussed.
One of the meetings facilitators raised the possibility of developing a "resist list." This would be done by requesting people to sign a pledge of resistance to the Trump presidency. The model for this list is based on the history of left organizers developing pledges of resistance to the role of the US in supporting military regimes in Latin America in the 1980s.
Presente.org and other groups have recently revived this strategy for the digital age in requesting people take pledges to resist specific policies. The member suggested that DSA consider floating a pledge of resistance to the Trump presidency. The member discussed the good progress that was made in organizing around Prop. 61, and that it is important for new incoming membership and the group as a whole to have something to do. Organizing around putting forward a pledge was suggested as a potential action for members to keep up post election momentum. (This could for example be available for people to discuss and get signatures on at Oakland First Fridays.)
The pledge focuses on asking people to sign on to make a commitment to resist a Trump presidency through
- Intervening whenever one sees racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQ, xenophobic, or religious harassment by bullies or police
- Mobilizing in defense of immigrants, people of color, reproductive justice, the environment, and health care whenever these are threatened
- Organizing for a progressive agenda with groups working to extend social, racial economic, gender, and political justice
Megan spoke next to suggest a fairly immediate intervention that could be done to connect to potential members, suggesting all those present at the meeting who have twitter profiles tweet #DSAeastbay, a strategy that would allow those in the room to connect with one another fairly quickly and could also boost awareness in people's social circles of the meeting and the organization.
Eileen returned to the topic of the pledge and suggested a strategy for making the pledge idea new by tying it to action. She suggested that as a first step researchers could look in to each pledge item and tie them to specific actions people could mobilize around.
DNC and Ellison
The conversation then turned to other actions that could be taken and a member (male, name not recorded) raised the topic of involvement within the democratic party to move the party left.
The specific action of calling on Representatives Price and Lee to support Keith Ellison for DNC chair was suggested. The member also offered to send out talking points introducing people to Keith Ellison.
A brief discussion then occurred on the relative merits of Ellison in leadership versus the potential strengths and weaknesses of supporting Howard Dean. Dean's recent history of working as a corporate consultant for insidious causes were pointed out as a weakness that may cancel out his history of developing a 50-state strategy. Ellison's political support from Bernie, symbolic importance as a black and Muslim man in leadership, and consistently progressive policy stances were sited as reasons to support him over Dean. Also the person in the room who seemed to have the most direct experience working inside of the Democratic party to try to move it leftward, Guss, noted when this topic came up again that Dean is an ass.
Guss, recently back from a series of meetings in NYC, informed the group of the strong support from the Our Revolution (Sanders) organization for Jesse Arreguin's win in the Berkeley mayoral race. Guss also discussed the likelihood that he will be part of a progressive platform issues committee within the Democratic party and that this committee will likely be weighted towards the progressive side.
Connecting with Technology
Conversation turned after this to connecting through tech platforms. The group was informed that David has been working on the group's Facebook and Twitter accounts and will be in charge of following up on these. Jesse (present) and Tim (not present) meanwhile have been working on the website. Jesse is open to being contacted by those interested in working on the website.
A member raised the point that creating and sharing Facebook events is a useful organizing tool and can increase turnout for events like the screenings of "The 13th" or other education- or mobilization-focused events.
Erika noted as an example of the importance of technological platforms for organizing that it was Twitter that brought her here today, specifically the retweet of Megan's hashtag from earlier by an actor she follows lead her to come for the second hour of the meeting.
Karl then made a treasury report. About $1,500 is currently in the account. There is an effort to get 501(c)4 status because without it, the group is charged $15 a month to maintain a bank account. A member who works as a CPA offered to help with getting the 501(c)4 status.
Break and Ice Breaker
Somewhere in here a break was suggested and happened.
Karl suggested we go around the room again and each person represent their week with one syllable. This was done and lead us into a conversation about where we go from here.
Aspects of the call with the national director of DSA were discussed. The desperation felt at the current moment was talked about as one member discussed hearing the report of the suicide of a vulnerable teen terrified by the election. Erika and others noted the importance of taking self-care and mental health seriously and there was a strong wish within the group to speak to the feelings of overwhelm and care. Recommendations were offered of utilizing hotlines and the text crisis line 741741, making sure to get adequate sleep and to eat well, and Shereen reminded people that movement, especially walking, can be an important way to take care of one's mind in overwhelming times.
This conversation was followed by a question about how we mobilize, noting the importance of recognizing both local gains and the need for work on a national and local level to combat disturbing national trends.
Avery brought up the topic of cyber security. She will be attending a feminist cyber-security workshop for activists and looks forward to sharing her learnings from this. She also recommended members consider downloading the Signal app to be able to send each other encrypted texts.
Curtis stated a wish to focus on radicalizing our liberal friends. He noted that lots of people are blaming voters and wanted to think through how to change the tone of that conversation to one of recognizing the Democratic party's failure and seizing the party, rather than the current liberal trend of "blaming people who don't think like you."
Jeremy stated that along these lines talking points are really needed for Thanksgiving, not to sway the racist uncle, but to introduce socialism to the self-identified liberal family members.
At some point in this discussion, I (Ben) suggested that we collect information about members skills and interests.
Affecting Local Change
The next question raised was that now that Berkeley has a progressive majority in the city council (board?), how does DSA help with passing legislation?
Dave noted that the Richmond Progressive Alliance also has a board majority and so there are legislative questions there too.
Ari suggested that one focus of recruitment and mobilization efforts could be Bernie supporters in Berkeley. It is a group that still has momentum, but that we may need to act quickly to mobilize.
Bill stated his sense that a discussion is really needed about the national popular vote and that the national popular vote organization needs support. He sees a strong need for state-by-state support for legislation to be passed making a stated electors vote for the winner of the national popular vote (change to the existing rules of the Electoral College).
Another member (female, name not recorded) responded to this idea stressing her belief that she believes a more important policy change to fight for is ranked-choice voting.
Erika noted that the restoration of the Voting Rights Act marks another important policy position, encouraging the group to remember the extent of voter suppression in this election and that this is the first election since its passage where the Voting Rights Act was not in effect.
Molly returned to the topic of ranked-choice voting as a potential aid to third parties.
Jeremie returned to the topic of talking points and noted that he could participate in developing them but would need someone who could type them out as he has a neck injury.
Guss suggested that another meeting, sooner than one month from now, is really needed for creating community and a sense of beloved community and being part of a movement. He highlighted some potential problems with the election (recalling the 2004 voting machine problems and a report that a company owned by true bought and reintroduced the old voting machines). He noted the importance of developing a shared analysis of what is happening in our political system and that this shared analysis will be crucial to building a beloved community.
The idea of support for a voting holiday or weekend voting was raised by another member and echoes by several more members in different forms (for example weekend voting or July 4 voting).
A member (female, name not recorded) brought up the topic of anger — specifically, the need for recognition of the anger of people who voted for Trump. She noted that for a considerable number of Trump voters, the recession is not and has never been over and that we need ways to respond to the righteous anger of those people. It is important for us to remember that some out our issues (democratic socialists' policy positions) have not been forefront as potential solutions and may find traction in some groups of angry voters.
Mobilization and Engagement
Jack returned to the topic of the call with the National DSA organization and expressed his concern that some of the urgency on that call doesn't seem present here. He noted that on that call, one top priority was the need to form mobilization networks that can respond immediately across four or five tasks. One feature of this is the creation of a phone tree that can allow people to mobilize with urgency. A second need is to be in contact with community groups led by members of at-risk communities so that we can be contacted when those groups need us to show up. It was noted that the idea of the first meeting of the potential San Francisco DSA chapter is that it will be a mobilization event.
Alita noted that she hopes her role, as an experienced DSA member who organized in the 1990s in Boston, and as a member of BLM in Florida, is that she can connect DSA to the policy issues important to BLM. She suggested that a meeting be convened where the priority will be reviewing the movement for black lives policy form which has UN support.
Artem offered a critique of focusing on electoral politics noting that to a great degree the system is working (electoral college, focus on elections) as it is set up to work, or as is its nature to work. He noted the importance of prioritizing protecting people from a position outside of government and police and stressed his sense that we need to be engaging in extra-electoral mobilization.
John returned to his sense of the importance of focusing on electoral politics, noting that the high number of states controlled by the Republicans gives the right wing the right to gerrymander. He returned to his sense of the need for us to support a 50-state solution to this problem and returned to the idea that Howard Dean is the person experienced in doing this.
Lavanna noted that she thinks we really need to talk about strategy. She suggested that the problem can be thought of as an elephant that needs to be eaten one bite at a time. She discussed concerns surrounding an incinerator being built and the idea of a "big wow" that is coming. She noted that she has a lot of concerns about what might be happening and the scale of state violence that we need to be prepared to respond to.
Ari returned to the question of Berkeley's progressive majority and asked whether there is a campaign that is ready to be joined so that new members of DSA and people expressing interest can have an action they can participate in to cut their teeth.
Jeremy returned to the question of whether we might schedule another meeting this month and Karl noted that there is a holiday party meeting scheduled for next month. Erika noted the need for something sooner for people interested in hashing out concrete tasks, noting her sense from her professional experience that action and iteration are needed at this point.
Megan noted that this meeting leaves her feeling the most hopeful that she has since Tuesday and reported an idea that her girlfriend suggested of hosting BLM fundraiser brunches (for anyone visiting family in more Trump-y parts of the country) during the Thanksgiving weekend.
This lead to a member suggesting that the following needs currently face us around mobilization.
- Distinguish immediate and longer term actions
- Break down each project in terms of immediacy
- Prepare for the possibility of anti-war mobilization given the likelihood of another foreign war
Renata spoke near the close of the meeting about her own experiences as an immigrant over these last weeks. She discussed the ways where this election has made something apparent to her in a very graphic way about the current political moment in the US. She went on to emphasize that it is too easy for people to get together to hate one another and that the real important, possibly spiritual, but also psychological and political, task is to recognize the other in the self, the need to look inward. This, she said, is a crucial part of the recognition of reality that is needed.
Sam made a suggestion that at meetings where policy stances are discussed it may be useful for people to come prepared with congressmen's and other elected representatives' numbers. He noted that one of the strengths of right wing demagogues like Alex Jones has been their ability to flood government officials with phone calls when they are concerned about something. He noted that 50 phone calls on a given issue got the attention of a congressional representative he worked for. He suggested that one useful strategy may be to flood offices with calls after meetings when we have policy stances we decide that we want representatives to take.
Next Meeting Revisited
Erika noted the need to schedule a meeting to discuss the nitty-gritty details of moving forward on various efforts discussed. After some discussion Shereen offered to host the event in her apartment building's community space. The meeting has been scheduled for next Saturday, November 19, at 10 a.m.