This weekend, East Bay DSA successfully held our second electoral endorsements vote of the 2018 election cycle. Our monthly general meetings regularly draw over 150 members, and this weekend was no exception. We had a robust and fruitful electoral endorsements debate. However, there has been some confusion and controversy about the process leading up to and the outcome of these votes, so we’d like to clarify the way these collective decisions were reached.
First, we would like to congratulate the candidates and measures we endorsed after debate and discussion at the meeting: the Team Richmond slate for Richmond City Council and Mayor, the Community Power Slate for Berkeley Rent Board, Measures O and P in Berkeley, and Measure Y in Oakland.
East Bay DSA’s primary orientation is not electoral politics. While we take both democracy and electoral endorsements seriously, elections are only one facet of our organizing. Our strategy is to focus our limited resources on a few key races through a rigorous selection process. In this way, we take a different approach to electoral politics than the many progressive organizations in the Bay who issue comprehensive voter guides and weigh in on many races, often by determining which available option is the most left or progressive.
In July, our membership voted to create an endorsements subcommittee to process endorsements requests, to design candidate questionnaires and analyze the responses, to research candidates’ histories, and to prioritize those that align with our socialist organization’s goals through a full membership vote. In total, 15 candidates and ballot measure authors approached us to ask for endorsement. Of those, the subcommittee recommended 2 candidate slates, 1 candidate, and 2 ballot measures to go up for a chapter debate and vote.
The subcommittee’s work was guided firstly by our chapter’s Priorities Resolution, a document we voted on at our 2018 yearly convention to guide the work of East Bay DSA for the next year. Our membership affirmed a vision for electoral organizing that seeks to engage and invest deeply in electoral politics only in the most decisive races that build the power and militancy of the working class. For each campaign, we attempted to ask “how would an endorsement of this campaign advance socialism in the East Bay?” and many factors, from the candidate questionnaire, past runs for office, funding streams, and independent research by the committee all influenced how we would answer that question.
The subcommittee report was disseminated to our members ahead of our meeting and a comprehensive overview of the report was provided at the meeting. Additionally, candidates and ballot measures who were agendized were invited to give a speech and address questions from the membership through a Q&A. The 180 members present then engaged in a lively, democratic debate followed by a vote on each candidate/slate/ballot measure in question. The membership voted to endorse the aforementioned candidates and measures.
Because we take up so few races, a non-endorsement should not be interpreted as a rejection of a candidate or measure, only a democratic determination that the candidate or measure does not align closely enough with our political goals and/or it is not strategic to put our chapter resources into. A non-endorsement is likewise not a recommendation that individual East Bay DSA members not volunteer with a campaign or vote for it in November.
We look forward to working in close collaboration with the campaigns we endorsed and wish those who requested our endorsement but were not selected for endorsement by the subcommittee or membership the best of luck this November.
Zach M., Abigail G.-G., and Frances R.
Chairs, East Bay Democratic Socialists of America