Two days after the election, DSA activists planning next steps at our monthly Salon found many, many new discussants showing up, spurred by a real sense of emergency for the newly enlarged categories of the vulnerable. The intensity continued three days later at a rally-size general membership meeting.
The Washington Socialist <> December 2016
A Washington Socialist Report
Two days after a shocking election outcome, the walls at Metro DC DSA’s accustomed digs in a side meeting room at Hunan Dynasty on Capitol Hill were lined with Salon attendees perched behind those seated at the dining tables, some fifty in all, ready to plan a challenge to the prospect of a Trump administration.
The double-sized crowd was liberally sprinkled with new faces, Sanders backers or those who’d decided to stop lingering on the periphery of DSA, seeking a principled and coherent organizational resistance to the worst that the unexpected President might bring.
What emerged was a set of plans and prospects that reflected personal commitment to resist and do so collectively.
DSA deputy director David Duhalde, the national office’s D.C. operative, began by surveying the wreckage – Trump would have majorities in both houses of Congress, hence latitude for a conservative high court nominee. His appeals to white nationalist sentiment and the GOP’s relentless efforts on voter suppression had brought razor-thin wins in putatively Blue states that gave him an electoral majority (the extent of Hillary Clinton’s margin in the popular vote was only beginning to emerge then).
Broadly, Duhalde said, the task was both defense – protecting threatened groups, minorities, immigrants and women – and offense, affirmatively pushing a social justice agenda with our socialist perspective where opportunity offered at the state and local level. A program to combat those factors blinding people to the reality of class struggle remains an importance communications task, linking people to ideas as only socialism can do. Kurt Stand, a DCDSA steering committee member, urged the audience to push back against the conventional-wisdom media mantra that Trump had captured the allegiance of the “white working class.” That inevitably builds the false narrative that only whites work. “There is only one working class,” Stand asserted.
Introductions of the people around the table, new and regulars, segued quickly to suggestions to flesh out an action plan. Proposals to find soft spots in Trump’s hard-right agenda included his infrastructure financing plan and opposition to existing bad trade pacts, especially when many GOP establishment figures are still uncertain about Trump’s orthodoxy. A systematic catalogue of Trump’s proposed and actual appointments provides the Left a way to pin down his agenda despite his mercurial statements; attendees signed up to pursue such a Rogues’ Gallery. Popular plans like establishing a public banking system and curbing imbalances of CEO pay continue to be viable in the new political environment. The local’s continuing efforts to engage with people of color, who will only be under increasing pressure, were noted and reinvigorated. As for the losing Democratic side, support for Rep. Keith Ellison as Democratic National Committee chair was touted as important (Ellison was a strong Sanders supporter).
The brainstorming at the Salon was followed up at an equally packed (more than 60 attendees) general membership meeting the following Sunday, at which many new or formerly inactive members signed up for expanded working groups to meet the new challenges. Expanded working committees included antiracism and minority/immigrant outreach (Ingrid Goldstrom/Coleson Breen), communication (Merrill Miller/Woody Woodruff), and economic justice (Jessie Mannisto/Coleson Breen).
Duhalde is engaging volunteers to build capacity and networking at the national DSA Washington office at the Institute for Policy Studies, including contact and engagement with the 100-plus who have joined the local’s Facebook page since the election.
National DSA has gained over two thousand members since the election.
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