Justin R. argues that while YDSA should denounce Biden and Trump as sexual predators, we shouldn’t dedicate our time or resources to a third-party presidential campaign.
I would like to start by applauding the authors of the ‘Joe Biden and the November 2020 Presidential Election’ resolution. We, as an organization, cannot stay silent in the face of credible sexual assault accusations against the presidential nominees of both major parties. While DSA has put out a national statement regarding Biden’s political beliefs, and why those are grounds for not supporting him as an organization, we must go on to unequivocally state that we cannot support a sexual predator, that we cannot support his enablers, and that we call for his removal as the Democratic nominee.
I disagree, however, with the notion that we should endorse a third-party candidate, namely Howie Hawkins or Gloria La Riva. That is why I fully support the amendment striking the proposed third-party endorsement.
With any of our potential endorsements, there are two options: We can make a paper endorsement (endorse the candidate and put out some form of press release about it, but do not devote time, effort, or materials to said campaign) or we can set up a robust campaign around our endorsed candidates. Part of the reason the DSA for Bernie campaign was successful for DSA as an organization is that we did devote so much time, effort, and material to it. As an organization, we showed once again that we, when organized, can be a force to reckon with electorally. A paper endorsement would not have this same power; a press release will not recruit new socialists, nor will it serve DSA as an organization.
Part of the reason the Bernie campaign was useful to us as an organization was that Sanders had the platform and reach to spread a people-oriented vision for the United States and the world that we currently lack. Neither Hawkins nor La Riva have this reach; neither the Hawkins nor La Riva campaign will empower the working class in the same way the Sanders campaign did.
Instead, during this election cycle, we should focus on advancing our agenda through alternative means. We are seeing a mass uprising for black lives in our streets, millions of people unemployed with a government too corrupt to provide significant material help, and an incoming wave of severe austerity in response to the economic crisis. Instead of an electoral campaign, we must focus on these extra-parliamentary aspects of class struggle.
That does not mean we should abandon elections entirely. In fact, this cycle, there are still plenty of DSA candidates on the ballot, and YDSA members in their region should contribute to those campaigns, whether it’s Nithya Raman running for LA City Council against NIMBY David Ryu, or Jackie Fielder running for CA State Senate against sentient-pile-of police-union-money-in-a-suit Scott Wiener. Rather, this means we should prioritize winnable, concrete campaigns. Defunding and abolishing university police departments, a People’s Bailout, protection of vital government services, even the Raman or Fielder campaign — these are campaigns we can win. La Riva and Hawkins for president are not.
Sadly, our next president will be either a Democrat or a Republican. Even if every member of every chapter devoted every waking hour to campaigning for a third-party candidate, that candidate would at most barely break three percent. Rather than devote time, resources, and our names to a campaign that will lose and lose badly, we need to work to organize our communities so that we are prepared for whatever form of neoliberal hell results from the 2020 election.
Justin R. is the current chair of YDSA Arizona State University and a candidate for West Regional Organizing Committee at this year’s convention.
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