Socialist electoral campaigns offer extraordinary opportunities for DSA. Elections can mobilize hundreds of thousands or millions of people around a socialist vision, far beyond the reach of most other organizing campaigns within our capacity. Winning elections will allow us to implement vitally needed reforms that build the power and confidence of working-class people. Perhaps most vitally at the moment, developing and running campaigns is a key way for our locals across the country to build power where they are organizing right now. Electoral organizing can and should be an integral part of DSA’s work, and we fully support the decision of the membership to make it a national priority. Socialists must be relentless in struggling to build power in a hostile climate – electoral power is too important to leave in the hands of our enemies.
In order to build a movement that can, one day soon, claim hundreds or thousands of elected officials, our priority should be to build powerful independent electoral operations in DSA locals around the country. It is the thousands of activists in these locals who will develop specific local strategies, win elections and policy victories, and refine the mechanisms to hold elected officials accountable in the face of inevitable opposition from the one percent.
The Bernie Sanders campaign demonstrated that there is an enormous desire among millions of Americans for democratic socialism. Translating that desire into a sustained socialist movement of millions will require long term work, starting from the bottom up in communities across the country, rooting our efforts in an independent, democratic organizing model. Above all else, the key to a successful national electoral strategy is empowering DSA’s locals to experiment and grow in the pursuit of that vision.