DSA-LA Statement on November 2020 Election Results

Through the distorting fog of national election news, Democratic Socialists in Los Angeles County woke up Wednesday morning several steps closer to transforming their city, county, state, and nation into a more just and humane place for our families and friends, migrants and workers, tenants and the unhoused. Our electoral victories are an extension of the work we do year round, through on-the-ground organizing, fundraising, mutual aid, and advocacy. While the results of the election at the presidential level do not inspire hope for the majority of people in this country, our successes at the local level prove for our chapter and several others across the country that the working class is desperate for a new kind of politics. 

We acknowledge first of all that the ballot box is only one tool that we use as Democratic Socialists to transform our society. We pause to boost our victories while also acknowledging that the neoliberal candidates who were nominated by the Democrats and Republicans for President can never serve the needs of the people or solve the incredible problems facing our families and friends–poor healthcare, climate change, gun violence, and imperial militarism, to name just a handful. Because the struggle is neverending, we choose not to back down. We will be back on the streets THIS SATURDAY, November 7th regardless of where the vote count stands in the Presidential election. We need to be on the streets, first of all, because we must demand that every vote be counted. Given Trump’s authoritarian pronouncements to “stop the vote,” nothing is guaranteed. We demand the vote be counted not to serve any particular candidate, but in support of the general principle that every vote counts in a democracy worthy of that name. Voter suppression is a fraud used by the powerful to silence the many, from Savannah, GA to Sacramento, CA, especially when those voters are Black, Brown, or poor. We won’t stand for it. 

In particular, we will be celebrating historic wins for two of our endorsed candidates–Nithya Raman for L.A. City Council District 4 and Konstantine Anthony for Burbank City Council. We congratulate Nithya and Konstantine on their victories and Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, another endorsed candidate, who ran a terrific and inspiring campaign in State Assembly District 64. The success of our endorsed candidates proves that, in spite of the red-baiting hatred that was directed their way by opponents and the media, there is a tremendous demand for Democratic Socialism in Southern California. The time is up for politicians that pay more attention to corporate interests, wealthy real estate developers, and cops than they do to the workers and tenants who live in the communities they serve. The LA City Council and all local governments are on notice. The people are taking the power back.

An incredible number of our members worked on those campaigns and we applaud them all. We also thank the tremendous volunteers who put immense time and energy into the statewide campaigns around Propositions 15 and 21. At this time, 21 is defeated and 15 is trailing, but we promise to keep fighting for the policies embedded in these propositions, no matter what. The renters of California deserve better protections and our property tax code is in severe need of overhaul. We won’t back down. 

We also bemoan the passage of Silicon Valley’s pitiful blow to worker’s rights everywhere in the form of the corporate-designed Prop 22. We watched as some of the most exploitative companies in the nation–Uber, Lyft, and Grubhub–poured millions upon millions of dollars into a cynical campaign to fleece Californians into supporting legislation that would make their fellow workers poorer, sicker, and less safe. These are companies that thrive in a society that does not prioritize what really matters–healthcare, housing, and jobs (not to mention nutrition and food safety). One lesson we should take from this is that the capitalist class in California is organized, ruthless, and prepared to spread this same kind of legislation in other states. Prop 22 is disastrous for gig workers who occupy one of the most precarious positions within the working class. Neoliberal technocrats are feeling emboldened; it is our duty as members of the working class to organize ourselves, reflect on our strategies, and continue to recruit working people to DSA.  

In addition to our endorsed candidates, we also celebrate the victories won by progressive candidates throughout the city, county, state, and country, both DSA-endorsed and otherwise. Locally, these include Jason Boxer for Manhattan Beach Unified School Board, and Scarlet Peralta for Montebello City Council. Nationally, we note that the two candidates most closely associated with the DSA — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib — were re-elected resoundingly, and 28 out of 37 other DSA-endorsed candidates took power for the first time, in communities as geographically diverse as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Austin, TX. Note that many of these candidates won convincing victories in an election where mainstream Democrats struggled to defend themselves against Trump’s right-wing populist insurgency. New voters and the young people of the U.S. want what the DSA has to offer — unions in the workplace; Medicare, Housing, and College for All; a Green New Deal; and a diverse slate of candidates that won’t bow to corporate interests.

Earlier this year, following the murder of George Floyd, millions of people took to the streets to express their anger and frustration at a system that devalues the lives of Black people in this country. Many of those who participated in mass demonstrations  began to learn about the principles of decarceration and abolition. BLM-LA captured the enthusiasm of a newly-educated public, building on their yearslong campaign to boot Jackie Lacey from office, Los Angeles County’s District Attorney of eight years. The organizers prevailed in this election with the ousting of Lacey by George Gascon, a former San Francisco District Attorney. Additionally, we can expect Measure J to pass, which will require the county to appropriate 10 percent of its general fund budget to alternatives to incarceration. These victories are a testament to the organizers of BLM Los Angeles and their years of struggle for justice.

As we write this, the results of the U.S. Presidential election and many other state and local races are still undecided. Biden and Trump are jockeying for votes in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The election never should have been this close. The Democratic Party assured voters that Biden was the most electable candidate, ignoring the movement of the masses of working people to Bernie’s platform that advocated for a dignified life for everyone. We shouldn’t expect deep reflection from the party whose only message seemed to be, “Nothing will fundamentally change.” We should also be wary of any messaging from the establishment that the results of the election demonstrate that voters have rejected Socialism, that people of color did not show up for Biden, or any other empty analyses. The Biden campaign prioritized the votes of conservative Democratic and suburban voters; the weakness of this strategy is laid bare in the results of the election.

The conventional wisdom of the Democratic Party must be rejected. As Democratic Socialists it is our duty to win people over to a vision of politics that works for the many. Voters have signaled that they do not want a return to normal because a return to normal means a return to poverty, a return to precarious employment, and a return to a society run by the powerful. We know that relying on the logic of the Democratic Party is a dead end. People of color in this country, under a system of racial capitalism, will not automatically flock to a candidate that openly embraces regressive policies like Biden just because he positions himself as the anti-Trump. In this election, Trump improved his numbers among several demographic groups, including Latinos, Black people, and Asians. As Democratic Socialists, we don’t deny these plain facts and dismiss the beliefs of working people as “false consciousness.” Instead, we seek to understand and transform that consciousness through political education, mutual aid, and the common experience of struggle.   

Four years of Trump have reminded us of the dilemma first proposed by the Social Democrat Rosa Luxembourg. At the brink of the twentieth century, she asserted that humanity had a choice–”Socialism or Barbarism.” Throughout that century, in the U.S. especially, we took the wrong path, too often choosing profit over people and belligerence over peace. Trump, his mindless followers, and his partisan enablers remind us that the same struggle Luxembourg initiated at the start of WWI is still ongoing today. The members of DSA-LA who fought and prevailed during this election will come together again on Saturday to raise our collective voices on behalf of our biggest prize — the future.