Elected Official Accountability & Raman Office Reportback
Earlier this year, many DSA-LA members felt appropriate disappointment with votes cast by Councilmember Raman, votes which appeared to contradict her positions critical of luxury development and in favor of public housing. While Raman later apologized for one of these votes, the incident raised critical questions for DSA-LA’s electoral strategy – how do we keep our endorsed candidates accountable to the platform they ran on? What is our ongoing relationship with successful endorsed candidates? And how do we make use of our strongest asset, our 5000+ members, to make sure we do all this?
Previous candidate endorsements in DSA-LA have been mostly one-sided affairs – we endorse a candidate, assist them in their campaign, and mostly step away afterward. Our chapter’s previous endorsements and campaigns have been essential in developing our organization, but as DSA-LA matures and grows, we have a choice – we could continue on the same path, helping elect sympathetic candidates that eventually cast unsurprisingly disappointing votes, or we can rethink our process for candidate accountability, and use our member power for not just putting people into office, but making sure their elected position is part of our larger strategy of enacting political change in LA.
On March 4th, the Electoral Politics committee held a meeting open to DSA-LA members to discuss both the above issues, and opportunities to improve our candidate endorsement and accountability process. The following are efforts of the Electoral Politics Standing Committee to guide our chapter’s electoral work in 2021.
- A Socialist Policy Platform – in accordance with the Build the Bench resolution passed at the 2020 DSA-LA Convention, our chapter must develop a Democratic Socialist Program for Los Angeles, outlining key campaign and policy demands for local elected bodies. This document, and the policy goals described within it, will become key in our chapter’s future endorsement process. The Electoral Politics committee will lead in the drafting of this platform, convening participation from other chapter Committees and across our Branches. The Platform will ultimately be presented to the full chapter membership for approval. We anticipate this process concluding in June 2021
- A Proactive Endorsement Process – most of our chapter’s previous endorsements have been reactive, responding to candidates seeking our support. This work was important to and reflective of our capacity at the time, but our chapter is now large enough to be able to survey the electoral field among our five branches, seek out candidates to support, and be part of developing a winning campaign early. By understanding our chapter’s priorities and our membership capacity, the Electoral Politics committee will be developing a roadmap for our endorsements going into 2022, prioritizing races where we can have the most impact and not missing opportunities that exist throughout LA County. We anticipate releasing a first-cut endorsement roadmap in April, with endorsements to begin after the ratification of the Policy Platform.
- Development of DSA-LA members as Candidates – Our chapter must commit to developing candidates from membership – organizers who are ready to be accountable to our chapter’s democratically ratified program, and who will build DSA-LA through their candidacy. Our member candidates should see mobilizing and fighting alongside working people as one of their primary responsibilities, both through their election campaigns and once they are in office. This is an ongoing responsibility of the Electoral Politics committee.
- Accountability and Communication with Electeds – Our chapter must establish and maintain clear expectations of continued communication and collaboration between DSA-LA and endorsed candidates who win their elections. These commitments ought to be established before the candidate’s election, as part of our chapter’s overall goal of electing organizers who will continuously push for our policy priorities.
Developing our relationship with endorsed elected officials
Though we anticipate the changes outlined above will help DSA establish a stronger sense of accountability from the moment our endorsed candidates are elected, we are still moving forward to establish an ongoing relationship with Councilmember Nithya Raman’s office. Earlier this month, DSA-LA Electoral Committee leaders met with staff members from Councilmember Raman’s office to establish an ongoing relationship, which will continue with a direct meeting with Councilmember Raman to discuss the organization’s policy priorities, and regular meetings with the Councilmember or her staff going forward. Additionally, DSA-LA has been invited to be a member of several organizational policy tables, and will participate in regular meetings, along with other progressive policy groups, to help guide and advise the Councilmember in those areas.
We are excited to begin a co-governing relationship with Councilmember Raman as a part of the broad left coalition that elected her, and to continue pushing for socialist policies and priorities in Los Angeles City Hall. If you would like to contribute to the policies and positions that the chapter will be advocating for, both with Councilmember Raman and with our future endorsed candidates, sign up here to contribute to one of our ongoing projects.
DSA Los Angeles Electoral Committee