Welcome to 2021.
The last year has been a hell of a ride, and 2021 promises to be even more volatile. Multiple Covid-19 vaccines have been approved, and ‘the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight’, but it may be an optical illusion. The Trump administration (and the Republican Party that brought him into power) is trying to do as much damage as it can on the way out the door. Vaccine distribution plans have been severely stunted and botched already (from Trump apparently following through on his threat to provide less doses in major blue-heavy metropolitan areas than expected, to reports of politicians stoking covid-19 denialism while also jumping vaccine lines to get the vaccine earlier).
In order to make it through the next year, we’re going to need some clarity on what’s going on in the world – and we’re going to need more socialist analysis of how to respond that isn’t coming to us 280 characters at a time.
My name is Sean Estelle, and I’m one of the volunteer elected leaders of DSA’s National Political Committee. I’ve been in this role now for 18 months. When I was elected, I knew that it would be a pretty wild time to be taking a national leadership role in a socialist organization that was continuing to grow, with a democratic socialist running for president, but I had no idea what path lay ahead – and I certainly could not have predicted what would happen within the next few months as I settled in to the day-to-day work of political leadership and responding to external political conditions.
One of the first things that I began to grapple with when I was elected was: “How am I going to be able to take in the amount of information needed to respond appropriately for an organization that is building power across the entire country, in different organizing conditions, working on different campaigns, with different targets? How will I be able to not get stuck in just inhaling information, but instead also responding to it and working to change those conditions?”
This wasn’t exactly a new feeling. When Donald Trump was elected, I wasn’t a podcast listener. Local politics were the only thing I tracked super closely (aside from the climate policy tracking I followed for my job). I knew that was going to have to change. So I immediately subscribed to as many news podcasts as I could get my hands on, I signed up for roundups of what was happening in the Capitol, and I let it all wash over me. But even with that, I was still flooded with executive orders, Senate confirmations, and repressive legal memos that were sent out by the Trump Administration in the first 100 days of their administration and beyond.
The goal of this column is going to be an attempt for myself – and for DSA members that read Midwest Socialist – to hone in on important information, decisions, and political events that happen nationally (and maybe internationally) that we should know about as we discuss tactics, strategy, and building our volunteer socialist organization.
The other major reason I wanted to devote time and energy to this is because of the conversation on Twitter about #ForceTheVote, an attempt to leverage the vote for Nancy Pelosi into a guaranteed floor vote for Medicare For All. I could dedicate an entire column to my personal thoughts on the merits and drawbacks of polarizing podcast audiences around a procedural tactic, but the most important part of the last few days that I want to draw out is one that I saw some longtime #MedicareForAll/DSA militants make – namely, that we as an organization (and other organizations like National Nurses United & Labor for Single Payer) need to not give into the bullying of people like Jimmy Dore, but there also needs to be better communication from the leadership of those organizations about why they think the way they do about tactics, strategy, and the processes of building democratic organization for long-term power.
This column will be my attempt to take up that challenge. I won’t focus on internal DSA debates here, or the process of what I do as an NPC member. Rather, I want to use this space to write out my analysis of how I think material conditions are shaping the terrain on which we are struggling. Hopefully, it will prove useful for others looking to do the same.
Today, we’ll start to see results of the special election in GA that will decide who controls the Senate. Tomorrow, Josh Hawley and at least a few other GOP Senators will attempt to contest the results of the Electoral College. Who knows what else could happen between then and next Tuesday? We’ll find out.