Proportional Representation Is Still The Way Forward

Proportional Representation Is Still The Way Forward

In the wake of our elections for delegates to the upcoming national convention, many comrades have privately suggested that the Scottish STV (Single Transfer Vote) was a poorly chosen system because STV aims to achieve proportional representation, meaning minority factions achieve a portion of seats that is roughly equal to their portion of voters among the electorate. 

I will paraphrase this sentiment and the concerns motivating it:

“The Class Unity (CU) Caucus represents a political position that is inappropriate in DSA. Furthermore, its members are largely uninvolved in our campaigns and their belligerent conduct ruins our chapter discussions. However, in our delegacy election, too many CU members won seats which instead could’ve gone to broadly popular and highly qualified comrades – an embarrassment to CDSA! The problem is that National DSA has stipulated that we must use a Single Transfer Vote (STV) system for choosing delegates. It is because we had such a system that CU won a portion of seats reflecting its portion in the electorate, so we should switch to a different system without proportional representation.”

I strongly believe proportional representation in our delegacy elections remains essential to our work. If CDSA is to be a successful big tent organization, we will have many minority factions, each with little or no likelihood of ever becoming a majority faction. These factions will rationally expect to see their interests represented in our decision-making process, corresponding to the people-power that they contribute to our chapter.

“You might do your share of the work, but you’ll never get your share of decision-making power” is an offer from a miser to a fool. That’s why we have unions – because that arrangement is unacceptable to any rational agent. It would make no political sense for these factions to remain in CDSA and conduct themselves in good faith if they must submit to an electoral framework that is skewed against them. Without proportional representation, over the long run, our minority factions will leave or resort to unofficial channels to seek recourse for their underrepresentation, subverting our chapter’s transparent democracy. The political-economic reality in front of us is that our big tent will collapse without proportional representation holding it up. 

I respect that comrades harbor extremely serious concerns about the behavior and goals of CU candidates. Because the process which elected the CU candidates was legitimate, our concerned fellow comrades must ultimately take concern with the CDSA electorate itself – that is, CU has a significant portion of seats only because a significant portion of CDSA voters wanted them to have seats. If you want CU to have fewer seats next time, then you want a different electorate. To reconstitute the electorate, you have three options: 

  1. ADD NEW VOTERS through registration and get-out-the-vote efforts
  2. REMOVE EXISTING VOTERS by implementing new standards for good-standing DSA membership
  3. CHANGE THE VOTERS and what they know, through measures for candidate transparency or voter education.

Put simply: proportional representation is key to DSA’s organizing plans. If you don’t like how the elections went, get different people to vote next time! 

Bertold Brecht will close us out; of course, he’d agree with everything I’ve just said.


Die Lösung The Solution
Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni

Ließ der Sekretär des Schriftstellerverbands

In der Stalinallee Flugblätter verteilen

Auf denen zu lesen war, daß das Volk

Das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe

Und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit

zurückerobern könne. Wäre es da

Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung

Löste das Volk auf und

Wählte ein anderes?

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers’ Union

Had leaflets distributed on the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could only win it back

By increased work quotas. Would it not in that case be simpler

for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?


Al Gordon is an organizer in the North Side Red Line branch and the Content Chair of the Socialist Night School. His day job is teaching math at a middle school and he is still mourning MF DOOM. 

(with great thanks to Comrade Dave M., and to my good friend Ken-Terika Z., who read this work before it was worth reading, and made it worth reading)