My First Year in the DSA

by Ted Glomski

Signing up

When I tell people about why I joined DSA, I’ve often said “I joined on November 9, right after the 2016 election…” As it turns out, that was a big fat lie !  When I looked up the date I actually joined it was November 12. Sorry, everyone who feels deceived.

I️ was in California on November 8, 2016, working a contract in Santa Barbara instead of my native Wisconsin. That night I️ was at a hotel watching the election results coming in on my phone and getting progressively more anxious. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that kept getting heavier. Looking at my phone felt more and more like looking at a car accident where I could not help, but could only watch the horror. A friend called me; she was apoplectic that people would vote for a serial and unapologetic sexual assaulter and I️ listened to her saying “what the F$&@” over and over again. I️ probably didn’t fall asleep until 2 am.

The next day at work, everyone was silent for the entire morning. The people I️ worked with eventually started voicing their bewilderment at the results and the feeling that we’re entering a new uncharted territory.

The night of November 9 was very important for me — not because I️ signed up for DSA (like I️ erroneously recalled) but because I️ decided that I️ can’t keep sitting on the sidelines. I️ had been listening to leftist podcasts like Chapo Trap House and District Sentinel, but the first post election podcast I listened to was a Delete Your Account episode with Brett Payne and Bryan Quinby from Street Fight Radio as guests. They talked about why Trump won and Hillary lost, what we have to expect in the upcoming Trump administration and what we as podcast listeners could do. Joining DSA came up as a potential option to take up the fight.

I️ had already been thinking about the Democratic Socialists of America .  I am a very active Twitter user and Emily Robinson and Larry Website were talking about how great DSA is and how its the place to be if you were a Bernie backer who wants to continue the movement. Prior to the election, when Hillary Clinton felt like an inevitability , she put together “the most progressive platform in party history” but barely gave it lip service during her campaign. I felt there’d need to be an effort to keep pressuring the Democratic establishment from the left. So, when Trump won, I knew we’d need to fight. Not just for a strong left movement in the country, but also to defend all the rights we know will be under attack under a Republican house, senate, and executive branch.

I️ waited until I️ got home from California that weekend to make it official .  I️ signed up online and became one of the thousands of DSA members to join after the election. I wrote a post on New Year’s last year that mentioned joining DSA. When I re-read that post while writing this, I can feel the anxiety I was feeling in my life, where I didn’t really know where I’d go from there. I mention DSA, but I couldn’t imagine where it would take me.

My year in DSA

How did I️ go from someone who signed up online to where I️ am today? Well, it helped that I️ had the space in my schedule to dedicate to DSA :  a flexible work situation and few out of work commitments. When our chapter needed help running and organizing meetings, I️ jumped in and helped (having experience doing so professionally was huge). When a march or an action came up, I️ could assist in turning people out.

If I️ were to identify times when I️ “leveled up” as an organizer, three occasions jump out to me. The first was volunteering to speak in January at a meeting of Rock County Progressives — a group in Janesville (Paul Ryan’s hometown) who hosts monthly meetings in their local grocery cooperative. They asked DSA to come and talk about our organization and what our take was on the current political landscape.

I️ drove down with our chapter chair and he took most of the speaking duties . He detailed our history while I️ talked about our growth since the election. As I️ began speaking I️ quickly realized that this was the first time I️ actually vocalized all the thoughts that had been in my head! I️ put my foot in my mouth more times than I️ care to admit that day. But it felt so empowering to actually talk about what’s wrong with our current political landscape.

The second was going to the People’s Summit in Chicago — a convention put on by National Nurses United, which DSA was co-sponsoring. DSA put out a call for volunteers and I️ helped put together our tabling efforts. Organizing online with fantastic DSA members across the country was so exciting, and seeing Bernie live for the first time was definitely fun.

At the convention we had a national organizer training led by a group of DSA members across the country. I was transformed . Learning from experienced organizers and different chapters on their challenges and successes helped light a fire in me and gave me the guidance on how we can keep building a movement. I still keep in touch with the members I met there, and it’s so inspiring to see them step into leadership roles in their own chapters and communities.

The third was right after the Charlottesville attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured many others. Indivisible Madison organized a vigil the next week and a few hundred showed up on the State Capitol steps. I️ had an opportunity to speak on behalf of DSA. Standing in front of everyone and making a call to action was scary, but I️ believe in my cause and I️ see the need to build a movement — one that doesn’t just fight against the problems we see today, but for a future that is built on a foundation of equity, justice, and social welfare.

The above list is not complete. I️ could name about a dozen other positive and life changing experiences I’ve had with DSA :  a sit-in at Ron Johnson’s office, the National Convention, getting my lovely partner involved in the chapter, just to name a few  . . .

What’s Next

After a year of growth and building, I️ hope to be continuing the momentum in adding new members, engaging my local chapter, and building a vibrant and effective socialism movement in the United States.

I feel like I’ve been focusing all my energy on the practice of socialism, and haven’t set aside the time to really develop strong theory. I don’t want to be one of those leftists who says, “Well, you’re not a real Marxist until you’ve read Marx!” …But on the other hand, I should probably read Marx (and the dozens of other books I’ve been recommended).

I want to be a leader, and right now I feel like the best way to approach that is to have a “stand in the kitchen” approach to organizing. If I show up for a meeting, an action, or any event, I try to find whomever’s running around doing things to ask them if there’s anything I can do to help. At first they’ll probably say they have everything under control, but in less than five minutes they almost always have something for you to do. (I learned this technique when I’d visit my parents and they were running around the kitchen.)

I’ve seen many DSA members step up and help out whenever they can, and it’s exciting seeing some organizing being built this way (for example, the Brake Light clinics). I want to continue fostering this attitude when it comes to organizing — above all, Socialism is here to help us!

Ted Glomski is an organizer with the Madison Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. Learn more about DSA at

Meet the Dane Dems

By Eric Sundquist

It may seem that for Democrats and other progressives, winning elections in Dane County is more or less a given. Not so.

In the 1990s we had a Republican Congressman, in the 2000s we had a conservative-controlled county board, and in the 2010s we had conservative-dominated councils in Verona and Sun Prairie. That’s all changed now, and while some of that progress can be chalked up to demographic evolution, that’s far from the whole story. Democrats and other progressives have worked hard, cycle after cycle, to find and train candidates, and to support them through tough campaigns.

And there’s more to do. Many town boards in the county are controlled by Republicans and, through those town boards, the influential Towns Association. The county as a whole votes blue in statewide elections, but every year there are thousands of potential Dem voters who fail to show up at the polls, making statewide victory that much harder.

In recent months, the party has enjoyed a big increase in meeting attendance and volunteering (in large part due to Trump). In fact, we just had our first contested board election in memory! The party has also been more intentional about supporting like-minded progressive organizations, including Indivisible Madison, whose leadership in resistance activities has been invaluable.

The county party needs to resist Trumpism (and Walkerism) and next year’s elections will be critical in turning back the tide. This fall, both candidates vying to take on Paul Ryan, two gubernatorial candidates, and one Supreme Court candidate have spoken at our monthly meetings. And, in January we will hear from Tim Burns, candidate for Supreme Court, and Tony Evers, candidate for governor.

We will also be making endorsements, starting with local races at our January meeting. Endorsements not only provide candidates with a stamp of approval but also help us target campaign resources.

On another front, we are working with the state party to modernize our tactics. We know that a large part of our potential electorate is young and/or mobile, people who often don’t appear on voter lists at their current addresses. We’re experimenting with new data sources that can help us reach out to these voters. The goal is increased voter turnout in the spring, when low turnout means every vote is critical, and again in the fall, when we must reclaim power at the state level.

Some other facts about the county party:

We are 100 percent volunteer-run, with an annual budget of about $20,000 from memberships and small donations.

In addition to working on elections, we have a Resolutions Committee that works on policy. Sometimes even our friendly endorsed officials need to hear from us, as they did when the county and city of Madison repeatedly fumbled efforts to open a day resource center for the homeless; today the Beacon is finally open.

Eric Sundqiust is the Vice Chair of Communications for the Democratic Party of Dane County. Learn more at

Ground Game

By Ed Heinzelman – Senior Editor at Blogging Blue

“…our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

An inspiring message from an inspiring American woman, Michelle Obama. And we’ve seen it spread across the country in memes and social media posts and speeches and blogs like this one…quoted by the entire spectrum of politicians and activists from the left…progressives, liberals and Democrats alike. But are we truly living up to the goal that we’ve set?

Over the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the Republicans in the House and Senate honed their image as the Party of No. Immediately after the election of President Trump, the first response from the left was RESIST! By no means am I suggesting that we don’t ‘resist’ the Trump agenda. It is certainly going to harm Americans no matter what the president claims his goal is. But can’t we come up with a positive response? A positive alternative? A positive policy that shows Americans how their health, wellbeing, and safety can be improved instead of individually diminished?

Yes I know the Democrats announced a “Better Deal”. A policy agenda that even the New York Times labelled an ‘anemic restatement of common themes’. It’s apparently withered on the vine since.

The Republicans have tried three times to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act since January. Fortunately a few GOP Senators had the common sense to kill the bills. But it wasn’t until the third attempt that Senator Bernie Sanders proposed his Medicare for All bill. Something he should have had in his back pocket during the primaries since it was a focal point of his campaign. I would have hoped it would have appeared first time round in full detail. Yes I understand it hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades of passing, but we aren’t looking like an opposition party with ideas. I don’t want to be the Party of New version 2.0.

Where was our fix the Affordable Care Act Bill?

And the president has left the door open to participate even if the Republicans in the Congress haven’t. So when do we see the Democratic DACA bill (although while I am putting in the final edits the president has reneged on his original agreement)? Tax Reform is hot in play, you know the biggest tax cut in history bill? Where is the Democratic alternative that will actually provide tax relief to the middle class? You know that Speaker Paul Ryan won’t allow any amendments to his bill.

Not a single person in this country will deny that infrastructure shortcomings are a primary concern. The president ran on upgrades to the infrastructure and related jobs. Where is a Democratic infrastructure program? Come up with one that is growth and remind the nation that the president hasn’t followed through.

One of the places that you would expect us to be truly positive in presenting our agenda is when we are talking to the faithful and asking for contributions. Yet the titles of these solicitations and their general content are aimed at scaring me half to death!

Medicare GUTTED! We WILL Fail. Devastating Setback. Disgusted. They stole WI for Trump! CRUSHING news! SERIOUS damage will be done, Ed!

Hey team, I am on your side. I understand the issues at hand. I understand the need for campaign contributions. I will respond but give me some hope. Give me something positive. Give me something to talk about. No more fear mongering…please.

I have talked to a number of campaign managers and they say these negative asks and scary messages are very effective. I find that rather sad. And I don’t understand why we don’t demand better from our electeds, our candidates, and the organizations that support them.

But it should be easy to provide positive substance in the age of President Trump. His agenda is constantly without specifics, without detail…a novel with chapter titles but no characters and no plot line and no story.

So here we are, the minority in Washington and Madison, out of the White House and the Governor’s Mansion. Where do we go next? The 2016 elections proved that there is a new generation of activists out there…with new ideas…with new energy. Being at the bottom of the well it certainly feels like the right time to change directions…a generational shift.

Where do we go next?

End the internecine spats between the Sanders supporters and the Clinton supporters. Find a common ground and present a unified front. That doesn’t mean giving up your ideals…it really doesn’t. There are plenty of goals that we share that make sense to work together on. Bring the others along as the party grows. The lack of GOP policy wins hasn’t been because of effective Democratic leadership. It’s because of the dysfunction in the Republican ranks. Let’s not be that either.

You can’t make change from the outside. Get involved with the local party and your local candidates. It will take a little effort (surprisingly little) to get into local parties and campaigns and have an effect. It does require some patience and hard work. But get on those committees, attend the meetings, attend the conventions, run for officer positions. If you can’t find a candidate you like, run for office. If you don’t know where to start, ask for some help.

Remember all of those people who we are told felt disenfranchised in the 2016 election cycle? We need to listen to them. What are their real concerns? Jobs? Healthcare? Family sustaining jobs? Decent wages? Clean air and clean water? Affordable education? Lower property taxes? Healthy food choices? Make these our agenda, our policy planks, our goals. Don’t let the policy wonks inside the party distract us with minutiae. And don’t assume we know the answers until we’ve actually listened to the people. We all know that grass roots works so why would we do anything else?

And let’s do what we can to get new faces in public office. What we’ve been doing the past 20 years is becoming less and less effective. It’s time to do something new and do it with new elected officials at all levels of government. The entrenched incumbents don’t know how to do things differently. Push the dinosaurs like myself out of the way (LOL)!

Look to 2020 but don’t overlook 2018 and please please don’t overlook the local odd year elections in between. They are fertile ground to develop candidates, grow experience, and build a ground game that can be scaled up.