by Ted Glomski
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 . . .
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 http://www.dsausa.org/