Statements from chapter members in favor and against 2023-EER1: Resolution to Endorse Andrea Crooms will be posted in this thread.
IN FAVOR by Imara C.
So OBVIOUSLY I’m speaking in favor of endorsing my partner Andrea in her congressional run… but beyond that qualification there are so many reasons the chapter should be excited to endorse and participate in Andrea’s campaign for congress against 40 year incumbent Steny Hoyer.
A known entity in the community:
- Andrea is an organizer an activist and recognized member of the community
- Her work in the Prince George’s County’s Government is significant
- Andrea has shown the ability to work within the restraints of a capitalist machine (the Maryland Democratic Party machine is not to be trifled with) and earn tangible wins for her community. These tangible wins have been a real benefit to working people in her community, making people’s lives easier rather than just enriching contractors.
- Andrea’s role within MD government is of a fighter for the environment but also for equality and against the capitalist standards of environmental racism.
Andrea is one of us:
- If one believes in electoralism, campaigns like Andreas are the point of all of it.
- Andrea isn’t “an ally” of DSA, or a politician associated with us, Andrea is an active and participating member of DSA at the local and national level.
- This means we don’t need to worry about Andrea failing to support our beliefs because they are shared.
- If we’re going to devote resources to electoralism year after year isn’t electing cadre DSA members the whole point?
Electoralism as a platform for change:
- I realize there are many who doubt the value of electoralism as a rule, I respect that stance but disagree and would argue that even these people should support Andrea’s candidacy.
- As organizers we know how much work it is to fight for change on the ground.
- Comparatively the best hope of our electeds is that they amplify our work.
- DSA has made real gains through electoralism, but all of this is different with regard to actual cadre candidates.
A challenging election, a fight worth having:
- Contesting a 40 year incumbent isn’t going to be easy, its been a nightmare so far. But what we bring as a chapter is fucking tremendous.
- Not only in canvassing and GoTV type support.
- But also support on issue advocacy and helping to navigate the best points feasible to push in congress. All of which should continue post election.
- We’ve mapped the area, we know Steny is beatable NOW.
- Once Steny retires the entire political landscape of the area changes and we can expect his endorsed replacement to remain in office for decades.
I urge you to join me in voting for our chapter to endorse Andrea’s candidacy for congress. Further, I urge you to join me in supporting DSA to ensure that we continue to have a voice in US politics both in the streets and in the halls of congress.
AGAINST by Alex Y.
I would like to start by saying this is an entirely unwinnable race both now and regardless of any change in dynamics that may occur during the campaign. That alone should be enough for the chapter to not endorse this campaign. We should not resign ourselves to campaigns guaranteed to lose unless we can find that it meets a high bar of giving many other benefits to the chapter and I do not believe this campaign provides that opportunity to us.
Furthermore, at a time when Palestine is one of the defining issues for our organization, Andrea unfortunately shies away from discussing it. On her campaign website, she has 3 main issues and 17 more minor issues listed. None of those 20 mention Palestine by name. We should not endorse a candidate that runs away from the issue, especially now. It may seem like strategic to not bring it up and hope AIPAC does not get involved to help the incumbent, but the 2022 primaries for Congress proved that unless you prove your undying loyalty to Israel, AIPAC will always support the candidate that does even against candidates that merely tepidly support Israel. Steny Hoyer has recently gone out of his way on votes to support Israel and AIPAC will gladly reward him with their support and money.
Additionally, we must think more about our reputation if we endorse this campaign. When it loses, our organization will be seen more as an ignorable pariah than an actual threat after the crushing defeat of our endorsed candidate in the same district in 2020. We should not return to the same district over and over again until we can win or else we risk not being seen seriously. We are already not taken seriously in NoVA, we should let ourselves be seen the same way in PG County. For all these reasons, I ask you to vote against endorsing this campaign.
AGAINST by Tim S.
Andrea Crooms would do a good job in the House of Representatives, and if she runs in a winnable race in two years, I will almost certainly organize internally to make sure she’s endorsed and gets a good DSA campaign behind her. There is, however, no chance that she wins, or indeed that the election is close, and very little chance that our endorsement builds chapter capacity. I will be voting against endorsement, and hope that you will join me in doing so.
Mckayla Wilkes lost her last two races to Steny Hoyer by around 50,000 votes. Andrea is, in my view, a significantly better candidate, but even if we could repeat the same level of voter outreach we produced in the entire 2022 cycle for this race (we cannot, the terrain is more difficult to knock efficiently and the primary is three months away), it would make up only a small percentage of that deficit. For reference, between Zachary Parker, Max Socol, and Gabe Acevero, we knocked about 75,000 doors in the spring and early summer, and then another 18,000 for Initiative 82 in the fall. That was a good cycle for us, but the result of 50,000 doors knocked for Zachary Parker, on top of voter contacts from unions and from the campaign itself, in what was essentially a four way race with the establishment split, was a win margin of 3,300 votes. In this race, we’d be facing a significantly stronger opponent on significantly more difficult terrain: a loss by a mere 25,000 votes would be a massive overperformance, attributable primarily to Andrea’s quality as a candidate rather than to our contribution to the campaign.
Endorsing a good candidate in a race they will almost certainly lose is a fine thing to do if that candidate is, like Andrea, a principled candidate who has been meaningfully involved in DSA, and if there are good reasons to believe that the campaign we run in support of the candidate will build chapter capacity, rather than sapping it. This was the case in Max Socol’s 2022 race: his chances at the outset weren’t good, and he ultimately lost by almost 30 points, but he ran an effective campaign that engaged many DC and MoCo members in an area where we historically have limited presence. This highlighted both the moral bankruptcy of establishment Democrats like Jeff Waldstreicher and our commitment to, among other things, positions that are very popular with more moderate Democrats, such as protecting reproductive rights and combating gun violence. I’m glad we endorsed Max; my main regret is not personally knocking more doors for him.
By contrast, we endorsed Mckayla Wilkes in 2020, and Karishma Mehta in 2021, on the theory that having candidates would kickstart electoral programs in Prince George’s County and Northern Virginia. Both were, like Andrea, incredible longshots with unproven campaigns and unclear prospects for mobilizing significant numbers of DSA volunteers. Both candidates were significantly weaker than Max, and lost by huge margins: Karishma didn’t come close to the modest 3,500 vote win number that the proposers of her endorsement correctly projected. Neither campaign brought in a significant number of local members, either as temporary volunteers or as long-term, active participants in the chapter, and neither branch has found candidates to endorse in more winnable races since, indicating that these endorsements also failed to build infrastructure. If Andrea or her DSA supporters had made a compelling case that dozens of chapter members are available to coordinate the DSA campaign, I might find the argument that a loss – even a crushing loss – is worthwhile because it will build capacity, but I see no evidence that serious preparations have begun to turn people out, which is especially concerning with the primary just over three months away. Furthermore, there is no chance that endorsing Andrea creates meaningful opportunities for cooperation with DSA comrades in Baltimore or Southern Maryland, as the PEC recommendation suggests it could: these formations (Southern Maryland is not yet a chapter) have no track record of running successful campaigns of any kind, let alone difficult electoral campaigns, both have very, very few active members, and Andrea did not, to my knowledge, seek their endorsement. I would be shocked if they combined for more than 500 doors. It is very unclear to me why the PEC thinks the potential involvement of either formation is worth mentioning.
If we do endorse, I will work hard to turn this around in my capacity as a chapter leader with significant administrative expertise and responsibility, but I am very confident that my efforts, and the efforts of active PGC members, would be better spent on the exciting legislative campaigns that they proposed as part of our overall electoral priority campaign, rather than on this campaign. Please join me in voting no.
IN FAVOR by Gary Z.
The PG County branch of the chapter has shown a real desire to play in this race. Andrea’s campaign is going into this with knowledge that this will be a tough fight — but the long play here is to use this electoral campaign to gauge bases of support for socialist/left-wing campaigns in the county as a whole. Prior efforts running against Steny failed, but were not fruitless: They kick-started real branch operation in the region and they charted a name and presence for the DSA region-wide by mounting an ambitious, class-oriented campaign. With deeper follow-through and intentionality, this campaign will setup deeper engagement for future campaigns both regionally and locally. (It also shouldn’t be lost that Andrea is a well-qualified and passionate candidate that comes up from and through the DSA — the potential for an upset here is low, but not out of the question.)
IN FAVOR by Vijay P.
I would encourage the chapter membership to vote FOR this resolution for the following reasons: Andrea has been a longtime member and leader within DSA, including serving on the National Ecosocialist Steering Committee. Her leadership and engagement with ecosocialism in this capacity allowed our chapter to do several topic-focused webinars during the pandemic, including a well-received one on how the electric grid works. While Director of the Department of the Environment in Prince George’s County, Andrea’s leadership and coordination of developing a Climate Action Plan with public input allowed the Prince George’s branch to get on the record in shaping an ecosocialist framework as a part of the public commenting period. Having a chapter-endorsed candidate in a district encompassing much of Prince George’s County will get the branch membership organized around support for the campaign and its platform.Andrea’s style of “sewer socialism” politics that comes from her work as Director of the Department of the Environment has the potential to appeal to voters across a variety of political leanings, which is important for the Maryland 5th District. Challenging a long-time incumbent (and the second-most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives), in a time when the leadership of the Democratic party is under scrutiny for its stances on many policies, offers an opportunity for DSA to have a major win not just locally, but nationally.
AGAINST by Ben D.
I’m writing to speak in opposition to the Metro DC DSA endorsement resolution for Andrea Crooms. While I believe Andrea Crooms is a good comrade, has good politics, is qualified to be in Congress, and has and will continue to represent our chapter well, I believe this endorsement would run contrary to our successful electoral strategy, be a poor use of resources for our chapter, and have a negative effect on our chapter’s political power.
First and foremost, Metro DC DSA does not have the capacity or power to win a congressional race. We cannot even move the needle on anything but the closest congressional races. DSA was not the primary component of the coalitions that elected AOC, Rashida Tlaib, or Cori Bush to the U.S. House of Representatives. At best, in these races, DSA knocked enough doors (but not close to most of the doors knocked), contributed enough money through our members (again, just a small fraction), and contributed enough public support to move a small percentage of voters, and only won as part of much larger coalitions. This is because the successful electoral strategies that have powered us to win in races for county, district, and city councils, as well as state legislative races, don’t scale to the size of congressional races. The number of doors we would need to knock, and calls we would need to make are impossible by ourselves, and we don’t have the money for television ads or mailers to hundreds of thousands of people.
DSA’s engagement with congressional races has also introduced a number of contradictions. Because we cannot be the largest part of a successful congressional campaign, our members in Congress don’t have to listen to DSA; the power dynamics are such that we have little input into how members of Congress behave. At the same time, our congressional members are the faces of the organization, which has led to a number of headaches when our members of Congress don’t vote with us on key issues like Palestine. Because of this, nationally and on the chapter level, we’ve chosen to move away from congressional races and focus on building up power locally, where we have the ability to build up governing blocs that deliver for working people and grow DSA as a party-like organization, as the first step in being able to contest for power nationally.
While electing a member to Congress gives DSA and the left one of maybe six or seven representatives out of 435, bound to be either voices of protest or buckle under the weight of their lack of power and forced to make compromises to have a voice, we have the power to elect accountable DSA cadre locally and actually govern. Our “bang for our buck,” so to speak, is vastly higher in local elections. The amount of work it takes to elect a member of Congress compared to the reward means it’s not a good use of our resources unless we have a real chance at powering a victory or building the chapter as a force. Our priorities: labor, tenant organizing, public utilities, and police and prison abolition are accomplished by winning locally. Our targets to accomplish the winnable goals of these campaigns are the Councils of the District of Columbia, of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and of the Legislatures of Maryland and Virginia.
Every campaign we undertake has an opportunity cost. The doors we knock on, the organizing and administrative work, and everything else we put into a congressional campaign are resources we can’t spend on our winnable priorities that build the chapter and materially improve the lives of workers in the DMV. Our time and energy is a precious resource. We don’t have money. We have been successful and built ourselves as one of the most powerful political organizations in the region by working hard and, most importantly, by working smart. We conserve our resources for winnable campaigns that will provide maximal results in terms of accomplishing our priorities, winning concrete gains, opening organizing space for workers, and growing the chapter’s main resource: people.
This campaign is, frankly, unlikely to win. Based on the strength of the incumbent, the gap in fundraising and endorsements, the history and demographics of the district, and more, this is an extremely uphill battle. One DSA cannot win unless major organizations like the labor unions of the region decide to switch sides.
In politics, the perception of power is power. When politicians, progressive organizations, unions, etc., view DSA as having power, they are going to respond by changing their calculus to reflect that power. Because Metro DC DSA is currently seen as an organization that can win nearly any election we target, hit officials with an avalanche of phone calls, bring media attention to issues, and far more, we are able to enact our politics in the world to a far greater degree. The perceived power of the chapter has allowed us to seriously affect the political environment: moving elected officials and candidates well to the left, pushing unions to take a more militant stance, landlords to change policies, etc. Maintaining this perception of power is a huge part of DSA’s strategy on a number of issues. It’s generally why we don’t do paper endorsements, don’t endorse long-shot candidates, don’t do actions without a clear achievable demand, and don’t partake in quixotic calls for general strikes or forcing the vote or similar. The threat of a primary is powerful, it gets people moving and extracts concessions. A failed primary demonstrates that there was never any reason to care what we wanted in the first place. Demonstrating weakness is one of the worst things we can possibly do.
We can’t get caught up in our own propaganda. Every one of these successes has come from forming massive coalitions of dozens of unions and membership organizations. DSA is the spearhead in this case, especially in terms of direct voter contact and coalition formation. But we can’t do it alone. We’re just a small organization. Taking on a campaign solo is a guaranteed loss. Having a good message isn’t enough. Even making a lot of calls isn’t enough!
And losing matters! It matters a lot! The more we lose, the less ability we have to threaten elected officials, flex power and push legislation, attract new members, and advance further radical demands. To put it simply: when DSA loses and marginalize ourselves, everyone else has the freedom to move right. When we say, “we want rent control. We want to defund the police,” we can credibly say: “and if you don’t do this, you will lose your job.” And when we lose, especially by a lot, and when we fracture coalitions that are more powerful together than apart, we can’t credibly say that, and we can’t credibly act as a force for working class power.
My last point is that we have had this debate a number of times before. A candidate who is a good comrade and advances good politics comes to us with a campaign we are unlikely to win. We debate whether it is strategic, and often the counterpoint is: “Even if this campaign is an uphill battle, it will build our membership capacity in the area.” In this case in Prince George’s County, which was also the case in the debates over McKayla Wilkes’ challenges to Hoyer in 2020 and 2022 (we endorsed the first time and not the second). The first time this happened was actually in DC in 2018, when the argument was that we had focused our electoral energy too much on the suburbs. The problem is: we know how this goes: this sort of electoral campaign has never succeeded in building branch capacity. Longer-term, non-electoral (or local electoral campaigns with a real chance of success) campaigns have done far more to build long-term infrastructure in our branches.
While I wish this campaign all the success in the world and will even donate to it, I will be respectfully voting No on endorsement and encourage others to do the same.