Advantages of the Sanders Candidacy: Lessons from the Philadelphia Local 

Dustin Guastella (right) at DSA's National Convention. (Photo credit: Reid Jenkins)

These are remarks that Dustin Guastella, an active member of Philadelphia DSA and Design Coordinator for DSA’s We Need Bernie campaign, gave during a plenary at DSA’s recent convention in Bolivar, Pa., Nov. 13-15. -- Ed.

By Dustin Guastella

Historically socialists have played a major role in the development and advancement of progressive movements in the United States. However, we are often not given much credit for the heavy lifting we do. With Sanders we have a tremendous opportunity not only to raise the red flag but to be on the forefront of a new movement for radical transformation. We need to be out in the streets, in our classrooms and in our workplaces putting forward a clear ideological vision and providing an organizational home for many of the newly radicalized Sanders supporters who are now more than ever ready to join the socialist movement.

In Philly we have spent much of our time tabling, and have run a social media campaign, hosted reading groups, socialist happy hours and debate watch parties -- but what's important is that we have done all of this as DSA and actively and consciously promote our socialist identity. 

We won't be able to make use of this opportunity without a consistent plan to make it happen. The range of actions described in this talk provide an action plan to do so.


Tabling is one of the most important activities any local can do on a regular basis to build visibility in their community. In Philly we have stuck to a regular tabling schedule in various neighborhoods throughout the city. For our table we have used the resources made available by the national #WeNeedBernie committee. We have alternately used the Vote Socialist sign, a large laminated version of the “Sanders for Socialists” sign (both available on the website and in our We Need Bernie public google folder), and a hand painted “Vote Bernie” table cloth to attract people. It is important that people can see what you are tabling for from at least 5 yards away. We stock the table with issues of DL and all the leaflets provided by the WeNeedBernie committee and we try our best to be heard and seen.

Social Media

The Philadelphia local has developed a tweet-sheet campaign with the help of one of our current co-chairs Natalie Midiri. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this approach, twitter is a social media platform built around sharing short text posts and pictures. Of course, to do a campaign like this you need to have a twitter account for your local.

Whenever we have gone tabling or leafletting we bring with us a stack of what we call tweet-sheets and a big sharpie marker. The tweet sheets say “We Need Bernie Because” and a large space for people to fill in their own reasons why they support the Bernie campaign. They also have DSA website and twitter information on the bottom. After a supporter fills out the sheet they hold it on their chest and we snap a pic and share it on twitter.

This helps us develop original content with real supporters to fuel the online visibility for our local and for DSA in general. It shows people interested in the Bernie campaign that we are out organizing and developing a strong independent campaign

Reading Groups

Locals should develop a Sanders complementary reading/discussion series aimed toward attracting Sanders supporters. The reading series we developed in Philly mirrors Sanders campaign platform and supplements all of his major policy positions with relevant democratic socialist theory and analysis. Again the goal here is for Sanders supporters to see DSA as an independent political organization that shares their vision of a society beyond capitalism.

Social Events

Finally, our chapter has also hosted regular Beers for Bernie social events where we invite Bernie supporters to come and chat casually about democratic socialism and Bernie’s campaign. The goal was to establish a low-pressure social meeting for activists and organizers that support Bernie to learn more through casual conversations with DSAers.

In our city there are hundreds of active Bernie organizers, canvassers and supporters and we want them to see DSA as their political home. All of our work is done to that effect. We engage with the major grassroots for Bernie group in our city and share our contacts where applicable, but our approach has been to broaden our visibility among young and enthusiastic Sanders supporters. If we can show our politics and our vision to as many of the grassroots for Sanders supporters as possible we can get many of them to see DSA as their long term home. Visibility is key; today more young people (and more people in general) are open to socialism but they won’t become socialists if they don’t know who we are.

This is our moment - if we can be visible and proud socialists we can grow our organization and our movement.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Dustin Guastella is an active member of Philadelphia DSA and is the Design Coordinator for DSA’s #WeNeedBernie campaign.

Paid for by Democratic Socialists of America. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


Showing 1 reaction

commented 2015-12-28 14:28:34 -0500 · Flag
This is fine, but one-sided. It’s true we need a ‘socialist home’ for a militant minority of Bernie supporters. But most Bernie voters will not be socialists, and they need a ‘home’ too. Such as Progressive Democrats of America or the Working Families Party. We also need to help organize these.

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