DSA "Berniecrat" Runs for State Senate

 Debbie_Medina.jpg 

Candidate Debbie Medina talks with Jason Schulman

Brooklyn DSA member Debbie Medina is challenging New York State incumbent Democrat Martin Dilan in the 18th N.Y. senatorial district. Medina is out to “bring the political revolution to Brooklyn.” This interview with her was conducted via email in early May.

JS:What led you to decide to run for State Senate?

DM: Our movements around rent and education have been repeatedly frustrated by a regressive state legislature. I decided to challenge a business-backed Democrat because I believe that these fights are essential for taking power, passing urgently needed reforms, and building our movement.

JS:When and why did you determine that you were a democratic socialist?

DM: I come from a community with a deep tradition of socialism, going back to the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and for my adult life I have identified as a socialist.

JS:Why run for office openly as a socialist? And what does it mean to you to be a socialist?

DM: The essence of socialism, to me, is community control. It comes back to the community’s ability to define its own destiny. To me, socialism is about expanding that community control until our government, our housing, and our land are truly socialized.

Bernie opened the door for running as a socialist. I think it marks me clearly as an ally to those who oppose capitalism and the damage it causes to our communities. I think it helps to unite a coalition behind me, and I am proud to wear the label.

JS:Socialists often argue among ourselves whether to run for office as Democrats or Greens or Independents. Why are you challenging Martin Dilan in the Democratic primary? 

DM: Typically, in a presidential election year, about 10,000 people will vote in a State Senate Democratic primary in the 18th district and 70,000 will vote in the general election. We can look back at 2012 to see what happens here: over 90% of those general election voters have no idea who the local candidates are. They are showing up to vote for president and voting for Democrats all the way down the ballot.

This means that I have 60,000 voters who were totally unreachable during the primary. To run as an independent, I would have to make the case that I could somehow reach this huge chunk of people despite a significant lack of resources. I hope this reality changes, but right now, it is a reality. I would be turning a winnable campaign into a borderline impossible one if I abandoned the Democratic primary.

I’m not here to waste everyone’s time. I’m here to win an election, and in this case it is clear that the way to do that is via a Democratic primary. This is very different from a Council race. When the general election does not fall on the same day as a larger election, it is far easier to win outside of the Democratic Party, although still quite hard.

JS:What do you hope you can achieve if you win the general election?

DM:Much like Kshama Sawant [openly socialist City Council member] in Seattle, I can use the resources of a state senator to strengthen organizing in the community. Through publicized hearings and a dedicated staff, I can provide venues around key, strategic issues (such as rent stabilization/rent control) where activists in the community can unite, recruit, and grow their ranks. The elevation of the most radical, achievable movement demands is an important goal of mine.

In the short term, I think that some of these goals are winnable. Strong and expanded rent control and rent stabilization can certainly be achieved this cycle. Finally, a win for me would pave the way for similar victories across the state—which is what we need if we’re going to achieve much of anything.

Jason Schulman is active in New York City DSA, serves on the editorial board of Democratic Left, and is co-editor of New Politics. He is the author of Neoliberal Labour Governments and the Union Response (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

This article originally appeared in the summer 2016 (early June) issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

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.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 55 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 52 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.