Dr. Amara Enyia is seeking the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America’s endorsement for mayor. So far she has advanced through each stage of endorsement consideration and Chicago DSA members should most definitely vote to endorse her as a Mayor who will institutionalize the advance of democratic socialism.
1) Amara Enyia holds every position that the Chicago DSA EWG wants a candidate to have, based upon the priorities assembled from all working groups. No other candidate running is even interested in our platform or endorsement.
2) Her platform includes even more progressive policies than we requested that will advance the democratic socialist cause, which cannot be said of any other mayoral candidate.
3) Her endorsement ask is well within our capacity to deliver, and has the bonus of fostering sympathetic in-roads within the exact communities where our chapter is absent.
I. ALL THAT WE ASKED FOR
Enyia has affirmed that she would engage with our chapter’s endorsed candidates to act as a Socialist slate:
- Be opposed to the innate exploitation of capitalism
- Be identified and function as part of a Socialist slate
- Foster co-governance
- Be opposed to the privatization of public resources
- Will use her office to protect workers who seize control of their workplaces
For a previous Midwest Socialist anti-endorsement article to claim that she is “anti-socialist” is plainly false, as is that article’s categorization of another candidate, Jeanette Taylor, who was described as “socialist but not a DSA member.” Taylor is not a socialist, stated as much in her interview with the Chicago DSA Electoral Working Group, and said that she wasn’t about adopting labels in order to earn approval. She wanted to be recognized for her platform and activism history, which the anti-endorsement author was apparently satisfied by. Would the author now revoke his approval of Taylor despite her works and platform being unchanged? Would DSA advise that we judge these black, activist women not on the content of their character but instead on whether their culture’s naming convention meets an external norm imposed by a majority white organization?
Should all of the leftists, communalists, post-capitalists, libertarian socialists, anarchists, and others who haven’t had the time, privilege, or access to study Marx and label accordingly be denied shelter under DSA’s big tent? Maybe the anti-endorsement author was unaware that Communalism enjoys a prominent legacy as a historic predecessor to Libertarian Socialism, Democratic Socialism, and multiple varieties of African Socialism. To correct this, he could familiarize himself with the works of Janet Biehl, Murray Bookchin, the indigenous tradition of Zapatismo, Black Jacobonites (whom a slew of DSA members happily publish under a platform named for), and many communities across the globe practicing egalitarian, intersectional decision-making that Marx himself recognized for its democratic ownership of economic means. Yet today we should all agree that requiring practitioners of transgenerational Communalism refer to their position by Marxist terms such as “Primitive Communism” is an unnecessarily colonialist and racist aspersion with no place in the 21st century. Chicago DSA need not repeat the mistake. Certainly, DSA National anticipated that some may be prone to this unnecessary and self-defeating divisiveness so they provided a list of reasons meant to encourage local chapters’ into more warmly welcoming and endorsing on-point candidates who may not primarily self-identify as “socialist,” concluding:
“DSA chapters may also choose to support progressive, anti-corporate candidates who do not openly identify themselves as socialists”
Additionally, Chicago DSA’s Electoral Working Group defined the following priorities as intermediary steps that they wanted Enyia to sign on to as their vision for transitioning Chicago into democratic socialism, and she confirmed she would support the following requests in our questionnaire:
- An elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC)
- The immediate end of deportations
- Amnesty for all undocumented immigrants
- BDS movement and divestment from fossil fuel companies
- 100% clean energy for the City of Chicago 2030
- Universal housing, clean water, and health care as a human right
- Decriminalizing sex work
- Releasing prisoners currently incarcerated for sex work and drug offenses
- Full protection against gender and identity discrimination
- A shorter work week without reduction of pay
- An end to cash bail
- A $15 minimum wage
- Creating a public bank
- Free public broadband
- Election Day as a public holiday
- Black Lives Matter
- Electoral reform such as ranked choice voting and proportional representation at all levels of government
- Paid leave and job protection for pregnant and new parents
- Cracking down on Uber and other exploitative “independent contractor” employers
- Free tuition at public colleges and universities including trade schools, technical, and vocational post-secondary education
- Mandatory patient-to-staff ratios for nurses in Cook County hospitals
- Ceasing the practice of abusing TIF funds
The anti-endorsement article seems to suggest that on top of Amara’s self-identification with a differently named radical leftist tradition, her donated time and labor aiding worker cooperatives and solidarity economics through workshops and skillshares at the Institute for Cooperative Economics and Economic Innovation, which she founded, does not qualify as community organizing or activism. The anti-endorsement author seems to believe that only how she earned monetary livelihood within a capitalist system defines her suitability for endorsement. As many of us know, our day job or paid gigs do not necessarily define our vision of how to build power. This arbitrary criteria could have prevented the DSA’s most prominent office holder, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from ever receiving DSA endorsement when her campaign followed her job as a bartender. Enyia similarly has the lived experience of the working class and not as a high-powered corporate consultant as insinuated. In addition to being inconsistent, reasoning that one’s paid work completely defines their character is not our organization’s message, and should not define who is eligible to join us in the work of advancing democratic socialism.
II. MORE THAN WE DREAMED
Enyia’s authentic vision and push to bolster democratic socialism is further revealed in her self-generated platform, which goes beyond what DSA’s Electoral Working Group has requested of any candidate. She created her own additional platform planks that will advance our cause:
- Making Chicago the #1 city for the establishment of cooperative economic models
- People’s Budgets (participatory budgeting)
- Institutionalizing People’s Assemblies into co-governing bodies.
- Re-municipalization of previously privatized resources
- An elected rather than appointed school board
- Creating an Office of Equity within CPS
- Community Benefits Agreements
- Ban the Boot
- Restorative justice restitution for the sex workers and drug offenders who have been incarcerated
- Clean energy jobs bill
- Ending food deserts
- Abating public health hazards like lead and manganese exposure
- Restoring mental health and behavioral health services and institutions
- Increasing support and power of LSCs (local school councils)
- Ending corporate tax loopholes and strengthening clawback provisions
- Strengthening the Inspector General’s office with expanded oversight power
- Increasing the practice of live streaming cabinet meetings as well as public meetings for the sake of transparency
- Bolstering land trusts
- Creating an Office of Public Advocate
These policies advanced by Enyia further defy the neoliberal caricature of the anti-endorsement author’s imagination, shining light on a vision for municipal co-governance rarely seen in Chicago politics. Her years of activist work in the city further showcases her exceptional commitment to our communities, whether it has been helping children who face violence, co-authoring foundational pieces such as Chicago Is Not Broke, or removing barriers of access to cooperative economics.
And at present, this platform would enrich our city so much more than our chapter had even thought to hope for in a candidate, and it must see the light of day. Moreover, proliferating these ideas and policy planks across DSA chapters through the exposure an endorsement provides will ensure our organization does indeed gain a substantial amount from an endorsement in a high-profile race. Dr. Enyia’s work is nationally recognized in the cooperative economy movement; merging efforts to subvert capitalism in favor of worker ownership and self-determination is a strong gain for DSA to grow our membership and reach across communities with tangible models of local control that can be picked up by other chapters.
III. BECAUSE WE CAN
DSA National outlined 3 tiers of endorsement in their consideration to offer local candidates. Despite preference for Tier 1, utilizing the other two tiers and DSA National’s encouragement that locals adapt to the situation on the ground enables us to solve our chapter’s unique quandary of Chicago’s vast geography where we do not have a linked membership.
“Rather than requiring locals to conform to a predetermined top-down set of mandates, the national electoral strategy should be to let one hundred flowers bloom.”
“The National Electoral Committee of the NPC will propose endorsements to the NPC in the 2018 elections. These endorsements will be tiered as follows:
- Tier 1 – we would provide the extensive support that the candidate requests.
- Tier 2 – we would provide more limited support such as social media promotion.
- Tier 3 – candidates could use the DSA name on their literature and website but
no other support would be made available.”
Enyia’s endorsement request does not require the extensive support of Tier 1 that the anti-endorsement article solely focuses upon, claiming that we don’t have capacity for. The social media blasts of Tier 2 or the simple public affirmation of Tier 3 are well within our capacity to deliver and, again, nothing more has been requested of us. In exchange, Enyia’s pre-existing base of campaign volunteers could be spreading awareness of the DSA in all 50 wards and talking to folks on the ground in support of these issues.
Finally, the longer we insist on already having DSA members in a neighborhood before accepting invitation to causes therein, the longer we sequester ourselves in just the neighborhoods where we already exist. We do not find this to be a thoughtful, inclusive plan to expand and diversify our membership, and feel we will run the risk of burning out our already active organizing members without an influx of helping hands who can help spread the word about our existing issue campaigns. Amara’s knock-on-every-door strategy has mobilized historically disenfranchised communities and precisely the people we would want to champion our issues. Offering Tier 2 or Tier 3 support to Amara’s campaign will build sympathetic in-roads to communities we are woefully absent from.
CONCLUSION: VOTE YES TO CDSA ENDORSEMENT OF AMARA ENYIA FOR MAYOR
Picking a purity fight with an African leftist’s labeling convention or the working class’s available livelihood options does not represent the intersectional space DSA is committed to providing as we build a mass socialist movement for racial equity, class unity, and social justice for all.
The reasons for Chicago DSA to vote in support of Enyia are overwhelming. She has been actively organizing alongside us in the community and has been on the right side of every issue since before most of us were DSA members. Her staunch advocacy both includes and exceeds the aims we determined as optimal for a candidate to accomplish democratic socialist goals in this election. We as a chapter can fulfill her request, and doing so will begin to build the city-wide bridges our chapter has long desired with sympathetic, passionate enthusiasts of our full platform and more.
Procedural note for members outside of the CDSA Electoral Working Group: The EWG utilizes the endorsement process voted in by membership when reviewing candidates. Per that process, the EWG held an exhaustive discussion of merit and questions about this candidate, the EWG voted on whether to recommend the candidate to the Executive Committee, and the EWG aggregated two position papers representing the best arguments for and against endorsement. The EC then voted to advance the candidate’s endorsement to the final stage, a chapter-wide vote.