DSA Convention 2021: How the new NPC voted
A DSA Observer Analysis
A post about how our new NPC voted during the 2021 National Convention. For those of you who don’t know:
DSA’s primary political leadership is the National Political Committee (NPC), a sixteen-person body which functions as the board of directors of DSA and is elected every two years by the delegates to DSA’s National Convention.
The NPC also includes 2 YDSA Co-Chairs—who share one vote—elected annually at the YDSA Convention. The NPC Steering Committee (SC) is made up of five members plus the two YDSA Co-Chairs. The interim NPC SC is Jen M, Justin C, Gustavo G, Jenbo, Kristian H and, representing YDSA, Cyn H and Sarandon E.
The NPC is responsible for implementing DSA’s goals as voted on during the National Convention, overseeing staff, and guiding the organization’s political work. Basically, it is the NPC’s job to take everything voted on during the National Convention, allocate national resources, and set strategies to make it happen.
The NPC has a lot of discretion to do this. As we outlined here, DSA has limited resources compared to the priorities passed at convention. Not all of the priorities passed during the Convention are likely to get funding (as happened between the 2019 and 2021 conventions). This will be up to the NPC. And generally, history shows us that an NPC gets a lot more done in areas where they have consensus than ones that are highly contentious, and gets more done the more consensus there is among them. So, it is worthwhile to take a look and see how our new electeds voted during the Convention—to see if we can make any predictions for what the next two years may bring.
Data is based on delegate vote information that we have compiled. Missing from our data set are voting results from current NPC members: Jen M, Gilman B, and YDSA Co-Chair Sarandon E. These individuals were not delegates, thus, we have no data. However, based on what we do have, it is possible to discern some areas where the current NPC has broad agreement, where there may be differences of opinion regarding strategy and priorities, as well as outlier positions that may be worth keeping an eye on in the future.
You can find our sheet of NPC member Convention votes here.
On average, the NPC member delegates abstained on about six votes each, with the Motion to Reinstate Kara H to the NPC ballot as having the most abstentions (six). Justin C is the outlier with 17 abstentions; however, this can be accounted for by the fact that he chaired multiple sessions during the Convention.
On the question of DSA’s Internationalism, the NPC more or less mirrored the general membership. Current NPC members voted for Resolution 14 in roughly the same proportion as convention delegates overall. Bread & Roses members (Sofia G, Laura G, Gilman B) voted against Resolution 14—and were joined, notably, by José L, who broke from SMC voters overall in opposing the resolution. Gustavo G abstained on Resolution 14. All other members voted yes on Resolution 14. Resolution 18, which failed, also dealt with Internationalism, but instead of being more external facing was meant to address internal International Committee structures. On this resolution only two no votes were registered—Aaron W and Austin G. An amendment to the Internationalism section of the National Platform was also debated. Overall, it appears the current NPC is aligned with the wider membership on the issue of Internationalism—a continuation of the current anti-imperialist trajectory, oriented primarily towards mass parties in Latin America—with any structural issues related to the International Committee tabled for the time being.
Perhaps the most contentious issue, according to voting results, is the matter of grievance reform. Resolution 28, which creates a new Grievance Committee tasked with developing and refining the current grievance process, passed through the consent agenda. Additionally, the NPC’s Recommendations pertaining to grievances passed during debate after an Amendment to the Recommendations was defeated.
On grievances the current NPC is made up of 2 different camps. In one camp are the members who voted (1) for the NPC recommendations (generally, this requires stricter control regarding confidentiality), which passed, and (2) against Amendment 2 (generally, this would have undone the stricter confidentiality requirements in the NPC recommendations and allows a greater measure of chapter level autonomy regarding grievances), which did not pass. This camp is composed of Sofia C, Laura G, Sabrina C, José L, and Sydney G.
It may be a safe assumption to assume that Kristian H, Cyn H and Gilman B are also in this camp, though they did not vote, because their slatemates voted consistently along this line—essentially the SMC and B&R slates. On the other side of both the amendment and the NPC recommendations we see Austin G, Aaron W, Matt M and, co-author of Resolution 28, Kara H. We are also comfortable assigning Justin C (who did not vote on Resolution 28 or its proposed Amendment) to this camp as well—this determination is based on Emerge members universally voting for Amendment 2 and against the NPC recommendations. We are not comfortable assigning a Jenbo to either camp given her independent status—Jenbo voted in favor of the amendment but abstained from voting on the NPC recommendation. We also make no determination regarding Sarandon E and Jen M or the non-voting GND candidates, Ashik and Gustavo, as only one member of their slate voted on these.
On the matter of YDSA we more or less see a split that resembles the split on Internationalism. In one of the more surprising upsets of the convention, Resolution 32 was successfully pulled from the consent agenda and then voted down on the floor. The Bread & Roses NPC members found themselves on the losing side of the debate— this time joined by Matt M. Of the NPC members who were delegates, only Jenbo abstained from the vote on Resolution 32—however she did vote No on removing Resolution 32 from the consent agenda. The argument against Resolution 32, which appears to have been effective, was that it was disproportionately costly—which leads us to the next set of resolutions.
Resolution 29, NPC SC stipends—along with Resolution 30,matching funds for staff and office space—both authored by Bread & Roses, were approved by the Convention. Resolution 29 saw only the SMC slate vote against the resolution, with Kara H, Aaron W, Sydney G, Justin C, Laura G, and Cyn H abstaining. Resolution 30 saw the SMC slate joining the majority, with Austin G, Kara H, Aaron W and Sydney G voting in the minority against the measure; Ashik S and Cyn H abstained. As these resolutions are mostly concerned with financial matters, rather than political strategy, it will be interesting to see if and how these resolutions are implemented by the NPC given the organization faces serious budget concerns.
There appears to be little consensus within the NPC on the orientation of the Immigrants’ Rights Working Group. While Resolution 1, authored by IRWG Steering Committee members, did pass—the NPC largely abstained on the matter with 6 abstaining, while 5 voted no and 4 voted yes, without any identifiable caucus lines. Short of self-organization within the IRWG, we are unlikely to see much change within this national body.
There was one other vote related to immigrants’ rights—a motion to place Resolution 19 on the agenda (it did not score high enough in the pre-Convention straw poll to make the Consent or Debate agendas). This resolution, authored by Class Unity members, would have set “Amnesty for All” as the core demand of the organization’s immigrants’ rights related work, as well as setting terms related to non-profit coalitions, funding and their employment of DSA members. This motion failed and the NPC sided with the majority—only Matt M voted in favor of having Resolution 19 placed on the agenda.
While very little attention was paid towards tenant organizing within the NPC race, we will note here that Resolution 20—a Communist Caucus authored resolution regarding the orientation and structure of the Housing Justice Commission—was voted down by the convention, with the SMC, GND and Bread & Roses NPC slates siding with the convention majority. Jenbo and Cyn H did not vote on this resolution and the others voted Yes as part of the organizational minority.
Childcare for All
This dynamic was more or less replicated regarding Resolution 23, which was approved by the convention and supports the creation of a Childcare for All campaign and $75,000 grant fund (added through an amendment) administered through the National Electoral Committee. The SMC and GND slates voted against the proposal (Kristian H did not vote) with Sofia C joining them, while Austin G, Aaron W and Matt M voted Yes. Jenbo, Justin C, Kara H, Cyn H, and Laura G abstained from this vote. Given NPC support for this resolution is apparently in the minority, it will be interesting to see how this campaign is prioritized, implemented and supported.
The only resolution that received consensus support—setting aside abstentions, and excluding the consent agenda and any motions passed through the modified unanimous consent process—was Resolution 8, the National Electoral Committee “unity” proposal. Amendment 5 to Resolution 8, authored by Bread & Roses members but not formally endorsed by the caucus, would have inserted language committing to a Dirty Break. Despite being rejected by the convention this amendment found a plurality of support from the current NPC—with Aaron W, Matt M and Jenbo joining the Bread & Roses slate in support of the amendment. Kara H, Gustavo G, Austin G, Sabrina C and Kristian H opposed the amendment and the rest abstained.
Amendment 6 to Resolution 8, authored by Reform & Revolution, also failed during the Convention and saw slightly less support, with Sofia C notably being the only NPC member to vote for one amendment to Resolution 8 but not the other—abstentions notwithstanding. It was of less consequence, but would have supported the Dirty Break strategy in messaging.
Resolution 38—authored by members of Tempest—also proposed an orientation hewing closer to a Dirty Break. This resolution also did not pass and was less popular among NPC members—with only Jenbo, Matt M and Aaron W voting in the affirmative. Amendment 14 to Resolution 38—offered up by Socialist Alternative to further advance towards a break with the Democratic Party/Ballot Line—was only supported by Jenbo.
Regarding the voting method used for electing the current NPC—the SMC and GND slates voted against STV and thus, in favor of Borda. Voting in favor of STV were the Bread & Roses slate (Bread & Roses delegates overall were somewhat split on this question within their caucus—roughly ⅓ voting yes and ⅔ voting no), Renewal slate members Austin G and Kara H, and independents Matt M and Jenbo. Abstaining from this vote were Sabrina C, Aaron W, Justin C and Cyn H. This voting line seems to align with which voting method would favor each slate’s NPC chances. CB 7 failed, but would have mandated STV in all leadership elections in the organization. This vote fell more or less along the same lines, but with the Bread & Roses slate now voting against the use of STV.
Unlike in years past—when conventions featured competing labor resolutions—this year’s delegates were tasked with debating just one resolution on labor, Resolution 5—and one amendment. Amendment 2 to Resolution 5 is a Socialist Alternative-authored amendment, which called for an antagonistic stance towards most trade union leadership. This amendment was roundly defeated by convention delegates and NPC members agreed—only Matt M voted for this amendment and Cyn H was the only abstention recorded. Resolution 5 passed through Unanimous Consent and thus, we have no further data related to labor regarding delegate or NPC voting patterns.
The remaining item of note is the vote on adopting the National Platform—a new aspect of DSA’s political organization and strategy. The platform was approved by all NPC members except for Gustavo G, Laura G and Cyn H—Sofia C abstained with independent Jenbo joining her in abstaining.
Comparing NPC votes to overall delegate votes reveals an NPC that is mostly aligned with the general membership. Of the motions we have data on, no NPC member voted more often than not against convention delegates. Every NPC member who voted (Austin and Kara abstained) for the Consent Agenda voted for it, which means there is wide support for the Consent Agenda as finally passed (with the YDSA resolution removed).
With abstentions/non-votes removed we discover a stark divide between the NPC and delegates on Resolution 23, Childcare for All. This resolution was passed by the convention, with 73.61% of delegates voting in favor. However, NPC members voted against this resolution—just 33.3% voted in favor. The NPC also diverged from delegates regarding Amendment 5 to Resolution 8. While this resolution failed after receiving 43.26% of the vote, the NPC voted in favor, 54.55%. Finally, Resolution 1 saw the NPC and delegates on opposite ends of the debate, with delegates voting in favor, 55.07%, and the NPC voting in favor at 44.44%.
Finally, it is worth noting that the NPC has more to implement than just the resolutions that were debated on the convention floor. A number of resolutions passed through the Consent Agenda, most notably resolutions calling for the creation of two new committees, one to advance the cause of reparations for Black people and another to support a mass campaign for voting rights. These resolutions, and the rest of the Consent Agenda, will also require the NPC to consider how to implement and prioritize them.