Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America
In August 2017 the Executive of Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America consisted of...
- Devin Howard - Chair
- Taylor Cifuentez - Vice chair
- Benjamin Fong - Secretary
- Trevor Keeley - Treasurer
On a Saturday circa October 2017, several dozen people filed into a dimly lit Phoenix union hall with a scuffed floor. A few wore red shirts decorated with a rose emblem and a slogan: "Solidarity in the Southwest." Most were in their 20s and 30s. They picked up clipboards on their way to a folding chair.
Andrew Hudson, 30, wore a pin with the logo of the Phoenix chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a pair of clasped hands and a rose over the red-and-yellow stripes of the Arizona state flag. The group's central topic: How to encourage others to join the fastest-growing socialist organization in the U.S.
"Someone once told me that the most dangerous question in left-wing organizing is, 'Are you coming to the next meeting?'" he told the group.
"We really will not win single-payer unless these people come and canvass with us," he told the chapter members. "We’re not selling them some bunch of nonsense. This is actually the only way to do it."
The Phoenix DSA was preparing to knock on doors in Tempe as part of DSA's nationwide push for the Medicare for All Act, a single-payer health care bill in Congress.
Hudson, 30, is a graduate student at Arizona State University and has previously volunteered with California’s East Bay chapter of DSA. He said that unlike knocking on doors to shill for a particular candidate — DSA is a political action group, not a political party — a push for single-payer health care is different. It requires listening to people and hearing their health care struggles; more often than not, he said, canvassers can relate.
Phoenix’s DSA chapter was officially recognized in July. The group has a core group of 40-50 members who attend weekly meetings. Chapter members quip and promote their latest work on Twitter — many are self-professed Twitter addicts — and spot fellow comrades by the rose emoji in their handle. They also have a "beer not bombs" homebrew working group.
In total, there are 109 card-carrying DSA members in metro Phoenix, according to the Phoenix DSA chair Devin Howard.
One of the DSA members at the canvass training was LaDawn Stuben, a 39-year-old professional pastry chef running as a Democrat for the Arizona House of Representatives. She's running in the 18th district, which encompasses west Chandler and parts of Tempe and Mesa.
"It's a solidly purple, if not leaning-blue district, I believe," she told Phoenix New Times.
Stuben is the legislative action director for the Phoenix DSA. She's also a pastry chef at Liberty Market and owns a small business selling pastries at the Chandler farmers market.
Stuben has never run for office before, but got inspired this summer after hearing Sanders speak at the People's Summit, a progressive political convention held in Chicago. During his speech, the country's most prominent democratic socialist asked everyone who was willing to run for local office to stand up. People rose to their feet in response, and Stuben, surprising herself, stood up, too.
"All of us are new to this, which I think is really inspiring," said Devin Howard, the chair of the Phoenix DSA chapter.
Howard, 26, is a lifelong Phoenix resident and a biology student at ASU. In a common story among Phoenix DSA members, Howard was motivated to join DSA after the 2016 election: a one-two punch of watching their preferred candidate lose the Democratic primary while an unthinkable figure won the White House.
"I was a big fan of Bernie Sanders and was devastated by his loss, and felt even more compelled to do something after Trump was elected," she said.
At the time, there was no DSA chapter in Arizona. Although she had never done any political organizing, Howard got tired of waiting for the surge of national interest in DSA to reach the Valley.
"I tried to wait until there would be a Phoenix chapter started, and nothing happened," Howard said.
Taking matters into their own hands, Howard and several other Phoenix residents banded together in February to discuss organizing a chapter. After receiving the official nod from the national DSA in July, they've watched Young DSA chapters crop up at ASU and the University of Arizona, and even at several local high schools.
One of the other people who co-founded the chapter is 42-year-old Jake Bell. Like Stuben, he’s a first-time political candidate — Bell is running for the Arizona Corporation Commission as a Democrat.
"In some ways, it was almost funny," Bell told New Times. "'A socialist running for Corporation Commission!'"
"But maybe that’s where the socialists should be," he added. "If our job is to try to strike a balance and represent people against the corporations, then a socialist is who you want in there."
In a question that often bedevils democratic socialists, Bell wasn’t sure which party banner to claim. He initially planned on running as a Green Party USA candidate, but instead registered as a Democrat because of the party apparatus — several thousand signatures are required to get on the ballot.
"The first time the Democratic Party contacted me after I filed paperwork, it felt like I was being called into the principal’s office. I thought I was in trouble," Bell said. Much to his surprise, Bell said that party officials were impressed with his resume and offered to help.
Bell was probably wise to prepare for the worst. Although it's more subdued than the GOP, with some of the party's most prominent figures disavowing or breaking from Trump every single week, internecine battles stemming from the 2016 Democratic primary are ongoing.
Since the election, the chairman of the Maricopa County Democratic Party has talked of being a "big tent" party. Nevertheless, left-leaning Democrats still feel burned from the way the primary ended, with establishment favorite and decidedly centrist candidate Hillary Clinton winning the nomination.
DSA members also can't stand certain Democrats in Arizona, such as Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who seems to be charting a path to the Senate with the most centrist, non-ideological campaign possible. When Sinema's name came up at the DSA canvass training, a few attendees let out audible sighs of frustration.
"There have been a few LD meetings where I bring up Democratic Socialists of America — people kind of roll their eyes, or whatever," Bell said. "But for the most part, I get much more positive reactions from people."
He's tried to forge common ground, finding it even with libertarians and others on the right. Committed capitalists often agree with Bell, he said, when they talk about how industries can dictate much of American life.
Bell is also campaigning on making Arizona a renewable-energy leader and has positioned himself against the corruption scandals that have dogged the Corporation Commission. He cited a recent poll that showed Arizonans are widely convinced that commissioners, who regulate utilities, are influenced by campaign contributions from utilities they are supposedly overseeing.
"Campaigning against the corruption is almost inherent," he said. "You don’t really have to bring it up."
On Saturday, Phoenix DSA members grabbed clipboards and bottles of water before knocking on single-family homes in a Tempe neighborhood populated by many ASU employees. Chapter leaders said this turf would be an ideal starting place for their single-payer canvassing efforts.
Gilbert Romero, a 25-year-old DSA member from Peoria, knocked on his first door of the day with a canvassing partner.
Adam, a youngish bearded man with his two kids and mom at home, answered the door. The movie Pitch Perfect was on TV in the background.
Romero said that they were out canvassing for a Medicare for All system. When the recession hit, Romero's stepdad lost his job, he explained. Every cent that was taken out of his mom’s paychecks for their employer-sponsored plan hurt. "As a group, we think that the government should be able to pay our health insurance," Romero said. "It doesn’t seem fair."
"I agree, but that’s the world we live in, you know," Adam said. He had money taken out of his paycheck for health care, too, but it didn’t bother him.
Phoenix DSA vice-chair Taylor Cifuentez, 23, was leading Romero’s group of canvassers on Saturday. From her point of view, DSA can succeed by working alongside other Arizona activist groups to address capitalism as "the third branch of oppression," along with systemic issues of race and patriarchy.
Cifuentez explained that people may not realize it, but "capitalism is ingrained in their life in a way that’s making it really hard for them," particularly in the health care arena.
A turning point for Cifuentez’s path to the DSA leadership came after August’s white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. She realized that working to make the politics of the left a reality was not necessarily going to be safe or easy, and got choked up as she recalled the moment.
"Charlottesville really brought it back to me that I’m engaging in a different kind of political action now: a non-liberal political action, a more fringe political action," Cifuentez said. "And that inherently does put my life in danger."
In the aftermath of the far-right rally, what lifted her resolve was a meeting with other DSA members, many of whom she didn’t know prior to joining the Phoenix chapter. "For them to be willing to take that risk also makes it easier for me to take that risk," she said.
The Phoenix chapter is going to keep canvassing in the coming weeks and months, along with their regular meetings. Medicare-For-All is DSA’s national priority right now, according to Howard. But the Phoenix socialists are also trying to make progress where they can on other fronts.
"We’re also trying to strengthen the labor movement, create more unions. The push for free college tuition is a big one, especially among YDSA chapters — anything that can put more power in the hands of the people," Howard said.
"The long-term goal is socialism," she added. "And we think we can do it."
July 2017 Protesters opposed to a health care bill in the U.S. Senate were arrested at Sen. Jeff Flake's Phoenix and Tucson offices.
Police were on scene monitoring the assembly when the complex's property manager asked that the group be removed. While most of the group complied, several refused to leave, Howard said.
Just after 11:30 a.m., four women and one man were taken into custody for trespassing after they repeatedly refused to leave the private property. Howard said despite the arrests, everyone at the demonstration remained peaceful.
Pima County Sheriff's deputies say two men were also arrested for trespassing at Flake's Tucson office. One reportedly made a comment about last month's shooting that critically wounded Rep. Steve Scalise that a Flake staffer perceived as a threat. That man was also booked on a threat charge.
DSA Phoenix Strikes With AT&T Mobility Workers
DSA Phoenix Strikes With AT&T Mobility Workers Hosted by Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America
Friday, May 19 at 12 PM - 8 PM MST
2002 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016-4711, United States.
Invited on Facebook
- Voltairine de Cleyre
- Ben Cooper
- Cyrus Coron
- Laura Hudson
- Isa ONeal
- Arditi del Popolo
- Chris Fleischman
- Ileana Delgado
Phoenix/Tempe Democratic Socialists of America
In 2001 two new DSA locals emerged, in Oregon and Arizona.
DSA activists in Phoenix, AZ have been largely responsible for many policy changes at Arizona State University and have also been instrumental in organizing with local politicians for the preservation of sacred Native American burial ground.
In 2002, according to Fabricio Rodriguez, Phoenix/Tempe DSA will hold a socialist theory discussion group headed by Justin Wilford. The local is also working with the UFW on the Pictsweet campaign.
- New Times, Arizona's Democratic Socialists Inspired by Bernie Sanders Seek Political Left TurnJOSEPH FLAHERTY | OCTOBER 25, 2017
- Democratic Left • Fall-Winter 2001
- Democratic Left • Fall-Winter 2001
- http://www.dsausa.org/dl/Summer_2002.pdf Democratic Left • Summer 2002]