BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Some of us were delegates, some of us were alternates, and some of us were “volunteers.” Some of the alternates got upgraded to delegate. Some of us were officers in the newly formed political committee – the Democratic Socialist Caucus. (No official connection to the DFL, because we’re not “recognized” by them, but nevertheless, we organize only within the DFL.) Some of us were wearing multiple hats.
I was wearing multiple hats. I am the Communications Officer for the DSC, and I was also an DFL alternate from Senate District 63, but I didn’t expect to get upgraded, and wasn’t. I was mainly there to work for and boost the DSC, to cover the convention as a citizen journalist and, of course, to party.
DSC hosted a wonderful party Friday night at the Rochester Art Center, a small event space that is adjacent to the Mayo Convention Center, where the DFL convention was held. (The Republicans held their convention in the same space the previous weekend. Needless to say, it was a very different scene.) Our party was called Socializing with Socialists.
The party was in an open house format, with a cash bar, buffet-style foods, and soft background music that included some dance music. (There were occasional outbreaks of dancing.) Mostly it was a way for democratic socialists and socialism-curious people from all over the state to meet up and talk. Over the several hours of the party, about 100 people in all came by for varying periods of time. Lots of new connections were made and quite a few new members signed up. I’m not that sociable, but I met a dozen new people, and met another six or seven that I knew from Zoom or social media but had not yet met in person.
The main gathering spot for the DSC over the three days was our table, which we shared with the DFL Disability Caucus. The table was beautifully decorated with buckets of red carnations which we gave away to anyone who would take one, and lots of literature produced by the volunteers in the week before the convention. I spent a few hours Friday and a few hours Saturday staffing the table.
On Saturday, we had a general membership meeting of the DSC in hybrid mode, with about 25 people in a convention center meeting room, and five or six joining in on Zoom. The DSC chair, Sam Doten, gave a thorough update of what we had been up to since our founding over a year ago. Some of this was covered in the January Southside Pride piece, “Democratic Socialists in the DFL” ( southsidepride.com/2022/01/03/democratic-socialists-in-the-dfl-the-story-so-far).
Most of the rest of the meeting comprised a brainstorming session of what we would do with our new structure and our growing base. Since we still want to eventually become a community caucus recognized by the DFL, and since the whole reason we exist is because there are loads of democratic socialists already in the DFL (some of them don’t realize that’s what they are!) and we want to give ourselves and them a way to organize toward socialism inside the DFL, most of our ideas and plans are ways to demystify, detoxify and illustrate the values of “socialism.” So members are committed to working hard and well at all levels of the party, as local officers, as rank-and-file campaigners and leaders of campaigns, as members of planning committees, attendees at caucuses, delegates to conventions and volunteers at the polls.
We also plan to support DFL candidates who align with our values, to collaborate with DFL caucuses that share our values, and to do some education. Some of our members and potential members are seasoned DFLers new to democratic socialism. So we’ll have educational materials and teach-ins on democratic socialism. Some, on the other hand, are democratic socialists who are new to the DFL. So we’ll also have teach-ins on the structure and culture of the DFL. Personally, I’m all about political education, so I can’t wait to get involved in this.
Another interesting thing happened at the Saturday meeting. Unite HERE, the union representing hotel workers and restaurant workers, was holding a solidarity rally and press conference on the plaza outside the convention center for striking workers from the Kahler Group of hotels in Rochester. The event fell right in the middle of our meeting time. So at 3 p.m. we recessed the meeting for a while, and those attending in person all went out to the plaza, grabbed a poster or the corner of a banner, and participated in a wonderful labor action along with many state notables in organized labor as well as Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general. When it was over, we went back in and finished the meeting.
Some of our members attended the Community Caucuses breakfast at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. I was not able to do that as I had to check out and leave with the folks I was riding with (my colleague Dave T., his wife Barb, and another fellow DSC member and DSA comrade Andrea P.). No, really, it’s because I am not an 8 a.m. breakfast kind of person anymore. I used to be when I worked at real jobs.
Oh, and meanwhile, there was this actual DFL convention going on. This was a somewhat low-key year in terms of drama and controversy. Inside the hall, it was all – well, mostly – very congenial and nice. All of our state leaders are incumbents eligible to run again, and they were all endorsed, mostly by acclamation. A radical difference from the Senate District and Congressional District conventions I had the – ahem – pleasure to attend, not to mention the Zoom convention to endorse for Minneapolis school board. I’ll have some more of this nitty gritty in a final piece wrapping up the DFL convention season and letting you know what’s coming up in the August primaries.
From the DSC’s viewpoint, the convention season was a big success. We have grown a lot in membership since the rejection of our request to be recognized in December, and we picked up another 90 sign-ups and 45 new members just at the state convention. Since our launch as a PAC in April 2022, we have raised $3,000 from individual donors and about $1,500 in PAC/organizational contributions. And I forget how many red carnations we gave away, but it seemed like hundreds. Check out our Facebook page to see our beautiful banner, TV coverage of the Unite HERE rally, and more scenes from the convention.