Convention rules for the Democratic Socialists of America

August 6, 2019 • 11:30 am

Here are two videos from last weekend’s Atlanta, Georgia convention of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group whose members include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and which has endorsed (and worked for) the election of Bernie Sanders. The organization is pretty much what it says it is,—a group that favors liberal democracy but with significant socialistic aspects like universal Medicare. As they say,

We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. We are a political and activist organization, not a party; through campus and community-based chapters, DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people.

So far so good, though I’m probably less socialistic than many of them (I’m not quite ready for “Medicare for All”, for instance). But I’m not above chuckling at their antics, either.

Here is a speaker laying out the rules at the recent DSA national convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Some of the rules are fine (accommodating the disabled, for instance), but some are funny. Note the use of the word “comrade” (“In Stalinist Russia, this is how we avoid personal pronouns”), the ubiquity of jazz hands (but blind people can’t see them!), and the constant emphasis on keeping people “safe”. Were people in actual danger?  There are also “quiet rooms” that have “video but no sound.” Of what use is that? Or do they have subtitles?

The stuff about “de-escalation” baffles me: it seems to be an explicit call about not getting into arguments or ideological conflicts. But this is a political convention! Since when does any convention need marshals to help people “de-escalate”? Are the DSA members a bunch of children who can’t extricate themselves from unpleasant conversations? Oh, and remember: “Don’t talk to cops!”

“Safety”, in fact, has become a synonym for “not having to hear stuff you don’t like”. And argue for them as you will, I’ll never stop giggling when people make jazz hands.

And two “points of privilege”:

Now I’d vote for a DSA candidate over a Republican as President any day, so I’m not dissing the organization itself, many of whose values I agree with. Indeed, someone who watched the whole thing said this at

No one should come away from the coverage of the DSA convention with the idea that attendees did nothing but call-out each other’s pronouns, though. Listening to the livestream I heard heated discussions about significant policy issues: criminal justice reform, supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), and combating “Lex Luthor–esque scumbag Jeff Bezos.” Of all the various factions of progressive activism, the DSA is by far the most organized, and the least likely to be derailed by culturally woke signaling.

Rather, this post merely shows how infected with wokeness various groups on the Left have become.  (n.b.: please don’t tell me that I should be posting about how awful Trump is instead. I’ve done that a lot, but our side shouldn’t be immune to mockery, criticism, or sarcasm).

94 thoughts on “Convention rules for the Democratic Socialists of America

    1. The Vox piece lost credibility when it said Like most socialist organizations the DSA believes in abolishing capitalism … Really? The DSA may very well be, but modern socialist countries that I know of definitely are not.

      I am reminded of a story I read about Churchill explaining politics to some post war US president. (If someone could give a reference that would be great). It went something like this:

      The United States has two political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, the Republicans are conservative and the Democrats too are Conservative. Whereas in Britain we have the Labour party, they’re socialist and we have the Conservatives and they too are socialist.

          1. There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the definitions of Socialism and Capitalism. DSA is pretty clear they want to end the private ownership of the means of production. It’s on their website.

            1. Our vision entails nothing less than the radical democratization of all areas of life, not least of which is the economy. Under capitalism we are supposed to take for granted that a small, largely unaccountable group of corporate executives should make all fundamental decisions about the management of a company comprised of thousands of people. This group has the power to determine how most of us spend the lion’s share of our waking hours, as well as the right to fire anyone for basically any reason, no matter how arbitrary. Under democratic socialism, this authoritarian system would be replaced with economic democracy. This simply means that democracy would be expanded beyond the election of political officials to include the democratic management of all businesses by the workers who comprise them and by the communities in which they operate. Very large, strategically important sectors of the economy — such as housing, utilities and heavy industry — would be subject to democratic planning outside the market, while a market sector consisting of worker-owned and -operated firms would be developed for the production and distribution of many consumer goods.


      1. “… modern socialist countries that I know of definitely are not.”

        Which countries are you thinking of? Are they really socialist (in the Clause 4 sense), or more market-economy, social democratic?

      2. “but modern socialist countries…”

        Can you name them?

        Sounds like you regard Scandinavian countries as “socialist”?
        By my definition they are not.

    2. Comrade Alexandria is on record stating the US is in the “Late-Stage Capitalism” phase, the penultimate one to the inevitable, predestined dawning of Socialism.

    1. Truly one of the funniest comedies of all time. Not only a biting satire of Christianity, but of Leftists/revolutionaries as well — perfect for the WEIT audience.

  1. “In Stalinist Russia, this is how we avoid personal pronouns”

    For a second there I thought you might be setting up an old Yakov Smirnoff-style one-liner. (You remember, like, “In USA, you look for party; in Soviet Union, Party look for you.”)

    The end of the Cold War was tough on ol’ Yakov’s career (same way JFK’s assassination was on Vaughn Meader‘s). Though I’m guessing Yakov is still out killing it for the Winnebago crowd in Branson, MO, with the rest of the small screen’s has-beens and never-weres.

    Maybe that veered a bit off-topic (and was kinda mean, too). Sorry.

  2. (I’m not quite ready for “Medicare for All”, for instance)

    Think “public option,” comrade. Baby steps. Sometimes he is a wise quasi-socialist who settles for half a loaf. 🙂

    1. Yes comrade, let’s lure those liberty loving anti-collectivists out onto the slippery slope. But is this wise to admit publicly?

      1. The US will end up with a single-payer system; of this, I am all but certain. The current US system of providing healthcare to its people is absurd. Nearly every other modern western democracy has gone single-payer, and I see not a one of them interested in abandoning it for a US-style system.

        You can bemoan this if you wish, call it “creeping socialism” if you wish, just as you can bemoan Social Security and Medicare and free public K-through-12 education if you wish. But we live in a mixed economy, and these things are here to stay.

        Before the Affordable Care Act, preexisting conditions were excluded from private healthcare coverage. Try convincing your fellow citizens to return to that system now.

        1. The fact that the economy is “mixed” is not an argument for enlarging the socialist part. I would favor some shrinkage there.

          I hope your prediction is wrong. Not for greedy or mean spirited reasons – I’ll get by well either way – because I think the overall outcome will be worse. If there was sound reason to believe the result would be better wholly in the hands of government, I would change my mind.

          1. The fact that virtually all other first world countries have better and cheaper healthcare that covers more people isn’t a sound enough reason for you?

            1. Better is debatable (tiresomely so). I don’t have much confidence that the experience of other countries transfers directly to our much larger, much more diverse country.

  3. I’d vote for a DSA candidate over a Republican as President any day.

    Not I. A Bill Weld or a Mitt Romney are far safer choices than some marxist.

    1. At least a couple of things Romney would have to do to get my vote is to forswear “carried interest,” and to renounce his claim that “Corporations are people, my friend.”

      1. Let me know when Mitt Romney (or William Weld, who’s at least in the race), start winning Republican primaries against Donald Trump. Then we can consider them viable options to whomever the Democrats nominate.

          1. I haven’t engaged you directly until this very moment, and have no intention of doing so again (as puerile as I find your demand to be). But your having floated an argument somewhere in a thread serves as no bar to me commenting to someone else on that argument elsewhere in the thread, the way I see things.

            And, what the hell, if the GOP actually runs someone against Trump, maybe I’ll change my registration to Republican for the purposes of the primaries just so I can cast a protest vote for Trump’s opponent.

    1. “Ain’t the way Eugene V. Debs woulda done it.”

      Certainly not from his jail cell, thanks to the noble federal Sedition Act.

  4. Jerry … I was a little surprised by the not ready for Medicare for all? Not overly familiar with the US system … so if you would care to expound?

    On a related note I remember Bernie suggesting tertiary education being paid for by the state. I thought that sounds expensive, but then I recall my undergraduate degree was paid for largely by the ever suffering British tax payer.

    Surely it is a matter of priorities where tax dollars are spent.

    1. “but then I recall my undergraduate degree was paid for largely by the ever suffering British tax payer.”

      Would that have been at a time when 5% of the cohort went to university, as opposed to the current 40%, thus being vastly cheaper?

    2. Bernie wants to eliminate student debt with a tiny tax on wall street transactions, which are not taxed now… I have no problem with this

      We need fair taxes to have a fair economy

      1. Including making it impossible for an outfit like General Electric, with its 975-member tax avoidance department, to pay $0 in federal income taxes (in 2010, per the NY Times, IIRC), when the low-wage legal immigrant cleaning up after the power suits in the executive wash room has to pay income taxes.

  5. Care to tell why you are not ready for medicare for all?

    I am genuinely curious, since it is the standard around the world, we are the only country to allow middlemen (insurance companies) between us and our healthcare

    Not only is it a guarantee they we all have healthcare, without profiteers denying services for their own profit, it will cost each of us a faction of what insurance premiums cost us now and we will have no denial of services… If a doctor says you need it, you get it, period.

    I am totally baffled why anyone wouldn’t want a better system for healthcare.

    And before you say you don’t want government controlled healthcare, I would ask you how the profit driven system is working for you any differently, we can at least vote in or out of office anyone who doesn’t manage the healthcare system properly, ca’t do that will insurance companies.

    1. Medicare For All proposals, such as articulated by Bernie Sanders, would cover just about everything health related, including long term care, vision, and dental. Private insurance would be outlawed and everybody must join. There would be no out-of-pocket costs for any of this. No single private insurance policy that I am aware could match this. So, why is there opposition to this? Medicare as currently implemented is very popular with seniors. The answer is cost. To pay for this would require a substantial tax increase. This means that certain people would be “losers” if Medicare For All was in effect. People who now have good insurance where all or most of the premium is paid by employers would not be happy with the Sanders proposal. Some health care providers could be negatively impacted. We can be sure that certain lobbies would fiercely oppose a Sanders-type system, probably even greater than the opposition to Obamacare. I will go out on a limb and predict that if Medicare For All should ever actually go into effect within a decade it will be as popular as the current Medicare is.

      Of course, this discussion is purely academic. Regardless of its merit, Medicare For All is far in the future, if ever. Some sort of hybrid between Medicare and private insurance is much more likely, although even whether this will be implemented any time soon is far from certain.

      1. This means that certain people would be “losers” if Medicare For All was in effect.

        But aren’t many more people losers without medicare for all? The rational for government health is to average the expense so everyone gets a share.

      2. The problem isn’t actually cost. I have yet to see a cost analysis where the increase in taxes isn’t lower than the current cost of health insurance.

        Sure in some cases that health insurance is employer-funded and companies may not end up giving increases to cover the difference, but even there I think the benefit to business is fairly compelling.

        The problem I suspect is actually the insurers themselves.

        Insurance is a big industry, and employs about 552,100 as at January 2018. That’s a lot of jobs on the line if medicare for all goes through.

    2. “we are the only country to allow middlemen (insurance companies) between us and our healthcare”

      I doubt that very much.

      1. Living with a physician, and socializing with lots of them, I have developed a hearty contempt for insurance companies as well as giant, evil hospital groups.
        However, I am confident that the best solution to those problems is not to be achieved through forced collectivization of private property and the economy.

        These folks promise that they are the solution to almost all the trendy issues, like women’s rights, racism, and the environment. But in the time I have been reading the DSA material, I gather that they feel that all of these (and other) problems will naturally resolve themselves once full socialism is achieved.

    3. That is not quite right. Pretty well all western nations with universal healthcare – including the UK – allow private systems to exist in parallel. Some of these are private insurance-based schemes. Some companies offer health insurance as an employment perk. Even the Civil Service offers a contributory health service scheme.

      To complicate matters, two current bones of contention in the UK are (a) to what extent should private companies be allowed to cherry-pick medical procedures as sub-contractors to the NHS in pursuit of profit, and (b) to what extent should the NHS be allowed to take in private patients ahead of the rest of us.

      Many European countries – not yet the UK – require fees for GP consultations or other basic medical interventions.

      Universal healthcare is a heartwarming concept that, sadly, too often comes up against the shortcomings of the real world.

      1. Australia has a similar system.
        Everyone gets basic cover and if they need expensive procedures, they get them.
        Private insurance gets you various perks. Choice of doctor, private rooms etc.

        GP’s are subsidized and some clinics charge just that subsidy so the patient pays nothing.
        Other GP’s charge a bit extra and might provide a longer consult if required, but for just popping for a regular script or something simple, there is zero difference between free and not.

  6. We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few …

    Yuck. I can’t believe the old “profits are evil” ignorance is still around. This idea is malignant. The motivation of profits gets “a few” to take risks. These risks have led to an astonishingly wealthy world.

    I am better off in most ways than the richest man in the World was 100 years ago, by far. This is true of nearly all Americans and much of the rest of the world’s people. Grinding poverty has been reduced steadily world wide and dramatically in the last few years. This is the best time to alive in history, provided you are in a democratic, capitalist country and many that are only capitalist.

    Countries pointed to as socialist successes, Sweden for example, can only fuel their social welfare government with a market oriented, profit seeking, capitalist economy.

    1. Usually when people say “I’m better off than the richest man in the world X years ago” they reach back to the middle ages.

      Because the richest man alive 100 years ago today was John D. Rockefeller. I would like to know the ways in which you think your life is better than his was apart from simply preferring certain modern contrivances because you’re accustomed to them.

      1. Modern medicine and dentistry; stricter controls on food manufacture; less pollution; access to fresh, non-local food.

        I’m not sure which modern contrivances you have in mind, or why they should be ruled out because I’m accustomed to them, but I do prefer my modern washing machine to my parents’ wood-fired copper boiler; reliable, safer, less-polluting cars; being able to easily and cheaply telephone my scattered family, including my wife when she is overseas visiting her family – just 11 hours away on a jetliner; the internet with the access it gives me to overseas newspapers, this website, as well as a vast array of music, art, literature, education, banking services…

        1. Nice list Dave. I’ll add one incredible luxury – I can have any book I want instantaneously in my hands. A modern contrivance, yes, one that enriches my life immeasurably.

          1. I’d like to add the hard-copy newspaper. I can flip pages immediately and scan generally. Not quite there yet with online versions.

            And, as compared to audio-visual news, I am blessedly protected from the snarky, “edgy,” yammering characterizing so much of that. As the Sons of the Pioneers sing, “This ain’t the same old [NPR] range. Where are the pals [Bob Edwards, Carl Kassel, Noah Adams, Robert Siegel, Linda Wertheimer, others]I used to ride with?”

    2. “These risks have led to an astonishingly wealthy world.”

      No doubt. What are your views on the apportionment of that wealth? (Re: Adam Smith in his “Wealth of Nations,” reflecting on that “vile maxim of the Masters of Mankind – ‘gaining wealth, forgetting all but self.'”)

      Just congenially curious, are you a Milton Friedman enthusiast? Do you think OSHA should be done away with, and that an unemployed, handicapped manufacturing worker amputee should be satisfied with pursuing justice in the courts via tort law, assuming they can afford a lawyer?

      1. What are my views on the apportionment of that wealth? I like the way we do it in America, better than it was done under Soviet Communism or current Venezuela. Somewhere like Sweden or Finland lies in between. I generally favor less redistribution over more. I truly despise the thinking that the rich are undeserving of their wealth and “we” may take it.

        I generally favor (not fanatically) Milton Friedman and his student Thomas Sowell. F.A. Hayek is even better. Adam Smith is the intellectual godfather of it all, and as your quote points out, not the heartless caricature a capitalist in Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders diatribes.

        1. I think a healthy estate tax on estates larger than some amount would nicely help to redistribute wealth in society. I have no problem with billionaires. It’s the billionaires’ kids that can be really irksome.

  7. My understanding is that this resolution passed:

    “Be it resolved that DSA supports the the uninhibited transnational free movement of people, the demilitarization of the US-Mexico border, the abolition of ICE and CPB without replacement, decriminalization of immigration, full amnesty for all asylum seekers and a pathway to citizenship for all non-citizen residents;”

    1. That right there, irrespective of their other ideals, means these people are not serious players in US politics.

    2. Sure… I doubt they’d support the uninhibited movement of Israelis into Gaza or white people into African countries or Mexico. That would be colonization, of course. Why isn’t it colonization when the US is the target?

      1. “or white people into African countries ”

        Exactly, I often ask my liberal German colleagues if they think Namibians would welcome a few million German immigrants!

        1. Wow, how clever of you. Of course, considering that Germany killed tens of thousands of Namibians when they occupied it a hundred years ago, they might not be welcomed back with open arms. They did return a lot of skulls, though, that must have been appreciated.

          1. “Wow, how clever of you. Of course, considering that Germany…”

            My German colleagues and I are perfectly aware of the near genocidal treatment of tribes like the Herero.

            That was the whole point of choosing Namibia as an example!

              1. My point is that to compare modern immigration to colonialism is downright nuts.

                The immigrants Europe is getting right now are really just there to work in industries which need workers due to Europe’s aging population.

                Colonialism was to some extent based on securing the supply of labour in the form of slaves, now that same labour is moving overseas of its own accord – and there is supposed to be some sort of parallel here where the people getting the labour are now the ones being colonised?

              2. “My point is that to compare modern immigration to colonialism is downright nuts.”
                True, but I did not make that argument.

                My point relates to people who advocate for open borders.
                The question is do countries have the right to preserve their ethnic makeup.

                Would you have a problem with Tibetans or Zimbabweans resisting Chinese immigration for example?

              3. I’m South African, I worked in media during the outbreak of xenophobic violence that resulted in the burning man picture, yes, I’d have a problem with xenophobia wherever it happened.

                Open borders is not comparable to colonialism – as you are comparing the free movement of individuals to outright invasion and conquest.

                The issue with Tibet isn’t Chinese people moving in, it is that the Chinese government is in charge.

                Open borders is more in line with the free movement of Americans from state to state, or the way the EU functions between its member states.

                There are legitimate issues with open borders, smuggling and human trafficking for example, but comparing it to colonialism is just outright ludicrous.

              4. Bruce another quick point, few people are aware of the many negative effects globalisation/emigration have on third world countries.

                The first world countries are stealing the human resources of the third world.

                “The immigrants Europe is getting right now are really just there to work in industries which need workers due to Europe’s aging population.”

                A very eurocentric perspective!

              5. “Open borders is not comparable to colonialism”
                The common flu is not comparable to cancer 🙂

                I am not arguing that open borders are like colonialism!

                I am saying that many societies would be destabilised if the world had open borders.

                The reason why the US and the EU have open borders between member states is because the cultural and economic differences are relatively small.

                What do you think would have happened if there were open borders in Europe during Soviet times?

                The disparity between the third and first world counties are far too big to have open borders between them.

                We should help to develop the economies of africa without encouraging the best trained and ambitious citizens to come to the West.

              6. “The immigrants Europe is getting right now are really just there to work in industries which need workers due to Europe’s aging population.”

                But are they working? Germany was used as an example, and IIRC, the great majority of the migrants are unemployed. When Germany offered free education / job training, over 90% rejected it. It seems to me that most of them just want to live on welfare.

              7. Germany’s “commissioner for integration, refugees and integration” said in 2017 that up to three quarters of the country’s refugees will still be unemployed in five years’ time. “Statistics from the Federal Labour Agency show the employment rate among refugees stands at just 17%.”

                But looking for more recent numbers I came across this report from 2018 which says “the IAB concluded that refugee employment had risen 60 percent, although the level of unemployment in November 2017 still remained about 43 percent.” Perhaps it has increased since then. I don’t know.

                So the employment rate seems to be increasing, although the same report says welfare claims by migrants are also increasing. It’s hard to say what the net effect is.

  8. You would actually vote for one of these folks?
    I would have to assume that their candidate of choice would support their published platform and stated goals.
    Those include-

    Abolishing police and prisons (The existence of which are a roadblock to “militant worker activity”.

    Open borders- “uninhibited transnational free movement of people,..the abolition of ICE and CPB without replacement…”

    Full support of BDS.

    Reparations for “generational and colonial oppression”

    Of course, they support the basic goals of socialism, which is “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” (from OED)

    I just can see how a traditional “class enemy” of the socialist state could voice support for an organization that has a long history of doing truly terrible things to people like you and I.

  9. Stalin must be turning in his grave.

    These carstrated comrades with jazzy hands will overthrow the forces of capitalism?

    Imagine these snowflakes in October 1917!

    1. Indeed! Remember what happened to the Duma once Lenin got his hands properly on the levers of power.

      1. Exactly, what’s to say these people will even bother to retain the US Constitution as formulated, if you have a careful look at Soviet constitutions they are full of rights and also contain language that make them meaningless in the name of ‘state security’.

        I mean the American Bar Association is considering replacing innocence-until-proven-guilty with guilt-until-proven-innocence in sexual assault cases. After all the ‘purpose’ of a sexual assault trial is to give justice to the Survivor (e.g. accuser) and give the Perp (e.g. accused) the process they are due.

  10. If you are “not ready for medicare for all”, can I ask which group(s) of people you do not consider deserving of healthcare?

    1. Good god, another termite! I have said previously that I think every American should be covered by healthcare, funded by the government if necessary. All I said is that I, personally, prefer to keep the health insurance I have, but would be glad to pay higher taxes so that everyone would be covered.

      Of course you don’t know that because you just barge over here with your slimy insinuations. Well, you won’t be barging any more.

      1. To be fair, had I not been aware of previous conversations about this topic, I would have had the same reaction. In fact, I was preparing to write a post clarifying the point when I came across this thread.

        To a reader not familiar with your views, it really does look like you are saying that you are not ready to allow everybody to have free healthcare, especially if you are not aware that Sanders proposal of “medicare for all” includes “private healthcare for none”.

        FTR I am in total agreement with you on this point. Banning private healthcare just looks like a mean spirited attempt to stick one on the rich people with good plans. Here in the UK, the NHS is funded out of taxes paid by everybody but private healthcare is also allowed. The NHS is in a financial crisis but it’s not because private healthcare is allowed.

        1. Clarification: “especially if [b]you[/b] are not aware that Sanders proposal of “medicare for all” includes “private healthcare for none”.”

          “you” in this sentence means the reader, not Jerry Coyne.

    2. Hi Steve, with all due respect this is a emotionally manipulative statement.

      Singing Kumbaya songs do not make you morally superior.

  11. Medicare for all is a pretty good idea.
    I like Australia’s way, where everyone is covered for basics and emergencies but you can upgrade your cover with a variety of different private insurers.

    Here you know that if you do get sick you will be treated.

    That is for hospital and specialist care.

    You can see a GP for nothing if you want, or some GP’s charge a higher rate but supposedly provide better care.
    I haven’t noticed any difference.

  12. This video watches almost like a satire…
    It’s almost unbelievable, if it weren’t for the well known fact that ‘higher’ institutions of learning, have been overrun by out of touch leftist profs, who actually subscribe to this manner of discourse, ideology, and language.

    Good heavens..

  13. From OECD stats
    The average amount spent on healthcare per person in comparable countries (in US $)

    United States________________10,348 $
    Comparable Country Average___ 5,198 $

    Note. It’s probably unfair to compare US healthcare with the NHS (UK). The NHS is one of the worst performing national health services. I’d look at the best. They do much better than the US health system (for most outcomes) at around half the cost

  14. To me they acted like little kids. Don’t do this don’t do that. No one clap for me? I’m soo hurt🙄 to don’t be clapping it mess with my concentration. I will be damed if anyone tells me what to say, do or think. I will say man women boy girl because you know I’m offended by socialism so what are you going to do about me being offended? Forcing people to say certain words is communism.

    1. “Forcing people to say certain words is communism.”

      Like loyalty oaths, and forcing students to recite the pledge of allegiance, in the U.S. of yesteryear? Like refusing to say words of support for, and saying words against U.S. involvement in, WW I, and being put in prison as a result per the federal Sedition Act, as happened to Eugene Debs?

      1. Yesteryear? Students are still required to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance to the US (under God, no less.) In theory it isn’t required, but in practice there are many cases of students being punished for refusing, for instance this girl who was expelled for not standing for the Pledge.

        1. Yessir, you are right. No doubt, I should have further expounded/clarified/qualified.

          As a substitute teacher, I stand during the pledge, but do not say it out loud. No one has yet noticed and/or reported me. At such time as they do, then I will be inclined to ask my interrogator/accuser if s/he has also served in the military.

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