Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America

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Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America is an Arizona affiliate of Democratic Socialists of America.

Contact

In April 2017 Taylor Cifuentez was the contact for Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America Organizing Committee.[1]

Leaders

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In August 2017 the Executive of Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America consisted of...

Members

DSA's Nationwide Push for Single Payer

In an article published at the Phoenix New Times on October 25, 2017, author Joseph Flaherty writes (verbatim):[3]

"On a recent Saturday, 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. He stood up at the front of the room near a poster board with "universal healthcare" written in big letters at the top.
"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.
"Andrew Hudson was making a wry point about how they needed to knock on more doors. Their success would depend on face-to-face discussions with friends and neighbors, he said, and reeling them into the cause.
""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 Democratic Socialists of America was preparing to knock on doors in Tempe as part of Democratic Socialists of America's nationwide push for the Medicare for All Act, a single-payer health care bill in Congress.
""We think that private insurance has been really exploitative for millions of Americans," Andrew Hudson told the group, in an example of what to say at the door. "And we want to instead expand and improve on Medicare so that everyone can go to the doctor without having to pay huge premiums, or co-pays, or deductibles."
"Championed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the Medicare for All proposal in Congress would create a single-payer health care system, phasing out an employment-based U.S. health care system dominated by massive private-insurance companies. Doctors would bill the state for care, paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy. One option to finance a single-payer plan would increase progressive income tax rates to 50 percent or higher on individuals making over $2 million annually.
"Andrew Hudson, 30, is a graduate student at Arizona State University and has previously volunteered with California’s East Bay Democratic Socialists of America He said that unlike knocking on doors to shill for a particular candidate — Democratic Socialists of America 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.
""In many ways under capitalism, we’re all made to feel alone," Andrew Hudson said. "And having someone knock on your door and be like, ‘Hey, you’re not alone under capitalism,’ I think that’s in many ways really transformative."
"Phoenix’s Democratic Socialists of America chapter was officially recognized in July. The energetic group of young people 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 Democratic Socialists of America members in metro Phoenix, according to the Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America chair Devin Howard. Their ranks are growing. Nationwide, Democratic Socialists of America membership has more than tripled since last year. Last week, the organization claimed they hit 30,000 dues-paying members. It’s now the largest socialist group in the U.S. since World War II.
"Democratic Socialists of America's growth is stunning and impressive. But whether the Arizona chapter has political muscle remains to be seen.
"One of the Democratic Socialists of America 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.
"LaDawn Stuben is the legislative action director for the Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America. She's also a pastry chef at Liberty Market and owns a small business selling pastries at the Chandler farmers market.
"At a recent candidate meet-and-greet on October 3, LaDawn Stuben was collecting signatures at a table alongside other Democratic candidates. A woman approached LaDawn Stuben to ask, "What exactly is Democratic Socialists of America?" The group started decades ago, LaDawn Stuben explained, but Sanders' presidential campaign last year galvanized the group.
"So what would be the difference between the traditional Democratic party versus the democratic socialists?" the voter asked.
"LaDawn Stuben explained the organization's name, which can elicit blank stares from the average voter. "I always say, 'Democrat: by the people. Socialist: for the people,'" she said. "So, things like Medicare for all; things like abolishing for-profit prisons; things like utilities being a public good."
"The woman nodded approvingly. "Apparently, I’m a moderate Democratic Socialists of America," she said.
"LaDawn 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 LaDawn Stuben, surprising herself, stood up, too.
""We made a promise that we were going to do it, because the only way to have a more progressive Democratic party is if we actually run people who are progressive," she said. "So that’s what I’m doing."
""All of us are new to this, which I think is really inspiring," said Devin Howard, the chair of the Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America chapter.
"Devin Howard, 26, is a lifelong Phoenix resident and a biology student at ASU. In a common story among Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America members, Devin Howard was motivated to join Democratic Socialists of America 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 Democratic Socialists of America chapter in Arizona. Although she had never done any political organizing, Devin Howard got tired of waiting for the surge of national interest in Democratic Socialists of America to reach the Valley.
"I tried to wait until there would be a Phoenix chapter started, and nothing happened," Devin Howard said.
"Taking matters into their own hands, Devin Howard and several other Phoenix residents banded together in February to discuss organizing a chapter. After receiving the official nod from the national Democratic Socialists of America in July, they've watched Young Democratic Socialists of America chapters crop up at ASU and the University of Arizona, and even at several local high schools.
"Devin Howard said that even in a Republican-controlled state like Arizona, disaffected people who are sick of the political status quo could be receptive to Democratic Socialists of America’s message.
"I think people are tired of what they’ve had, which is the bipartisan: Republican or Democrat, which are just different shades of the same thing that they feel unable to influence," she said. "The really cool thing about democratic socialism is everyone has a say, everyone has a voice."
"One of the other people who co-founded the chapter is 42-year-old Jake Bell. Like LaDawn Stuben, he’s a first-time political candidate — Jake 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 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.
"Democratic Socialists of America 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 Kyrsten Sinema's name came up at the Democratic Socialists of America canvass training, a few attendees let out audible sighs of frustration.
"For the record, @RepSinema is basically a left-leaning Republican. I won't have socialism tainted this way. — LaDawn Stuben
"Yet for much of the history of the U.S., "socialist" has been anathema to the mainstream political parties. Should Sanders have clinched the nomination last year, he would have undoubtedly been smeared for his leftist politics — which makes it all the more remarkable that democratic socialist candidates are jumping into races, in Arizona no less.
"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.
"Jake 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 Democratic Socialists of America members grabbed clipboards and bottles of water before knocking on single-family homes in a Tempe neighborhood populated by many Arizona State University employees. Chapter leaders said this turf would be an ideal starting place for their single-payer canvassing efforts.
"Gilbert Romero, a 25-year-old Democratic Socialists of America 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.
"Gilbert Romero said that they were out canvassing for a Medicare for All system. When the recession hit, Gilbert 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.
"The plan I have right now is pretty good. It really doesn’t hurt me in any way," Adam said. But then he seemed to hesitate. "I agree, every American should have insurance. That’s the way it should be, I don’t think people should pay for it."
"Yeah!" Gilbert Romero said.
"We pay for everything, that’s just how I see it," Adam said. "And they still take taxes from you, and it’s your money. Our money goes toward the streets, the signs, the schools..."
"So why not our insurance?" Romero agreed. He handed him a Democratic Socialists of America flyer.
"Adam looked it over and said he'll pass it on to the rest of the household. "We can go from there and we can start a change," he said. They shook hands. Romero walked next door to talk with two people who worked for the city of Tempe — they liked their city health insurance and were not interested. Then on to a retired sous chef who still remembered how much her boss took out of her paycheck for insurance, and so on throughout the neighborhood.
"Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America vice-chair Taylor Cifuentez, 23, was leading Romero’s group of canvassers on Saturday. From her point of view, Democratic Socialists of America 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.
"Taylor 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.
"It’s because of capitalism that we’ve allowed pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies to really extort us in this way," she told New Times. "I think that if you want Medicare for All, that’s a socialist program. If you’re on welfare, that’s a socialist program. People often see these programs as benefiting people who don’t deserve it, because private options are available to the quote-unquote 'better people.'"
"A turning point for Taylor Cifuentez’s path to the Democratic Socialists of America 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," Taylor 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 Democratic Socialists of America 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 Democratic Socialists of America’s national priority right now, according to Devin 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 Young Democratic Socialists of America chapters — anything that can put more power in the hands of the people," Devin Howard said.
"The long-term goal is socialism," she added. "And we think we can do it."

2018 endorsements

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June 9, 2018.

Phoenix DSA is proud to endorse -

Risking arrest for a clean DREAM Act

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LaDawn Stuben December 4, 2017 near Phoenix, AZ

Risking arrest for a clean DREAM Act #ourdream — with Dan O'Neal, Patrick Morales, Emily Kirkland, Camaron Stevenson, Johnny Martin and Redeem G. Robinson.

Phoenix DSA endorsements

Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America, June 1, 2018;

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Join us at 3 PM, Saturday June 9th for a regular meeting of the Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America. At this meeting we will be voting on chapter endorsements of local candidates for office. The meeting will consist of a candidate forum featuring Marcus Ferrell (for AZ House LD24), Gilbert Romero (for AZ House LD21), LaDawn Stuben (for AZ House LD18), and Camaron Stevenson (for Phoenix City Council District 8), with more potential candidates to be added. We hope to see you there! The meeting is open to all, although only DSA members may vote for endorsements.[4]

Charlottesville vigil

A group of 16 people gathered Saturday night in front of the Arizona Workers Memorial at the state Capitol in solidarity for those who were hurt at a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The candlelight vigil was organized by a local Democratic Socialists of America chapter. Jake Bell, an organizer, said two Richmond-based DSA members were injured while fighting against white-supremacists during the rally.

"(The violent rally) hollowed a lot of us," Bell said of the organization.

David Mittleman was among those who attended the Phoenix vigil. He said he is Jewish and that the violence in Virginia has made him more pessimistic about the U.S. than he has ever been.

Mittleman grew up in a small town in Kansas. He said his grandfathers fought in World War II, and he had believed hatred toward Jews, LGBT individuals and other marginalized groups was fading in America.

"Now that we have to fight them here in our own land, it's very unsettling," he said.

Kelly Devos, who came to the vigil with her teenage daughter, Evelyn Devos, called Trump's comment "pretty inflammatory."

"(Trump's comment) makes it seem like the people that were protesting racism are the morally equal of the people that are racists, and that's just not the case," Devos said.

During the vigil, the group spent about 10 minutes holding candles and praying for Charlottesville in silence. A few of them were weeping, and others were holding signs that were intended to send a message to white-supremacists.

The signs read: "White People Stop White Supremacy," "Mourn The Martyred, Fight Like Hell For The Living," and "Death to Fascism, Freedom for the People." [5]

Healthcare protest

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.

The five arrested have been identified as 23-year-old Ethan Ashley, 64-year-old Salie Ruth Travis, 69-year-old Suzanne Gayle Distaso, 73-year-old Phyllis Lesniak, and 62-year-old Cynthia Gaines.

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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.[6]

Ethan Ashley, and Suzanne Gayle Distaso at least, were members of Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America.

First Regular Meeting of 2018!

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First Regular Meeting of 2018! Public · Hosted by Phoenix Democratic Socialists of America

Saturday, January 6 at 3 PM - 5 PM MST

Painters and Allied Trades International Union, 210 N 24th St, Phoenix, Arizona [7]

Interested

Went

DSA Phoenix Strikes With AT&T Mobility Workers

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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.[8]

Invited on Facebook

Interested

Went

Phoenix/Tempe Democratic Socialists of America

New local

In 2001 two new DSA locals emerged, in Oregon and Arizona.[9]

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.[10]

2002 activity

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.[11]

References