Zak Ringelstein is a Maine activist.
July 21, 2018 Portland, Maine (AP) — Last Friday, Maine Democrat Zak Ringelstein wasn't ready to consider himself a formal member of the Democratic Socialists of America, even if he appreciated the organization's values and endorsement in his bid to become a United States senator.
Three days later, he told The Associated Press that was ready to become the only major-party Senate candidate in the nation to be a dues-paying democratic socialist.
The swift evolution is latest evidence of a nationwide surge in the strength and popularity of an organization that, until recently, operated on the fringes of the liberal movement's farthest left flank. But as Donald Trump's presidency stretches into its second year, democratic socialism has become a significant force in Democratic politics. Its rise comes as Democrats debate whether moving too far left will turn off voters.
"I stand with the democratic socialists, and I have decided to become a dues-paying member," Ringelstein told the AP. "It's time to do what's right, even if it's not easy."
There are 42 men and women running for offices at the federal, state and local levels this year with the formal endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, the organization says. They span 20 states, including Florida, Hawaii, Kansas and Michigan.
The most ambitious Democrats in Washington have been reluctant to embrace the label, even as they embrace the policies defining modern-day democratic socialism: Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and the abolition of the federal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congress' only self-identified democratic socialist, campaigned Friday with the movement's newest star, New York City congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former bartender who defeated one of the most powerful House Democrats last month.
Her victory poured gasoline onto a fire that was already beginning to burn brighter. The DSA's paid membership has hovered around 6,000 in recent years, said Allie Cohn, a member of the group's national political team.
Last week, its paid membership hit 45,000 nationwide.
There is little distinction made between the terms "democratic socialism" and "socialism" in the group's literature. While Ringelstein and other DSA-backed candidates promote a "big-tent" philosophy, the DSA constitution describes their members as socialists who "reject an economic order based on private profit" and "share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships."
Members during public meetings often refer to each other "comrades," wear clothing featuring socialist symbols like the rose and promote authors such as Karl Marx.
The common association with the Soviet Union, the first state to adopt a form of socialism, has made it difficult for sympathetic liberals to explain their connection.
Ringelstein, a 32-year-old political neophyte, is expected to struggle in his campaign to unseat Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. He is refusing to accept donations from lobbyists or corporate political action committees, which has made fundraising a grind. At the end of June, King's campaign reported $2.4 million cash on hand while Ringelstein had just $23,000.
He has tapped into the party's national progressive movement and the southern Maine chapter of the DSA for the kind of grassroots support that fueled Ocasio-Cortez's victory. As he has almost every month this year, Ringelstein attended the group's monthly meeting at Portland's city hall last Monday.
More than 60 people packed into the room. The group's chairman, 25-year-old union organizer Meg Reilly, wore a t-shirt featuring three roses.
She cheered the "comrades" softball team's recent season before moving into an agenda that touched on climate change legislation, a book share program "to further your socialist education," and an exchange program that lets community members swap favors such as jewelry repair, pet sitting or cooking.
Near the end of the two-hour gathering, Ringelstein formally thanked the group for "standing shoulder to shoulder with us throughout this entire campaign."
"We could win a U.S. Senate seat!" he said. "I want to say that over and over. We could win a U.S. Senate seat! So, let's do this."
June 22, 2018 Meg Reilly, Chair , US Senate Candidate Zak Ringelstein Arrested outside McAllen, TX Child Internment Camp.
Portland, ME — Zak Ringelstein, the Maine Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate running against incumbent Angus King, was arrested this morning outside a detention center in McAllen, Texas, where immigrant children are being held. Ringelstein, who is endorsed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) was attempting to deliver food, water, toys, blankets, and books to the children imprisoned there when he was detained by border patrol agents for blocking the delivery of new prisoners. “We have wiped out the entire bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy for these children, forcing them into trauma. These are thousands of people who will have… human rights violation stories from America,” said Ringelstein,the father of two young children and a former public school teacher. In a Facebook video posted to his website, Ringelstein can be seen sitting on the tailgate of a pick-up truck loaded with supplies while an agent questions him about what he is doing. “Americans have a right to know what is happening in these detention facilities,” Ringelstein says, adding that “America is becoming a brutal authoritarian dictatorship.”
Ringelstein won the Democratic Party nomination in June and will face off against the Corporatist incumbent, Angus King, in November. Ringelstein has been outspoken about the need to abolish ICE. He expresses frustration at the lack of accurate media coverage on King’s voting record on gun control and bank deregulation, as well as his numerous corporate and special interest campaign funding sources. “One of the reasons I’m running is to force those conversations into the open,” Ringelstein said.
Harlan Baker January 9, 2018:
Mike Desjardins speaking on what socialism means to him at last night’s Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America meeting. In addition to electing new officers, a representative from the Southern Maine Workers Center spoke about the current campaign for Paid Family Leave in Portland. Others in attendance were State reps Mike Sylvester, and Ben Collings. Democratic US Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein and Mayor Ethan Strimling were there as as observers.
The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 2018 to endorse Zak Ringelstein for US Senate in the June Primary.
Ringelstein has pledged to take no money from PACs, corporations, or special interest groups in order to be a true public servant who only answers to voters. He intends to introduce and support legislation to reverse Citizens United, end corporate campaign lobbying, and institute a federal voting holiday to make the polls more accessible to working people.
“As socialists, we are fundamentally opposed to the idea that corporate money has any place in politics, or even a fair and equitable society,” said Meg Reily, SMDSA Chair. “We’re happy to endorse someone who would prioritize reversing Citizens United and increasing voting rights, two issues that go hand-in-hand,” Reilly said.
“As a public school teacher and the son of a social worker, I am blown away by the way the DSA truly fights to increase the power of working Americans. It is not just an honor to receive their endorsement; we are now a mightier force for change because of the hundreds of passionate DSA members at our side who are ready to get money out of politics and unrig the system to create a more free, democratic, and humane society for all,” said Ringelstein.
Ringelstein came to politics from a former career as a public school teacher. As a rank-and-file union member, he helped form and lead PowerToPublic, a teacher-led campaign to expose billionaire Betsy DeVos’s attempts to defund our public schools. He wants to enact democratic socialist reform in Washington, including Medicare for All, public ownership of natural resources, including groundwater, increasing protections on public land, holding corporations accountable for their emissions, and divesting from fossil fuels. He supports medicare for all and full, publicly-funded reproductive healthcare for women, including abortion. He condemns the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians and the US’s part in funding these actions, and he rejects the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.
Poor People’s Campaign
May 14 2018, Zak Ringelstein, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, joined protesters from the Poor People’s Campaign in a nonviolent action in Augusta to draw attention to the plight of Maine’s poor and working class. Ringelstein was one of 18 people arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience during the demonstration.
Get Money Out of Politics
Saturday, April 7 at 1 PM - 3 PM.
Luther Bonney Hall, Portland, Maine 77059.
- We at Ringelstein for U.S. Senate are thrilled to announce that we are hosting a summit on the importance of getting money out of politics on April 7, 2018 from 1:00-3:00pm at the University of Southern Maine.
- Lawrence Lessig|Larry Lessig, leading academic on corruption in American politics, will keynote the event.
- The event will also feature a talk by University of Maine School of Law Dean Danielle Conway and small discussions led by the Sierra Club Maine, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, Equality Maine, Southern Maine DSA, and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. In addition, there will be a panel discussion on corruption with Senator Justin Chenette (Saco), Rep. Mike Sylvester (Portland), gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet, and former Rep. Harlan Baker.
National DSA endorsement
In August 2018 National Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Zak Ringelstein,
Final 2018 endorsements
Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America Final 2018 endorsements:
- Joey Brunelle (Portland City Council – At Large)
- Jon Torsch (Portland City Council – District 2)
- Jeremy Mele (ME House Dist. 19)
- Mike Sylvester (ME House Dist. 39)
- Maia Dendinger (ME Senate Dist. 5)
- Zak Ringelstein (US Senate)
- [https://www.tampabay.com/democratic-socialism-surging-in-the-age-of-trump-ap_nationala1770fd620d94bf58d0ff1035d3e0eea Tampa bay Times/Democratic socialism surging in the age of Trump Published: July 21, 2018]