Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Evanston hosts Democratic Socialists of America national convention

The Democratic Socialists of America hosted its biannual national convention in Evanston this weekend. The convention focused on raising awareness about the current economic crisis, addressing the health care initiative and setting the organization’s priorities for the next two years.

This year’s convention hosted a number of speakers, including Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson and Kim Bobo, the founder of Interfaith Worker Justice, at the Best Western University Plaza, 1501 Sherman Ave., from Nov. 13 to 15.

“It was a really successful convention,” said co-chairwoman of DSA’s Wichita branch Rannfrid Thelle, who attended the event. “The speakers were professional and uplifting. We’re living in an economic crisis, and the type of solutions we’re offering are really in need.”

The convention focused on economic justice and rebuilding the crumbling nation, Thelle said.

“Our movement predicted this crisis many years ago,” she said. “Now there’s no point in saying we were right, we just have to continue with our work.”

Two DSA members, Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay, submitted several resolutions on how the United States can begin its recovery from the economic meltdown.

Baiman and Barclay’s resolution proposed the U.S. government establish a permanent jobs program, end the trade deficit by raising wages in low-income countries and re-industrialize the United States.

“People are ready to organize and work around programs for jobs, fighting foreclosures, fighting banks and increasing regulation,” Barclay said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, and we need to start working on it now.”

The diverse presence at the convention reflected the collective call for change in the community, said DSA’s Chicago Office Manager Robert Oman.

“The convention was much more generationally diverse,” Oman said. “There was a large contingent of youth, and the general attitude is that they are the future generation of DSA.”This year, the Democratic Socialists focused more on setting priorities rather than taking positions, Oman said.

The Republican Party’s recent condemnation of President Barack Obama’s so-called “socialist agenda” concerns the DSA, members said.The organization has mixed feelings about the nation’s negative attitude toward its views.

“The publicity we’ve gotten has been great for us,” Oman said. “It has gotten socialism an agenda in a way we couldn’t have gotten ourselves.”

Thelle said socialism’s negative association is distracting because it distorts what socialism stands for.

“Obama’s agenda isn’t socialist,” Thelle said. “We’re trying to show that his program isn’t socialist, and that socialism actually serves most people’s interests. It’s a solidarity program where people are along for the ride and they’re not left out.”

The false implications of socialism have made the organization controversial in a way that is unwarranted, Barclay said.

“Obama isn’t a socialist, and it’s amusing to us that people feel that way,” he said. “The best way to think about socialism is that it is an extension of democracy into the economy.”

The 2009 DSA convention united the organization toward a common cause, which was the goal from the outset, Thelle said.

“There was a feeling of contingency,” he said. “If we don’t do something now, then when? Now is the time for change.”[email protected]

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Evanston hosts Democratic Socialists of America national convention