As we prepare to watch the first Democratic candidates debate this evening, we consider who the SD will endorse. Many organizations will announce endorsements without asking for their members’ input. We don’t believe this is appropriate for a democratic organization. So, we conducted a poll of our members regarding the 2016 presidential election. We asked:
1. Should SDUSA endorse a candidate?
2. Regardless of party, who is your preferred candidate?
3. What are your top three most important issues in the election?
You might say that it would be a foregone conclusion that our members would be supporting Bernie Sanders. That is, for the most part, true. But there is some diversity in the responses. Below are the outcomes from our members poll conducted during September.
For the 1st question, the answer was 100%, “Yes, SDUSA should endorse a candidate”.
For the 2nd question,
all others, <6% each (included some Republicans such as Kasich and Cruz)
For the 3rd question, the responses are listed by the most frequently cited,
1. Campaign finance (includes other election reforms)
2. Income inequality (includes corporate welfare, Wall Street oligarchy)
3. Global warming (includes jobs programs that create green infrastructure)
4. National healthcare (includes single payer initiatives such as Medicare for All)
5. Protect civil rights (includes voting rights and eliminating police abuse)
6. Maintain vigorous foreign policy (fight terrorism, support weak nations, aid refugees)
7. Maintain strong national defense
8. Protect women’s rights (includes reproductive freedoms and pay equity)
9. Grow the movement (includes creating left dialogue, left unity, and organizing voters)
10. Affordable higher education
11. Protect gun ownership rights
12. Control global population growth
13. Restrict abortion
14. Reduce unemployment
15. Support Israel, while also pushing for greater human rights
Based on the results shown above, SDUSA continues to follow its tradition of being leftist regarding economic issues, but having a mix of positions on other issues. If you know the history of the SDUSA, you know that when the Socialist Party changed its name to Social Democrats USA in 1972, many of the more liberal members left the organization. Those who remained with SDUSA were a mix of liberals and conservatives. Many were associated with trade unions, and many of those were conservative in their social outlook. This included not only being conservative on social issues, but also hawkish on foreign policy.
Our members today continue to have diverse perspectives. We have members who are liberal on social issues, but hawkish on foreign policy. We have members who are conservative on abortion and marriage, leftist on economics, and vigorous in their support of refugees. We have Labor Zionists. We have members who are leftist on economics and are also pacifists. We really can’t tell you what a “typical” SD member looks like, other than that common thread of strong conviction in social democracy and the fundamental rights of every human being.
It’s important to mention that we have members who are anti-abortion, or pro-gun, or anti-gay marriage, or all of the above. Often the positions of our conservative members are based on their religious convictions, and the SDUSA is the only political organization where they feel they are welcome as Christian socialists. That is not to say that all Christian socialists are conservatives, because we also have members of the Christian Left in our ranks. Conservative members represent a minority of our members, but their opinions are respected and they are part of the fabric of SDUSA.
In summary: Given the diversity of our membership, the results of the SD members’ poll were not surprising to us. We continue to uphold the ideals of social democracy in a heterogenous organization comprised of liberals and conservatives, labor unionists and religious socialists. Despite our disagreements, we hold fast to a respect for workers, our obligation to protect our weaker brothers and sisters, and the right of peoples to democratically choose their destiny.