LVDSA Statement on Nevada State Democratic Party Election

February 13, 2023 | Press Release
Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America

As the election for a new Nevada State Democratic Party Chair approaches, the Las Vegas chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America feels compelled to state publicly that the chapter has not endorsed any candidate. We also want to shed light on what the admittedly disappointing relationship between LVDSA and the NSDP has been like for the last two years. 

After the clean-sweep election of a slate of LVDSA members into party leadership in 2021 on the Progressive Slate, a media storm ensued, with outlets across the country lamenting or cheering the rise of socialism within a state party structure. The slate, which spun out of the Nevada for Bernie infrastructure, which had strong connections with DSA, was indeed largely elected by DSA members who also deliberately held positions on the State Central Committee and who organized an NV Dems caucus called Left Caucus (which then acquired new progressive members outside of DSA, as well).

After the Progressive Slate won the election, it was discovered that the vestiges of the famed “Reid Machine,” who held these positions prior, had seen the writing on the wall and – legally, though clearly unethically – flipped a kill switch that effectively gutted the party infrastructure, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the party coffers, giving the entire staff parachutes that allowed them to quit en masse, and leaving countless bills unpaid and files unorganized. 

Ready to be mobilized, we awaited instructions. The instructions never came. Nor, indeed, did any real communication. We openly acknowledge our part in allowing the relationship to fall flat. We deferred to the people who’d actually won these offices, naively expecting them to think of us as partners in organization and mobilization. After the election, Left Caucus also fell off in attendance and capacity; as is so often the case when a big campaign ends, all but a few major players scattered when a new project didn’t present itself. 

Initially, despite our lack of communication, we watched with pride while the NV Dems made some bold statements: one arguing for Palestinian rights that drew the national ire of politicians and pundits, one demanding clemency for Indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier, and more. Still, the principled statements were just statements; we saw no significant organization toward these positions, no push on legislators themselves, and no call to action for community members who wanted to see these political viewpoints moving more than just reactionary newsmen to action.

As the term went on, we saw the ostensibly-progressive coalition move more and more to the center, making administrative and political choices that were more in line with the corporatists that we pledged to beat than the grassroots organizers who pushed the initial victory. As the Ghost of the Reid Machine played dirty trick after dirty trick, the ostensibly progressive leadership oscillated between playing respectability politics and making compromises to the center. 

Decisions like ending their support for our Holiday Solidarity food distribution – an annual event that both feeds the community and once gave us a rallying point for the coalition that would elect the slate in the first place – were unfortunate, though not surprising, given the corporate media backlash that came from their promotion of the event the year before. 

As socialists, we do not think the rightward shift is a moral failing of leadership; we have seen the same thing happen over and over when socialists enter Democratic Party politics. The corrupt, corporate-fueled machine (and its aide-de-camp, the mainstream media) is a moderating force, even for the proudest leftists.

Even when leadership attempted strong reforms – for example, leadership’s national push for a formalized removal of dark money from Democratic Primary races via a DNC resolution – there was no communication, no ask of us as DSA members to mobilize our comrades around the country to lobby their local party officials; we learned about this empirically good (if futile) policy push only through the mainstream media, like everyone else.

The Party, however, took no stance when every single one of our elected State Representatives proudly voted to condemn “the horrors of socialism,” and indeed continued to do free messaging for the handful of so-called progressive Representatives who insisted that voting against socialism was necessary for passing a progressive agenda.

This is our lesson, and we hope socialists everywhere will pay close attention: the Democratic Party is a dead end. It is a “party” in name only; truly, it is simply a tangled web of dark money and mega-donors, cynical consultants, and lapdog politicians. The establishment is Lucy with the football: no matter how effectively socialists organize for power, the establishment will simply pull the football away, using dirtier and dirtier tricks. Enough falling for the tricks and even the most dedicated socialist can’t help but give up and play the ugly game. We don’t want milquetoast progressive reformist-reforms; we want socialism. We won’t get it by playing the DNC’s games, and we won’t get it by being a mildly obnoxious thorn in their side, either. Our task is to out-organize them entirely, and not merely within the confines of the voting booth.

Now re-election approaches. The former Progressive Slate’s stances do not differ significantly or materially from their opponents’, nor do their general tactics. We would note that it is unfortunate that the party chair is receiving accusations of misdeeds related to the SCC membership list. We believe that it is more likely that the establishment democrats do not understand their own processes, which made it easy for us to win elections in 2021. That said, this kind of rules-lawyering and parliamentary sleight-of-hand makes it very difficult for regular working class people to engage with politics at this level, which has always been seen as a net positive by the ruling elite.

We cannot offer this slate our organizational support, either on paper or through organized action, despite the fact that some of the slate members continue to be DSA members. We also will not be supporting the election of a lifelong corrections officer or the reinstatement of the explicitly corrupt Reid Machine. As socialists and abolitionists, we believe in something better: a politics of hope, where communities build themselves up, invest in their own democracy, and demand accountability and transparency from their community leaders, elected and unelected. We will prepare for a future where we can belong to a true worker’s party, one which is unapologetically anti-capitalist. We believe in socialism and that is the only fight we’ll be investing in.