Writing in the radical (and Democratic Socialists of America connected) Chicago magazine In These Times, in March 2008, Joel Bleifuss asserted;
- In particular, Obama can be linked to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Democratic Party-oriented organization that is a member of the Socialist International
Democratic Socialists of AmericaDemocratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the US. It is one of two official U.S. affiliates of the Socialist International. It was formed in 1982 from a merger of the Michael Harrington led Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the smaller New American Movement.
DSA works inside the Democratic Party and has cross membership with the Communist Party USA, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, Socialist Party USA and the Green Party USA.
DSA has close ties to the radical Institute for Policy Studies, ACORN, Jobs with Justice, Congressional Progressive Caucus and publications including Dissent, The Nation and The American Prospect.
MarxismWhile not overtly so, Democratic Socialists of America is essentially a Marxist organization.
In an article in DSA's Democratic Left, Spring 2007, DSA National political Committee member David Green of Detroit wrote in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)-or "card check".
- What distinguishes socialists from other progressives is the theory of surplus value. According to Marx, the secret of surplus value is that workers are a source of more value than they receive in wages. The capitalist is able to capture surplus value through his ownership of the means of production, his right to purchase labor as a commodity, his control over the production process, and his ownership of the final product. Surplus value is the measure of capital’s exploitation of labor
- Our goal as socialists is to abolish private ownership of the means of production. Our immediate task is to limit the capitalist class’s prerogatives in the workplace...
Socialist Scholars Conferences
Barack Obama makes an apparent reference to the Socialist Scholars Conference in his 1995 autobiography "Dreams From My Father".
Discussing his time studying political science at New York's Columbia University, in the early 80s, Obama reveals that he "went to socialist conferences at Cooper Union and African cultural fairs in Brooklyn.”
"Cooper Union" is the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a privately funded college in Downtown Manhattan.
For many years, from the early 1980s until 2004, Cooper Union was the usual venue of the annual Socialist Scholars Conference-almost certainly what Obama was referring to.
Socialist Scholars Conference-now known as Left Forum was for many years the largest socialist gathering in the USA, attracting up to 2,000 participants.
Socialist Scholars Conference was founded by a group of radicals from City University of New York led by sociology professor Bogdan Denitch, as well as chairing the Socialist Scholars Conferences since 1980, Denitch is an Honorary Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America and has served as DSA's representative to the Socialist International.
Since DSA's formation in 1982 its City University branch has sponsored and organized the Socialist Scholars Conference.
The bulk of SSC's organising committees were have been DSA members, as were many conference speakers.
Other speakers came from the Communist Party USA and its offshoot, the Committees of Correspondence, the International Socialists and Freedom Road Socialist Organization as well as independent Marxists, Maoists, Trotskyites, black radicals, gay activists and radical feminists.
Barack Obama wrote of "conferences" plural, indicating his attendance was not the result of accident or youthful curiosity.
Barack Obama's first known contact with Chicago Democratic Socialists of America occurred in 1992, shortly after he returned to Chicago, from his studies at Harvard.
Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, a long time DSA associate, told the 2008 Democratic Party convention of his first meeting with Barack Obama;
- I first heard of Barack back in 1992. The year 1992 was a little like 2008. Then, as now, we needed to save the country from the misguided policies of a president named Bush. I was working with my old friend, Lou Pardo, a retired machinist, on an effort to register Latino voters in Chicago. One day, we were talking about how we could reach more voters and cover more ground, but we needed more resources. Lou told me we should go see Barack Obama, who was directing a voter-registration drive called Project Vote. So Lou met with Barack and, without missing a beat, Barack Obama helped us out. Barack Obama made sure that the thousands of Latinos in Chicago were registered to vote. He helped empower the Latino community and ensure that we were full participants in our democracy.
An article in Chicago DSA's New Ground November 1994 says;
- Lou Pardo, a volunteer with Senator del Valle, DSA member and activist with the Midwest-Northeast Voter Registration Education Project, emphasized how important it was to support independent progressive democrats.
Barack Obama spoke at a Democratic Socialists of America organized forum at the University of Chicago in early 1996.
- Over three hundred people attended the first of two Town Meetings on Economic Insecurity on February 25 in Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. Entitled "Employment and Survival in Urban America", the meeting was sponsored by the UofC DSA Youth Section, Chicago DSA and University Democrats.
- Barack Obama observed that Martin Luther King's March on Washington in the 1960s wasn't simply about civil rights but "demanded jobs as well".
- One of the themes that has emerged in Barack Obama's campaign is "what does it take to create productive communities", not just consumptive communities. It is an issue that joins some of the best instincts of the conservatives with the better instincts of the left."
- Obama felt the state government has three constructive roles to play.
- The first is "human capital development". By this he meant public education, welfare reform, and a "workforce preparation strategy". Public education requires equality in funding. It's not that "money is the only solution to public education's problems but it's a start toward a solution... A true welfare system would provide for medical care, child care and job training. While Barack Obama did not use this term, it sounded very much like the "social wage" approach used by many social democratic labor parties."
- The state government "can also play a role in redistribution, the allocation of wages and jobs. As Barack Obama noted, when someone gets paid $10 million to eliminate 4,000 jobs, the voters in his district know this is an issue of power not economics. The government can use as tools labor law reform, public works and contracts."
- Finally, Illinois "needs an industrial strategy. How do we create more jobs for everyone? Illinois has no strategy for encouraging high wage, high productivity jobs".
DSA endorsementChicago Democratic Socialists of America endorsements in the March 19th 1995 Primary Election went to Danny K. Davis, Patricia Martin, Willie Delgado and Barack Obama.
In Chicago DSA's New Ground, Danny Davis was described only as....
- ...certainly not foreign to Chicago DSA. From the very beginning, he has always been willing to help: appearing as a speaker with Michael Harrington, serving as a Master of Ceremonies without peer at the annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner.
Barack Obama was given an extensive profile that covered his work with Project Vote, Developing Communities Project and Annenberg Challenge Grant, his education, community activities, education and work for Judson Miner.
- Barack Obama is running to gain the Democratic ballot line for Illinois Senate 13th District. The 13th District is Alice Palmer's old district, encompassing parts of Hyde Park and South Shore.
- Mr. Obama graduated from Columbia University and promptly went into community organizing for the Developing Communities Project in Roseland and Altgeld Gardens on the far south side of Chicago. He went on to Harvard University, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated with a law degree. In 1992, he was Director of Illinois Project Vote, a voter registration campaign that made Carol Moseley Braun's election to the U.S. Senate much easier than it would have been. At present, he practices law in Judson Miner's law firm and is President of the board of the Annenberg Challenge Grant which is distributing some $50 million in grants to public school reform efforts.
- What best characterizes Barack Obama is a quote from an article in Illinois Issues, a retrospective look at his experience as a community organizer while he was completing his degree at Harvard:
- "... community organizations and organizers are hampered by their own dogmas about the style and substance of organizing. Most practice ... a 'consumer advocacy' approach, with a focus on wrestling services and resources from outside powers that be. Few are thinking of harnessing the internal productive capacities, both in terms of money and people, that already exist in communities." (Illinois issues, September, 1988)
- Luckily, Mr. Obama does not have any opposition in the primary. His opponents have all dropped out or were ruled off the ballot. But if you would like to contribute to his campaign, make the check payable to Friends of Barack Obama, 2154 E. 71st, Chicago, IL 60649.
Saul Mendelson's funeral
The Memorial Service for Chicago Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Saul Mendelson was held on Sunday, March 29, 1998, at the First Unitarian Church, Chicago.
The service was MC'd by a retired colleague, Bob Clark. Carl Shier of DSA, spoke first and was followed by Saul's friend Deborah Meier, "a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient who is now starting a new school in Boston". Amy Isaacs, National Director of the Americans for Democratic Action, spoke of what "Saul had meant on foreign affairs to the ADA".
Other speakers included Communist Party USA aligned Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, State SenatorBarack Obama, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and "a good friend from New York", Myra Russell.
The concluding remarks were made by an old friend, Harriet Lefley, a former Trotskyist with Saul Mendelson in the 1940s, who was then Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami Medical School.
Eulogies also came from Quinn Brisben, (Socialist Party USA presidential candidate 1976, 1992) and David McReynolds (Socialist Party USA presidential candidate 1980, 2000).
Both Brisben and McReynolds are also members of Democratic Socialists of America.
Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of RightsFounded in 1961 and still active, the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights is one of the Communist Party USA's most successful and enduring creations-playing a major role in the near elimination of police spying against radical organizations.
In the early years Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights' personnel were virtually, all proven members or sympathisers of the Communist Party USA. In later years, supporters of the New American Movement, Democratic Socialists of America and Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism were more prominent.
In the 1970s, prominent members of the organization included Quentin Young, Timuel Black and Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf.
All three went on to join Democratic Socialists of America. All three went on to become friends and supporters of Barack Obama.
Sponsored by Jan Schakowsky
Chicago activist Adrian Bleifuss Prados, of Democratic Socialists of America youth wing, the Young Democratic Socialists wrote on their blog The Activist January 29, 2008, on the relationship between Obama, and Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Prados describes Schakowsky as "DSA friendly", but she has in fact been a paid up member of the organization.
- Barack has some real left-wing street cred in Chicago. He is probably the only person running for president who could identify, say, Antonio Gramsci, and that should count for something shouldn’t it?
- He has often attacked for being less outspoken than the Senior Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, but Obama actually takes his cues from Durbin who, along with DSA-friendly Jan Schakowsky, has been his main political sponsor.
Quentin YoungQuentin Young is a long time member of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.
In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, at a gathering in the Hyde Park home of former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
“I can remember being one of a small group of people who came to Bill Ayers’ house to learn that Alice Palmer was stepping down from the senate and running for Congress,” said Dr. Quentin Young, of the informal gathering at the home of Ayers and his wife, Dohrn. “[Palmer] identified [Obama] as her successor.” Barack Obama and Alice Palmer “were both there,” he said.
Quentin Young described Obama and Ayers as “friends.”
Healthcare influenceQuentin Young is a long time friend and supporter of Barack Obama. He was Obama's personal physician for more than 20 years.
- Quentin Young, perhaps the most well-known single-payer advocate in America. He was the Rev. Martin Luther King’s doctor when he lived in Chicago and a longtime friend and ally of Barack Obama.
In the 1990s Barack Obama and Quentin Young were both supporters of "single payer" health care..
As a state Senator, Obama and another leftist colleague and state representative Willie Delgado presented the The Health Care Justice Act to the Illinois House and Senate.
According to blog Thomas Paine's Corner;
- Barack Obama is quite familiar with the concepts and the specific merits of single payer. Back in the late 1990s, when he was an Illinois State Senator representing a mostly black district on the south side of Chicago, he took pains to consistently identify himself publicly with his neighbor Dr. Quentin Young.
- He signed on as co-sponsor of the Bernardin Amendment, named after Chicago's late Catholic Archbishop, who championed the public policy idea that medical care was a human right, not a commodity. At that time, when it was to his political advantage, Obama didn't mind at all being perceived as an advocate of single payer.
- "I knew him before he was political, I supported him when he ran for state Senate. When he was a state Senator he did say that he supported single payer. Now, he hedges. Now he says, if we were starting from scratch, he would support single payer.”
- “Barack’s a smart man, He probably calculated the political cost for being for single payer – the shower of opposition from the big boys – the drug companies and the health insurance companies. And so, like the rest of them, he fashioned a hodge podge of a health insurance plan.”
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been a longtime friend of Barack Obama.
DR. QUENTIN YOUNG: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: How has he changed over the years?
DR. QUENTIN YOUNG: Well, Barack Obama, as we know, was a community organizer, a very lofty calling, in my book, and he made the decision, when the opportunity came, that he could get more done politically, and he accepted the nomination for the seat in the State Senate. It’s not that long ago, really. It’s about a six, eight years ago.
Barack Obama, in those early days—influenced, I hope, by me and others—categorically said single payer was the best way, and he would inaugurate it if he could get the support, meaning majorities in both houses, which he’s got, and the presidency, which he’s got. And he said that on more than one occasion, and it represented the very high-grade intelligence we all know Barack has....
AMY GOODMAN: This brouhaha over the last week with the White House healthcare summit, 120 people, there were going to be no single-payer advocates. Congressman Conyers asked to go. At first, he was told no. He directly asked President Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus hearing. He asked to bring you and Marcia Angell—
DR. QUENTIN YOUNG: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. You weren’t allowed to go. Do you have President Obama’s ear anymore? You have been an ally of his for years, for decades.
DR. QUENTIN YOUNG: Well, it’s mixed. I think we’re friends, certainly. At this gala that you mentioned, which was embarrassing, he did send a very complimentary letter. And I appreciate that, but I’d much rather have him enact single payer, to tell the truth. And we did—it’s fair to say, after a good deal of protest, I think we were told there was a—phones rang off the hook. They did allow our national president, Dr. Oliver Fein, to attend with Dr. Conyers—Congressman Conyers. That’s fine, but we need many more people representative of the American people at large to get this thing through the Congress, and Baucus, notwithstanding, be overruled.
Timuel Black is an historian, activist and nonogenarian icon of the Chicago left. Black is a veteran of the Socialist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America. For several years he has also served on the Committees of Correspondence advisory board.
Timuel Black's relationship to Barack Obama stretches back until at least the early 1990s;
- So it’s no surprise that in 1991, when a community organizer named Barack Obama returned to Chicago with a Harvard law degree, he sought advice from Black. Seventeen years later, on November 4, 2008, Black and his wife, Zenobia, watched the election coverage in their home with friends. “When we learned that he had made it, that there was no turning back, the house just went wild
Alice Palmer had allegedly promised Obama her State Senate seat if she was successful in a run for the U.S. Congress.
She wasn't successful, but Obama refused to stand aside and went on to win the seat unopposed-after getting all his opponents (including Palmer) disqualified on voting technicalities.
"I liked Alice Palmer a lot. I thought she was a good public servant," Obama said. "It was very awkward. That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently."
His choice divided veteran Chicago political activists.
"There was friction about the decision he made," said City Colleges of Chicago professor emeritus Timuel Black, who tried to negotiate with Obama on Palmer's behalf. "There were deep disagreements."
Despite the mess, Timuel Black became and remains an admirer of the ambitious young politician.
"My first impression was this was a very, very brilliant young man," Black says.
Black said Obama's biggest obstacle would not be from whites, but from blacks.
- "The biggest thing he has to face is the accusations by some blacks that he is not black enough...He has to overcome that without being so black that he alienates potential white supporters."
Speaking of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign he said;
- “Obama is the test of how deep racism is in this country...Barack is the recipient of the struggle of other generations...That means that you feel proud of your ancestors, your successes...(Obama), based on the opportunities that were opened to him by others, is in the position to prove to the world whether the United States of America is a true democracy, or is a continuing hypocrisy.”
In December 2008 Barack Obama sent a note to Timuel Black's 90th birthday celebrations, which read in part;
- For forty years, he shaped our young men and women into those citizens. And though he may have retired from the teaching profession nearly two decades ago, he never stopped being a teacher. We are all his students in a classroom that never closes.
Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf
In 2000, Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf was named as a member of Democratic Socialists of America in the DSA publication Religious Socialism.
In April 2008 Rabbi Wolf sent a "Shalom" to Chicago DSA's 50th annual Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas -Michael Harrington Dinner.
The famous 1995 meeting In the home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, that launched Obama's political career was apparently one of several functions designed to introduce Obama to the Hyde Park set.
- Around this time, Obama started to attend a series of coffees in the Hyde Park community where he lived, standard operating procedure for political rookies running in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Chicago.
- "I was certainly (hosting) one of the first," said Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, rabbi emeritus at Chicago's KAM Isaiah Israel
- "There were several every week," he recalled... "I remember what I said to him: 'Someday you are going to be vice president of the United States.' He laughed and said, 'Why not president?'
Wolf came to Hyde Park before urban renewal. For 25 years he led the congregation at KAM Isaiah Israel, a synagogue across the street from Obama's mansion.
- "Barack is perfect for the neighborhood!...You can't say Barack's a product of Hyde Park. He's not really from here. But everybody saw the potential early on. We had a party for him at our house when he was just starting, back in the Nineties. I said right away: 'Here's a guy who could sell our product, and sell it with splendor!' "
"The thing is, it's not what you might think...It's not radical. It's not extreme. It's a rational, progressive philosophy based on experience. You see it here. This neighborhood is genuinely integrated. We did it here, we really did it! Not just talk about it. Look around. And Barack and his family fit right in. This is their neighborhood."
In March 2008 Wolf told Jewish Week;
- But it's not neighborly instinct that's led me to support the Obama candidacy: I support Barack Obama because he stands for what I believe, what our tradition demands.
- I've worked with Obama for more than a decade, as has my son, a lawyer...
- I am very proud to be his neighbor. I hope someday to visit him in the White House.
Davis introduces Obama to Teamsters, Chicago, 2004Danny K. Davis is the only Democrat remaining in Congress who is open about his membership of Democratic Socialists of America.
Davis' friendship with Barack Obama goes back at least to their days in the DSA influenced New Party in the mid 1990s.
Danny K. Davis joined the Chicago New Party (along with Barack Obama ) during his successful Congressional 1996 campaign on the Democratic Party ticket.
New Party News Spring 1996 page 1, celebrated the Davis’ Congressional victory and went on to say;
- "New Party members won three other primaries this Spring in Chicago: Barack Obama (State Senate), Michael Chandler (Democratic Party Committee) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary)..."these victories prove that small 'd' democracy can work' said Obama".
- DSA believes that the possible election of Senator Obama to the presidency in November represents a potential opening for social and labor movements to generate the critical political momentum necessary to implement a progressive political agenda...
- An Obama presidency will not on its own force legislation facilitating single-payer health care (at least at the federal level) or truly progressive taxation and major cuts in wasteful and unneeded defense spending. But if DSA and other democratic forces can work in the fall elections to increase the ranks of the Congressional Progressive and Black and La-tino caucuses, progressive legislation (backed by strong social movement mobilization) might well pass the next Congress.
- For the past year, especially following the nomination of Barack Obama, many DSA members worked energetically on the presidential campaign, especially in swing states
Wishing Tim Carpenter wellAround December 2013, while coping with his cancer, long time DSAer Tim Carpenter's daughter ran up to him with an envelope from the White House that had arrived in the mailbox of the family's Florence, Massachusetts, home. When they opened it, there was a note from President Barack Obama, wishing Tim well while celebrating his resilience.
Take Back America ConferencesSenator Barack Obama, founder New American Agenda Project, was on the list of 129 speakers at the 2005 Take Back America conference, which was organized by the Institute for Policy Studies, and Democratic Socialists of America dominated Campaign for America's Future.
Obama spoke again in 2006,2007.
21st Century Democrats support21st Century Democrats is a Political Action Committee that has stood for Progressive causes for over 20 years. Founded in 1986 by Institute for Policy Studies affiliate, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Democratic Socialists of America affiliates, former Texas Agriculture Secretary Jim Hightower, and former Illinois Congressman Lane Evans. Its three main goals are to help elect progressive candidates, train young people about grassroots organizing, and lastly, to continue to support our elected officials after Election Day "through our comprehensive progressive network".
Long time Board chair was Democratic Socialists of America member Jim Scheibel, a former Mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The mission of 21st Century Democrats is to build a "farm team" of progressive populists who will be the future leaders of the Democratic Party.
- In each election cycle, we endorse a diverse array of candidates who exemplify our values and show unusual promise to advance our progressive goals. We invest in some of the most competitive races as well as in some of the most challenging – those in which the candidates are outstanding but the traditional Democratic supporters are most reticent. We back candidates in primaries as well as general election races, and we focus the bulk of our resources on electing challengers and protecting vulnerable incumbents.
Save Our Security Illinois CoalitionIn 2005, left opposition to Social Security privatization was organized in Illinois around the Save Our Security Illinois Coalition, which included Chicago Democratic Socialists of America. The Coalition’s first action in Illinois was a 90-person picket line outside the downtown Chicago offices of the Charles Schwab brokerage, a major advocate of privatization. A town hall meeting, with an overflow crowd of 400, on February 28 at Loyola University’s Water Tower campus featured Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama and Representative Jan Schakowsky. There was also a major rally in April.
Consulting Eliseo Medina on Immigration
Obama addresses SEIU members, September 17, 2007On September 17, 2007, Obama spoke at the SEIU Member Political Action Conference which was held from September 16 - 18, 2007. At the conference he stated (video to the right),
- "Before debating health care, I talked to Andy Stern and SEIU members. Before immigration debates took place in Washington, I talked with Eliseo Medina and SEIU members."
DSA and Progressives for ObamaFormed in early 2008 Progressives for Obama was desined to unite the main sectors of the U.S. left behind the Obama presidential campaign.
Of the four main founders, two Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Barbara Ehrenreich are senior members of Democratic Socialists of America.
Of the website's endorsersPaul Buhle, Duane Campbell, Peter Dreier, Adam Hochschild, Jay Mazur, Frances Fox Piven, Christine Riddiough, Stanley Sheinbaum, Cornel West and Betty Willhoite have been Democratic Socialists of America members.
Supporting Obama in '08Most Democratic SA locals committed themselves fully to the Obama campaign in 2008.
- Sacramento DSA worked intensely on the Obama campaign through Super Tuesday and continues electoral work with the Sacramento Progressive Alliance.
- Some got up “at the crack of dawn,” says Jeff Gold, to take buses to support Obama in various locations in Pennsylvania, sometimes side by side with experienced trade unionists from Working America and at other times with first-time campaign volunteers...Another member traveled all the way to south Florida to help turn out Jewish voters for Obama...
In Columbus, Ohio, DSA members campaigned for both Obama and congressional candidate Mary Jo Kilroy, who, after a suspenseful count of provisional ballots was declared the winner in December, raising the Democrats’ majority in the House to 257.
DSA campaign appointmentsDuring Obama's 2008 presidential cycle at least three DSA connected activists were appointed to important campaign posts.
- Harry Boyte Co-chair of the Civic Engagement Group of Barack Obama’s U.S. presidential campaign.
- Eliseo Medina Served on Obama's Latino Advisory Council.
- Cornel West Served on Obama's National Black Advisory Council.
- Jose LaLuz also served as president of Latinos for Obama.