Providence DSA rescinds its endorsement of Representative David Morales
The Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has overwhelmingly voted to withdraw its endorsement of State Representative David Morales after he violated the chapter’s bylaws by voting to re-elect Joe Shekarchi as House Speaker.
The decision was reached after a debate at a packed meeting and an online membership vote which had higher participation than any previously held by Providence DSA. The vote shows the strength of the chapter’s support for a bylaw that makes endorsement contingent on a politician’s refusal to back establishment leaders merely for political gain.
It also signals that if “progressive” legislators in Rhode Island want support from the left, they will have to do more than proclaim a desire to help working people – they must also fight the corporate politicians who stand in the way of change.
Representative Shekarchi – an eviction lawyer whose top aide recently resigned after a police investigation revealed the aide’s ties to the mob – was the right-hand man to the previous right-wing speaker, Nicholas Mattiello. Like those before him, Shekarchi uses the leadership vote to discipline his caucus and keep the legislature in line with the Democratic Party’s corporate backers.
For the political establishment, the election of the speaker is far more than a procedural formality. When legislators abstain, party leaders threaten to block the bills under their names, exclude them from committees, and run challengers against them in elections, while promising to protect those legislators who do not fight the corrupt party machine. The Democratic Party is meticulous in demanding the votes of every legislator, even when a leader’s election is already guaranteed. This is because the leadership vote is a means of control.
The supposedly pragmatic solution is to go along to get along, which may be effective in protecting a legislator’s seat. But experience shows that the party leadership will not support even modest reforms unless they feel a threat to their power. The State Senate passed its most progressive legislation – including a $15 minimum wage, a charter school moratorium, and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants – only after other senators joined Senator Samuel Bell (DSA) in openly opposing the Senate president.
Yet Providence DSA’s goals are bigger than that. Transformative reforms such as statewide Medicare for All will never be achieved without a mass movement, and the answer is not just electing well-meaning political tacticians. Socialists must put up representatives who are deeply connected to socialist organizations and accountable to working people. The job of a socialist representative is to provide opposition: call out corrupt politicians and organize public pressure by fighting for the needs of the working class.
This does not mean Providence DSA refuses to work with those who disagree, whether Democrats or Republicans, when there is common ground – nor do socialists always reject compromise. But political battles must be fought in the open, not resolved through backroom deals, because only the working class has the power to create fundamental change. That was the meaning of Bernie Sanders’ slogan, “Not Me, Us.”