Democratic Convention 2016

Inside the Socialist Caucus at the DNC: Liberals Are 'Not Our Friends' but 'Not the Main Danger'

Democratic socialists urged to make nice with Clinton fans, free Puerto Rico.



In a packed, sweltering room on the top floor of the William Way LGBTQ Center, labor leaders, Bernie Sanders fans, and other stripes of American leftists gathered Wednesday to talk about the next steps toward revolution. First, it meant making peace with Hillary Clinton and other liberals.  

"We don't want to make the classic error, in which we think the liberals are our enemy," Bob Master, legislative/political director for Communications Workers of America and co-chair of the New York Working Families Party, tells the audience. "They're not our friends, but in this environment we've got to be crystal clear that they are not the main danger." 

The main danger, according to Master, is the "proto-fascist right-wing populism" of Donald Trump. 

"We must defeat Donald Trump and we must defeat him resoundingly," says Master, to raucous applause. "We've gotta kick his ass because the ideas he represents must be so resoundingly rejected—the maligned, bigoted, racist, anti-immigrant idiocy. Right? … We have to demonstrate that that is completely unacceptable." As for Hillary Clinton, she "is going to be as good or as bad as we collectively make her," he says. 

Master is one of several speakers at this "Socialist Caucus," organized by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), on the third day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). After he urges the audience to make 2018 "a referendum on corporate liberalism," he yields the mic so a very special guest in the audience can be announced: Bernie Sanders' nephew. The crowd breaks into a chant—"Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!" upon hearing this.

"I just wanna thank you guys for being here," says Levi Sanders. "By the way, my name's Levi, though."

"Levi! Levi! Levi!" they chant. 

José La Luz, a vice chair of the DSA and a former leader of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, works up the crowd further with an impromptu speech about colonialism in Puerto Rico. "The fundamental difference between a liberal and a progressive," says La Luz, "is where he or she stands on the very question of colonialism." 

"There will be a political revolution in Puerto Rico!" he promises.

As for the rest of the U.S., La Luz hopes to build on momentum Sanders started. "Whether you call yourself a socialist, a social democrat, or a democratic socialist, you and I know that what Sen. Sanders has done is to build a strong foundation from which we need to build a powerful mass movement," says La Luz. It is not a movement "to bring socialism to the U.S," but to "fight for economic justice" and "to expand fundamental democratic and human rights."