It’s 6:00 p.m. on President’s Day and I’ve just walked into the local CWA Hall in East Dallas. Representatives from a coalition of progressive and leftist groups are still setting up their tables. A mother tosses a yellow ball to her young son, who starts playing with two other kids who can’t be older than 10. There are about 20 people in the room, a mix of organizers and volunteers, gathered for a Bernie Sanders GOTV rally. The group cuts across race, gender, age, and creed. I may be the only Bernie Bro in the room. Most certainly, the meanest one on Twitter.
More are expected to join as people make their way through rush hour traffic. I have no reason to doubt it. Less than a week ago, over 5,000 people gathered outside of Dallas at an arena in Mesquite to see Bernie Sanders on Valentine’s Day. The rally was announced with less than three days notice. Chatting with a volunteer at my table, I learn that he exhausted his text-banking queue and that the campaign didn’t have any more to offer. The current problem: too many volunteers.
Just yesterday, my parents were telling me how, despite some minor reservations, they were all in for Bernie. The same goes for my older brother. For the past thirty-odd years, they’ve all been Texans. None of them are die-hard socialists like myself, but nevertheless, one by one they’ve come around for Sanders.
It certainly feels like something is happening in the heart of the Lone Star State. I grew up here, in the suburbs outside Fort Worth, and now once again live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after ten years of chasing the upwardly mobile trans-coastal millennial dream—a dream which, once achieved, was transmuted into a waking nightmare.
Prior to my prodigal return, I had been most recently lived in San Francisco, where I participated in the formation of the local DSA chapter and met the founding co-editor of this publication. In the dark years after 2016, with national Democrats in disarray and local Democrats in the thrall of tech and real estate, DSA San Francisco emerged as a powerful political organization that, in partnership with other local progressives, achieved significant victories, including the creation of a new fund to fight homelessness and the election of a socialist to the Board of Supervisors.
Undoubtedly, the Dallas landscape looks quite different—politically and topographically—compared to San Francisco. But I can’t help but sense the same energy in the room. Kristian, a local Dallas DSA chapter head who also serves on the national DSA political committee, announces the rally will start soon and that everyone can help themselves to food.
David Bowie’s “Changes” comes on over the loud speakers. It’s followed up by “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone as I pick up two pork tacos. I’m thinking of San Francisco, Oakland, the entire Bay Area. This is not to revel in a false nostalgia for the political situation in San Francisco; Mayor London Breed just recently endorsed Bloomberg for President, inequality is unchecked, homelessness has become epidemic. Part of me has thought that DSA SF’S strength was one half of a contradiction, made possible by the increasingly wretched situation. Taking in the scene here, absent some of the heightened contradictions in San Francisco, I’m beginning to think that part of me is wrong.
Just today, the Sanders campaign opened an office in Dallas, not far from my apartment—one of five across the state. He’s polling within a margin of error against Trump. It makes sense: Sanders polls above 60% with Hispanic and Latino voters, and just a few years ago, white voters dropped from majority to simple plurality in Texas. Here in the room, white folks are in the minority.
This should be an electoralist Democrat’s wet dream—a candidate that turns Texas into a toss-up. Yet centrist Democrats and the pundit class trip over themselves so hard in their attempts to stop Sanders that they’re willing to fall into the arms of an oligarch. Out of touch, at best, perhaps with the potential to come around—the Peter Daous of the world. At worst, craven and morally repugnant, willing to pirouette in exchange for Bloomberg bribes—we all know them when we see them. We have the screenshots.
People keep streaming in after the one-hour mark. A local band, just having set up, begins to perform. A child demands her mother help her make posters for Bernie Sanders. With less than a month left until Tuesday, and Sanders projected to win Texas, the mood is high.
Deep in the heart of the Lone Star State, the political revolution is alive and well. It feels surreal to contemplate a democratic socialist winning my home state in the Presidential election, like a fever dream from my angst-filled adolescence. Never did I think, 15 years after I was playing Reptilia at a pep rally and reading The Motorcycle Diaries for the first time, that The Strokes would headline a Sanders rally.
But the revolution is just getting started. Organizers from Our Revolution take to the microphone to remind us of as much, segueing from music into a discussion of the down ballot drop-off problem and the need to elect progressives and socialists. Even if Sanders flips Texas, the work must continue if real change is to be realized at the local level. That can only be done by strong organizations with deep bonds who elect representatives at every level of government.
The next speaker, a formerly incarcerated person with Texas Organizing Project, shares his story of how he came to support Bernie when a friend asked him to go to a Sanders rally. He holds up his oxygen machine, indicating his support for—and reliance upon—Medicaid, and as an extension, Medicare for All. Before the band begins to play again, he closes by saying that he sees the people in the room not just as allies but family. The crowd roars. The band begins to play. Many of the faces in the room are new to me, but I can’t help but share the sentiment. Texas is my home, and this movement is my family. ♦
Steven Monacelli is the publisher and editor of Protean Magazine.