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New Democratic Socialists group adds to political discourse

<cratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a political group new to Carleton this fall. Seniors Paul Kirk-Davidoff ’18 and Abe Sears ’18 lead the Carleton DSA, a local chapter of the national organization Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA).

Kirk-Davidoff and Sears both see the election of President Trump as an event that heightened their interest in bringing a YDSA chapter to Carleton.

At the time of Trump’s election, Kirk-Davidoff was studying abroad. “I was far away and felt like I couldn’t really do anything about it,” he said. “I got back on campus and I felt like there was a lot of energy around activism—a lot of people went out to the Women’s March, around inauguration, and I think there were a couple of other marches after that—and then I felt like it really fizzled out. And I felt like, there’s still this energy, but it was kind of in a semi-static position.”

Kirk-Davidoff felt that the appetite for sustained activism was present on campus and saw bringing a DSA chapter to Carleton as a way to meet that need.  

Sears also saw the Carleton community as wanting more than discussion post-election. “People wanted another avenue to take action, be involved in the community, organize,” he said. Sears echoed Kirk-Davidoff’s feeling that there “wasn’t quite a group [on campus] that was around that did that.”

Kirk-Davidoff and Sears see the DSA as an opportunity to work on issues with a broader lens.
“I’d say the biggest thing we bring to the campus scene right now is that we take kind of a broader view of things, and we put things into a really global perspective,” said Kirk-Davidoff.

 “Because of that, we can work on immigration issues, we can work on wage issues, we can work on racial justice issues and see this all as kind of part of the broader fight against the capitalist system today… we’re allowing ourselves to ally with all these different groups because we see it as kind of one big struggle.”

Sears emphasized that the DSA focuses on issues that the Northfield community as a whole faces.

“[The focus of the DSA] lets us connect what’s going on inside Carleton to what’s going on in the broader Northfield community,” Sears said.

“I think we felt like there’s a lot of groups who focus on stuff at Carleton and other groups who focus on stuff in Northfield, but it’s cool to have some systematic sense of injustices that happen in Carleton and are somehow connected to the Northfield community and we’re not somehow separated from that.”

The first meeting drew not only students but also members of the Northfield community and staff from Carleton to the organization. This fall, the Carleton DSA is focused on four main issues, and created committees to pursue action for these items, including minimum wage, Northfield housing, solidarity and organization.

Kirk-Davidoff’s hopes for this year include establishing a solid basis for the organization by the time he and Sears graduate, as well as seeing one of their action items completed. Specifically, he hopes to see the creation of a municipal ID pass the Northfield City Council.

Will Yetvin ’18, member of the DSA’s housing committee, is hopeful of what he can learn through his involvement.

“I hope that through the housing committee we can educate ourselves on the housing crisis in Northfield and be advocates for a Northfield Municipal ID, greater availability of working wage housing no matter your documentation status and the necessary services that need to come with that housing such as access to high quality education, healthy food options, and a safe living environment,” said Yetvin.  

Sears sees the utility of a municipal ID for both Northfield community members and Carleton students.
“A municipal ID is a form of city identification that can be very useful to prove residence for people who can’t get a driver’s license—the elderly, undocumented immigrants, international students or kids younger than 15, for example,” said Sears. “It can be used as identification for interactions with city police, at a drugstore or potentially to open a bank account. It’s like a ‘library card plus’ in that it can prove residence but cannot be used to vote in Northfield. Additionally, Northfield will be one of the first cities in the country to allow you to list a gender other than male or female on your card.”

The Northfield City Council is expected to vote on municipal IDs in early December.

“If we can get something concrete, then I think municipal ID would be probably our best chance for that,” said Kirk-Davidoff. “It would be so cool to see something that you feel like you contributed to happen.”

The Carleton DSA is also planning to canvas for signatures in support of raising Carleton’s minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, which would benefit student workers and some staff that aren’t currently making a living wage, according to Sears.

“Carleton can’t run without its workers, and Carleton is supposed to be responsive to us, it’s for us, but they aren’t paying [all of their student employees and some of their staff] what they deserve to work right now,” said Sears.

 The Carleton DSA is open to all members of the Northfield community. “We’re not judgmental, we’re not dogmatic or whatever, this is a group for anybody who sees the possibility for a different world and wants to make that happen,” says Kirk-Davidoff.

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