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Ken Brociner responds to Politico headline referring to “socialist takeover”

(Somerville Wire) – “IS SOMERVILLE READY FOR A SOCIALIST TAKEOVER? — A group of Democratic socialists is betting that the Somerville City Council is ready for a socialist takeover this fall.”

Huh? To say that I was annoyed after reading the headline that appeared in the New England newsletter of Politico magazine is an understatement. And after speaking with a number of other Somervillians, it’s fair to say I am far from alone in feeling this way.

But after some further reflection, it struck me that my initial reaction was mostly coming from my gut rather than from my head or heart. Since the Politico article was published on March 29, I’ve been trying to sort out some of the complex and contradictory dimensions of my reaction to this alleged “takeover” of my adopted hometown. I hope that the following Q& A with(in) myself may help other people think through what promises to be a fascinating and controversial chapter in the history of Somerville.

Q: Did Politico simply hype up the article by referring to “a socialist takeover” of Somerville?

A: Not really – because it was taken from a quote by a “spokesperson” for Boston DSA (Democratic Socialists of America). Here is the full quote exactly as it appeared in the article:

“‘Our goal is … to take over Somerville and to start implementing a Green New Deal for Somerville, free transit, defunding the police, creating affordable housing, bringing back rent control,’ said Seth Gordon, spokesperson for the Boston DSA. “‘But we also want the Somerville election to be a lesson to those who don’t pay attention to constituents.'”

Q: So what’s wrong with those goals and that vision? After all, have you forgotten that you’ve been a socialist yourself ever since your days as a student militant back in the early 1970s?

A: Well, first of all, let’s take a look at the last sentence of that quote/threat. As of today, there are six DSA-endorsed candidates running for the Somerville City Council. Fine. But to assert that the non-DSA candidates running for office “don’t pay attention to constituents” is nothing more than self-righteous hot air. As for the specific goals that Gordon listed, the fact is that the current City Council already supports all of them except for DSA’s plan to “defund the police” by cutting 10% from the police budget every year – indefinitely!

Q: Hold on a minute. In a recent conversation you had with one of DSA’s leading activists in Somerville, weren’t you told that Seth Gordon doesn’t really speak for Boston DSA in that he isn’t either a chair or vice-chair of the organization?

A: Yes, that is what I was told – though I find it hard to believe that the journalist for Politico would have referred to Gordon as a DSA “spokesperson” out of thin air. And while Gordon may well have blundered by putting things so undiplomatically, he probably did capture the essence of how many/most DSA activists in Boston and Somerville view the upcoming elections.

Q: I think you’re kind of splitting hairs here. After all, there is nothing wrong with the DSA-endorsed candidates in Somerville having a political agenda – much of which you happen to agree with. So how can you object to their attempt to “take over Somerville” which, when looked at in another way, could simply mean winning a majority of seats on the City Council?

A: I admit, if you look at it that way, it’s hard to argue with your logic. But let me throw out three other reservations I have. Given that the Somerville City Council is already widely seen as the most progressive in the whole state – why the big push to change it? Secondly, from what I have heard, DSA will be able to flood Somerville with money and volunteers from outside the city in order to elect its slate of candidates. And lastly, it is bitterly ironic that the very reason that DSA has a large base of support among young and relatively well-off voters in the city is because so many longtime residents and immigrants have been pushed out of Somerville due to the high cost of housing.

Q: OK, I admit that all three of your points have a certain logic, but wouldn’t you admit that all of the DSA-endorsed candidates are idealistic, well-intentioned and seem to be well qualified?

A: Yes – on that I think we can both agree. And I think we can also agree that, in the end, the people of Somerville (or at least the current electorate) will have the final word.


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