Austin Democratic Socialists of America

Andrew Costigan

Do you self-identify as a man?:
Yes

Do you self-identify as a person from a traditionally marginalized group?:
No

Please describe your involvement in Austin DSA:
i joined austin dsa in 12/14 at the tseu christmas party. i attended gbms with some frequency in the first few months. i volunteered when bernie was running for president, and since national and our chapter endorsed bernie, i worked on that a lot in austin and at ut. our numbers were growing at that time, and i met a lot of people through dsa. i learned a lot.

after bernie and through dsa, i participated in the founding of 350 Austin, as well as developed some activity on UT’s campus addressing climate change and the university’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry. this activity for me lasted about a half a year or so, and in coalition with other forces, including austin dsa, we made some progress. during this time, i also directly participated in dsa activity in the form of gbms, rallies, and various events.

i attended the 2017 dsa national convention on the last day as an observer. i wanted to go to the whole thing, but i had to present at the american psychological association on the saturday in dc, though on a panel about how the forces of capital, among others, have created significant limitations for the work of psychologists and researchers in the field.

since 11/2017 when much new and diverse chapter activity has been developed, i participated in a range of activity. i helped form the karaoke caucus. i did several medicare/paid sick days for all phone banks, a couple of brake lights clinics, and tabling events. i helped thomas reboot the new members school, spending a number of sessions hashing out the materials under the guise of a nascent education committee, which then transformed into the political education committee. i volunteered extensively for our only primary endorsed candidate, Susanna Woody, whose insurgent campaign sought to replace a 23 year incumbent, former constable. much of the canvassing took place in eastern travis county closer to where i live including my neighborhood. i also composed two campaign reports that were distributed to the membership and got a letter to the editor published in the chronicle disputing their claims that Susanna lacked the necessary experience. i also volunteered a bit on Julie Ann Nitsch’s campaign, winning her second term as ACC trustee. i helped get the paperwork straight with the university to start the YDSA chapter. more recently, i have been involved with the eco-socialist committee, attending the first meetings that have been happening. for the last several weeks i have been going to a queer coalition supported event protesting the so-called celebration church, who are occupying an aisd public space.

i believe that the work of individuals within the chapter does not only happen via chapter developed activities, but often in coalition with allies and as an individual. as such, i have spoken a number of times at central health, identifying each time as a dsa member to favor of expanding health care facilities in eastern travis co. i have volunteered with the Native American and Indigenous Collective at ut. i have worked with the travis county democratic party to get out the vote in my neighborhood and precinct, where i am the precinct chair. finally, i am in near constant dialogue with people in my neighborhood and area regarding their impressions of the state of politics in general and the tenets of democratic socialism. i believe dialoguing with people not yet identifying as democratic socialists is a helpful way to develop different and effective ways to present the ideas, in addition to dialoguing with people who do identify as democratic socialists.

What strengths would you bring to the leadership committee?:
i have been an educator for 15 years, teaching people ages 6 to college and adult learners. i have been studying educational psychology for ten years. both endeavors have informed my perspectives on organizing, as well as offered tools to work within and navigate activist spaces. first, i seek to operate from the stance of a learner. i understand that i do not know everything about the various issues we are seeking to address, nor do i purport to know a definitive pathway forward for any particular endeavor. i understand organizing work involves people talking to each other as they plan and enact these processes, learning and being flexible along the way. second, i seek to actively listen, trying to ensure that i understand where someone else is coming from by checking to make sure i heard the intended meaning. third, in what at times can be stressful contexts within activist spaces, i try to remain mindful, seeking to perceive disagreements or miscommunications in particular without judgement yet with awareness. this is a particularly difficult practice in political spaces, but i am working on it.

i do not live in austin.

If elected, what would be your priorities be for the leadership committee and Austin DSA?:
help coordinate the work of the chapter among committees, working groups, and coalitions.

help expand chapter membership and activity.

expand accessibility.

expand intra-chapter discourse on online platforms.

continue to dialogue with allies in the community.

What is your approach to resolving conflict and achieving consensus among differing viewpoints?:
conflict is inevitable in activist spaces, including the democratic socialists of america, because we are trying to process and force change across a host of, in many cases, unimaginably horrific and unjust circumstances. i believe this creates an inevitable milieu of stress, which we conduct our work within, and this is one major source of conflict when it emerges. during periods of conflict, i try to manage with as much nonjudgemental awareness as possible, seeking to see things for what they are, as opposed to what i imagine they are, or hope them to be. asking questions and listening are good tools to understand the nature of conflicts when they emerge.

in terms of achieving consensus, i think that periods of discussion, with as wide participation as possible, in order to get the most minds to weigh in on an issue/plan/tactic is a good first step. slack can serve as a platform for this step within the context of our chapter, of course in person meetings are good too. a period of open discussion, on-line and in-person, can enable people to understand each other’s varying perspectives and add to their own. i think that votes are good benchmarks for approaching consensus, often showing where a majority support lies and potentially, depending on the issue of course, help the minority perspective see that there is a majority that thinks differently. i think that understanding the project to develop democratic socialism within the jurisdiction of austin dsa, texas and america to be an evolving endeavor, with a constantly shifting political terrain in the backdrop is important to consider with respect to the development of consensus because the consensus we built last year on some particular thing might not be relevant next year. i love Maria Svart’s quote about dsa, borrowing from a saying a common saying, “we are building the road as we walk it.”

Do you identify with any caucus or political tendency, either within DSA or in general?:
North Star; anarchism