Austin Democratic Socialists of America

Seneca Savoie

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 in February 2018 as a consequence of the Paid Sick Leave vote. I had gone to a council meeting to testify, and I saw an army of DSA people there. I saw that collective action could extract concessions from the powerful—this was the catalyst that finally made me believe I could be an organizer, as opposed to just some “other, better people” with skills I would never have.

I immediately became involved in our housing workgroup at the behest of the latelast Glenn Scott, who trusted me to represent us at a Keep Austin Affordable meeting- from that point, I was all-in on the Affordable Housing Bond campaign, including talking to stakeholders, organizing research and driving turnout to city council meetings, and then helping with turf selection, talking points, and personally knocking on thousands of doors to bring the largest housing investment in Texas history.

Early on, I got involved in our Electoral Workgroup which was…a less smooth experience. There was a lot of conflict and rancor, and it gave me resolve to rework that process so that our chapter could actually have members run for things, and have the confidence that we’ll have actual conversations about what those campaigns can and can’t do to build a socialist movement. Together with Jordan and Mike Nachbar, I worked on putting together the proposal to revamp the electoral research group, which I believe will allow us to streamline our discussions of potential candidates with greatly increased transparency and decreased bureaucracy.

I was a helping founder of our nascent Criminal Justice workgroup, working in close collaboration with Austin Justice Coalition and Grassroots Leadership, to help organize “an angry mob with a canvassing arm” toward issues of decarceration in Austin.

I got in the ground floor of the Austin Chapter of the Libertarian Socialist caucus because I never got over my High School crush on Noam Chomsky

What strengths would you bring to the leadership committee?:
1) As a flexible and collaborative comrade, I do in fact change my position in response to other people’s concerns.( I’m not very doctrinaire about tendency.)
2) I frequently seek out consultation and engage in real research projects to make sure I can understand what people are bringing to the fore.I’m keenly aware of how new to organizing and policy I am and don’t over-project confidence about knowledge I don’t possess. (the number of women in DSA who are clearly subject matter experts in things I want to know more about here has been a big help in my personal growth)
3) I work on cultivating strong relationships. People who’ve come down on other sides of policy issues within the organization typically come away knowing I actually listened and tried to find some way of delivering strong compromises where possible.
4) I’m unusually good at public speaking and persuasive speech in general, and I know how to hype a crowd.

If elected, what would be your priorities be for the leadership committee and Austin DSA?:
The biggest asset Austin DSA has is all the members we haven’t drawn in yet. I want to make sure that as many of our less active members are able to become engaged, and that barriers to doing so are as low as possible. To this end, I think a few things are essential

1) A revamped mobilizer campaign—This design would have every committee and caucus contributing people for mobilizers, to not only let people know of existing campaigns, but also to make sure we know what new members are interested in. If we don’t have a campaign or workgroup on something that a lot of people are interested in, then we can connect them to each other and help them organize.

2) Organize mobilizers into cohorts—This way people who join the organization will be part of an on-ramp process that helps get them involved and engaged (Kim and Ryan both have developed thoughts on this subject and I think it’s crucial. If you don’t vote for me, please vote for them)

3) Apply Deep Canvassing Methods to a larger number of issues—This enhances our ability to build durable coalitions and increase our skill at communicating socialist messages. Canvasses and other mobilization actions also provide a good opportunity for members to meaningfully contribute without taking on long-term organizing obligations

4) Events like Socialist night school, where we have talks on policy or theory with plenty of time for people to talk to each other and help build the culture of the organization (James has pretty good thoughts on this subject too and I look forward to collaborating on this)

5) Deep, long-term coalition work that isn’t transactional, but builds relationships between the rank-and-file membership of Austin DSA and our closest allies (Worker’s Defense Project, Austin Justice Coalition, YALL, etc)

Finally, I believe that socialists must be a core element of the struggle to end mass incarceration, both as pressure tactics and by producing from membership candidates of the scope and power of Larry Krasner and Franklin Bynum. I will steadfastly insist that even people who are generally against electoral work should see value in our ability to seize the power to STOP putting human beings in cages.

What is your approach to resolving conflict and achieving consensus among differing viewpoints?:
I’ve been working in customer-facing tech support roles for over a decade at this point- my entire job is talking to people when something has just upset and they rightfully see me as representing the thing that just did that to them, empathizing with what they’re going through, and talking through what options we have to deal with it. I’m basically unfazeable by people who blame me for them losing their photos or not having their work computer for a few days, and my patience is FAR deeper for people who want badly to make the world a more just and equitable place but are just disagreeing about how to do that. This can be a little bit of a liability, as I will bend as far backward as humanly possible to believe in people’s good faith and ability to work with one another.

Do you identify with any caucus or political tendency, either within DSA or in general?:
I’m a member of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus, which is itself a big tent, but if you triangulated the Black Socialists of America page, Current Affairs, and a random Noam Chomsky book, you’d probably have a pretty good picture of my brain.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?:
2019 is going to be a year of consolidating local power and wins for socialism in Austin and that’s going to be dope AF