Why I joined DSA, or, how I learned to ‘do something’

by Kyle Minton

Kyle Minton (left) ready to talk to you about Medicare for All.

There is nothing unique about wanting to “get involved” after the 2016 presidential election. I took the election of Donald Trump personally; I saw it as a failure of my own apathy toward politics and my lack of involvement. I realized that maybe if people like myself had stood up to the neoliberal advancement under Obama, if we had fought against all the bailouts, the privatization, the austerity, that we could have better withstood the populist tide of Trumpism.

I never thought of myself as an activist. I knew I wanted to “do something” to “get involved,” but the thought of canvassing or protesting anything was terrifying. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t want to bother people! I made the rounds of different orgs I could join like local chapters of the ACLU or the Democratic Party. It seemed like there was either nothing to do or there was a lot to do and I felt woefully unprepared to do it. I spent the majority of 2017 kicking myself for having done nothing again.

I went to the second DSA Detroit chapter meeting in 2018. During a breakout session where you could sit with all their working groups, I sat with the Medicare for All group that had just formed. Rick and Lea were the two co-chairs at the time. I could not imagine more welcoming and engaging people.

Lea, who was in med school, was beyond knowledgeable on what Medicare for All was and how it was the only policy we should get behind. Rick was interested in getting everyone involved in the Medicare for All fight as a “gateway drug” to activism. His thought was that you could use the campaign to train entry-level activists into canvass-comfortable organizers. I had never seen anything like this and it was exactly what I needed.

After Lea moved out of state, Rick ran the Medicare for All working group. He took us to “deep canvassing” training hosted by Michigan United, led us in knocking over 500 doors in metro Detroit, and developed a close partnership to the activist group Michigan for Single Payer Healthcare. As we continued to get more experience, Rick dreamt of leading the M4A group in protests against Blue Cross Blue Shield, bird-dogging Gary Peters at his own town halls, and expanding our canvassing efforts into conservative districts like Livonia. We were only getting started on his vision.

Rick Haberman (center) preparing for a Medicare for All canvass.

That summer, after a meeting where we were planning a canvass in Detroit, Rick suffered a fatal motorcycle accident. I had only known him for a few months, but Rick’s passing was heartbreaking. Detroit DSA lost a visionary activist. The Medicare for All working group dissipated. We were devastated.

I joined DSA to “get involved” and no one had more of an impact on that involvement than Rick. Since his passing, I have become co-chair of the Medicare for All working group. My co-chair and I, inspired by Rick’s vision of using the M4A group as a launch pad for new activists, rebuilt the group from five interested members to over 25 regulars. We have knocked thousands of doors in Metro Detroit, led a protest against Blue Cross Blue Shield’s CEO Dan Loepp, bird-dogged Gary Peters at a town hall, and added several coalition partners to the fray. We’re expanding our canvassing efforts to the conservative district of Livonia this summer.

I want my continued membership in DSA to be a testament to Rick’s vision. Thank you for all you’ve done, Rick. Hope you’re proud.