Democratic Socialists of America

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The Democratic Socialists of America are the largest socialist political organization in the United States, with about 50,000 members[1]. The DSA is not a political party per se, but an organization to promote social democratic/socialist reforms such as a $15 minimum wage, single-payer healthcare, free college, and opposition to free-trade deals.[2] The group has been growing with a boost from social media, and DSA members on Twitter are identified with red rose emojis (🌹) next to their user handles.[3]


The DSA was founded in 1982 after a merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), which itself by anti-war activist of Old Left Socialist Party of America, and the New American Movement, the successor organization of Students for a Democratic Society. The party took a position as a sort-of lobbying group seeking to pressure the Democratic Party to move left and has endorsed Democratic candidates for president.

While some other industrialized countries have had strong support for democratic socialism for a long time, this political movement has not been particularly popular in the United States for many reasons. American labor unions have traditionally been focused on wages and working conditions and have never really been extensions of democratic socialism. It did not help that democratic socialists opposed America's entry into World War I, and the backlash was intense. In the years after World War II, widespread prosperity diminished the appeal of socialism for most Americans. Furthermore, a number of "socialist" ideas were adopted into mainstream American politics, as can be seen in the introduction of many government programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. Such programs are not called "socialism," except by critics. It was not until the Great Recession of 2007-2008, which resulted in dramatic loss of income and soaring economic inequality, that democratic socialism made a comeback, starting with Bernie Sanders running for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016.[4]

In the 2017 off-year elections, the DSA elected 15 into office, including a Marine veteran being elected to the Virginia House of Delegates[5].

In 2018, the DSA got notable press coverage for the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-CortezWikipedia's W.svg, a not-so-fringe candidate who campaigned for Sanders back in 2016, beat Joseph CrowleyWikipedia's W.svg, the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the second most powerful Democrat in the House, and "King of Queens" (the Chair of the Queens County Democratic Party). Crowley spent $3.4 million, while she only spent $194,000, mostly in small donations. And then there was about a thousand new DSA members the next day. Even Trump was impressed.[6]

Relationship with the Democratic Party[edit]

The group has a complex relationship with the Democratic Party, with many members being part of both groups to try to pull the Democratic Party to the left. However, many DSA members want independence from the "neoliberalism" associated with both major parties and are associated with other parties or none at all. How the DSA should interact with the Democratic Party is frequently debated inside the organization, and sometimes there's a good amount of heat over it.

About half of the 15 DSA members elected in 2017 were Democrats with the other half being independents[7]. In 2018, almost all of the National DSA's endorsements were for Democrats[8], although the National DSA tends to endorse only members that have a high chance of winning, not all candidates (which isn't a good representative of the whole organization anyway).


The DSA is a multi-tendency party[note 1] composed of social liberals radicalized by Trump, social democrats who want America to stop being the laughing stock of the developed world, eco-socialists, left revolutionaries and all kinds of anarchism (with the exception of the crappy version). This gives the party a heads up over other leftist parties who are usually more concerned with ideological purity than actually achieving any kind of progress.

The term democratic socialism is itself suffering a re-definition much like liberalism and libertarianism before them to mean something that really piss off political scientists and dictionary nazis, as it's come to describe a form of social democracy rather than an anti-capitalist ideology that's historically been.

β€œβ€Democratic socialism, in reality, actually is post-capitalist. It's a post-capitalism philosophy. So, in other words, it doesn't co-exist with capitalism, it's not a mixed market economy, it's post-capitalist. So, what that means is, social ownership of the means of production.
β€”Kyle Kulinski[9]

Regardless of the philosophical arguments, democratic socialism is presently seeking traditionally progressive policies like UHC, tuition free education, union rights et al. However it should be noticed that two elected self-proclaimed socialists, Bernie Sanders from Vermont[10][11], and Lee Carter[12] from the Virginia House of Delegates support workplace democracy and employee ownership.

Thanks to its recent growth, the DSA has taken bold steps such as withdrawing from the utterly corrupt Socialist International,[13], support for the BDS movement and reparations for slavery[14] as well opposing the politically correct nazis of the Alt-Right.[15].

Notable members[edit]

Bernie Sanders is popular in the DSA but is not a member. There's an 2014 article by the Madison DSA stating he is, but this was just a typo[24]. Of course, KeyWiki still cites him as one, though[25].


Unless the two party system suddenly collapses, the DSA is unlikely to gain control over one of the branches of the federal government. In fact the DSA is currently the seventh or even sixth largest national third party in the United States in terms of both membership and number of offices held, behind various other large third parties like the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party, although the Vermont Progressives have more state-level offices.

However the DSA has far more political power and national influence than either of those parties, due to high profile members and even external supporters such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with a very successful messaging. In terms of policy, the DSA has succeeded into making some of their policies - that back in the 2016 presidential election would be considered extreme - into becoming key policies for 2020.

Furthermore, how it functions as a political party without being a political party gives it an edge that other leftist parties haven't had. Members can be both a part of the DSA and the Democratic Party, or not affiliated with any of them. Consequently, members can compete within the current system and have a chance, instead of running for political office as an unwinnable third-party candidate. At the same time, members can still keep their independence if they want to. Over time, socialist members could become a significant coalition in the Democratic Party and gain a good deal of influence, like how the progressive coalition has recently been doing. Its party-but-not-party structure also allows members of various fragmented fringe leftist parties to consolidate their votes and power in the big tent DSA, which accepts everyone: tankies, anarchists, social democrats.

External links[edit]


  1. ↑ It means that it doesn't have a strigent party line where any deviations mean you're either a bourgeois infiltrator or a revisionist western spy. While leftist, such groups are very ideologically diverse only aligning on set principles of economic justice, civil liberties, workers' rights and anti-imperialism


  1. ↑
  2. ↑
  3. ↑
  4. ↑ Is Socialism Having Its Moment in U.S. Elections? PBS Newshour. July 29, 2018.
  5. ↑
  6. ↑
  7. ↑
  8. ↑
  9. ↑ "Democratic Socialism vs Social Democracy"
  10. ↑
  11. ↑
  12. ↑
  13. ↑ "2017 Convention resolutions"
  14. ↑ "DSA votes for BDS, reparations and out of the Socialist International"
  15. ↑ "Statement on Nazi violence in Charlottesville"
  16. ↑ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialists of America member. Here’s what that means. Vox. June 27th, 2018.
  17. ↑ There Will Now Likely Be Two Democratic Socialists of America Members in Congress The Daily Beast. August 8th, 2018.
  18. ↑ Tweet from DSA's Honolulu chapter. July 25th, 2018.
  19. ↑
  20. ↑
  21. ↑
  22. ↑
  23. ↑ Cornel West - Democratic Socialists of America
  24. ↑
  25. ↑
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