Democratic Socialists of America
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The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are the largest socialist political organization in the United States, with about 70,000 members. The DSA is not a political party per se, but an organization to promote social democratic and socialist reforms such as a US$15 minimum wage, single-payer healthcare, free college, and opposition to free-trade deals. The group has been growing with a boost from social media, and DSA members on Twitter are usually identified with red rose emojis (🌹) next to their user handles.
The DSA was founded in 1982 after a merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), which originated as an offshoot of the 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.
In the 2017 off-year elections, the DSA elected 15 into office, including a Marine veteran being elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
In 2018, the DSA got notable press coverage for the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a not-so-fringe candidate who campaigned for Sanders back in 2016, beat Joseph Crowley, 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.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic chaos that ensued, the party saw an increase in ten thousand new members over two months. In 2020, the DSA had sweeping victories in down-ballot elections, including a slate of five candidates being re-elected for the New York legislature and the defeat of a 35 years incumbent by a progressive challenger in West Philadelphia.
Relationship with the Democratic Party
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. In 2018, almost all of the National DSA's endorsements were for Democrats, 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 organization[note 1] composed of social liberals radicalized by Trump, social democrats who want America to stop being the laughing stock of the developed world, democratic socialists who want to use social democracy as a stepping stone towards worker-owned cooperatives, eco-socialists, left revolutionaries and all kinds of anarchism (with the exception of the fake 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 pisses off political scientists and dictionary Nazis, as it's come to describe a form of social democracy rather than an anti-capitalist ideology that it's historically been.
“”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.
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 and Lee Carter from the Virginia House of Delegates both 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, support for the BDS movement and reparations for slavery as well opposing the politically correct Nazis of the Alt-Right.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-D), member of the US House of Representatives (NY-14).
- Rashida Tlaib (MI-D), member of the US House of Representatives (MI-13).
- Kaniela Ing (HI-D), ex-member of the Hawaii House of Representatives.
- Lee Carter (VA-D), member of the Virginia House of Representatives.
- Rob Delaney, comedian and actor.
- Tim Heidecker, comedian and actor.
- Noam Chomsky, academic and activist.
- Cornel West, activist.
- Danny K. Davis (IL-D) member of the US House (IL-7), has been cited as a member, but it's unlikely he still is.
- Ed Asner, Actor and former SAG President. Asner was also involved with DSA's predecessor DSOC in the 70s.
- Cori Bush (MO-D), member of the US House of Representatives (MO-01)
- Jamaal Bowman (NY-D), member of the US House of Representatives (NY-16)
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. Of course, KeyWiki still cites him as one, though.
The DSA is currently the most influential movement of its kind in the United States, with five members elected to the House of Representatives,[note 2] twelve state legislators and nine confirmed[note 3] members holding municipal seats.
This, along with the fact that the group has succeeded into making some of their policies - that back in the 2016 presidential election were considered extreme - into becoming key policies for 2020, means the DSA is a direct competitor with the Libertarian party which currently has only one state legislator and no federal representative in spite of its larger membership. However the Libertarians have nearly two hundred municipal seats and one could argue that their ideological influence is as wide as the DSA's, considering the poor state of the social safety net and the massive tax cuts for the wealthy.
Furthermore, how it functions as a political organization 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.
- The DSA website
- Democratic Socialists of America
- Category:Members of the Democratic Socialists of America
- 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
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Danny Davis, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman
- The media tends to portray independent progressive groups like the Working Families party as "democratic socialist", which creates confusion. This article only covers actual members of the DSA
- Is Socialism Having Its Moment in U.S. Elections? PBS Newshour. July 29, 2018.
- https://abc7chicago.com/politics/chicago-city-council-election-democratic-socialists-gain-seats-on-chicago-city-council/5231017/ Democratic Socialists gain seats on the Chicago City Coucil
- https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7x5amx/democratic-socialists-had-a-pretty-good-election-night Democratic Socialists had a pretty good night
- Thousands of Americans have become socialists since March
- New York's successful socialist slate shows the left should think big
- Progressive Penn grad defeats incumbent to represent West Philadelphia in the statehouse
- "Democratic Socialism vs Social Democracy"
- "2017 Convention resolutions"
- "DSA votes for BDS, reparations and out of the Socialist International"
- "Statement on Nazi violence in Charlottesville"
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialists of America member. Here’s what that means. Vox. June 27th, 2018.
- There Will Now Likely Be Two Democratic Socialists of America Members in Congress The Daily Beast. August 8th, 2018.
- Tweet from DSA's Honolulu chapter. July 25th, 2018.
- Cornel West - Democratic Socialists of America
- Cori Bush, Cori Bush on How She Took on the Political Establishment and Won, Jacobin
- Jamaal Bowman, “If You Want to Call Me a Socialist Then Call Me a Socialist”, Jacobin