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A Look at the Democratic Socialists of America

Independent Political Report covers third-party politics. Here we reach the political organization that is not a party, but whose activities have the same consequences as a third party, namely the Democratic Socialists of America.

While other ideological movements have organized into independent political parties, including the second-tier Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties (not to mention a long list of third and fourth tier parties), American socialists have instead aligned behind an organization that does not run candidates for office on its own ballot line. The Democratic Socialists of America, formed by the merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the New America Movement, instead has members and friends who run as candidates of other political parties, notably the Democratic Party.

Does this work? DSA elected officials include five sitting Congressmen and 39 sitting state legislators. Maria Svart, Editrix of the DSA magazine Democratic Left, writes that in 2020: “We won 29 out of our 40 nationally endorsed campaigns; we now have “squads” in state legislatures in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Maine, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, and Michigan; and we won eight out of eleven major ballot initiatives. We’re still a political organization, not a party,…”

The organization’s success arises in fair part from its size. The DSA as of recently had 92,000 members organized into 240 chapters (“Locals”), so it is closing on six times as large as the national Libertarian Party. Locals, not state organizations as in many parties, each elect delegates to the DSA’s biennial national convention, with additional delegates elected by people not in any Local. The National Convention in turn elects a 16-member national committee (an additional national committee member comes from a youth organization).

The DSA’s most prominent recent success was taking over the Democratic Party of Nevada, beating out Harry Reid’s political machine. So soon as the DSA won, the state party paid staff and consultants all quit. $450,000 of state party funds were moved into the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s account. The Democratic Socialists in Nevada thus inherited an empty office and an empty treasury. A rapid fund drive more than restored their treasury.

6 Comments

  1. SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly June 19, 2022

    Two points:
    1. Though it’s small, and runs almost nobody outside the presidential ballot line, I’d say that actual socialists organize behind the Socialist Party USA, not the DSA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Party_USA
    2. Does it work begs the question of what “work” means? Have DSAers been elected to Congress? Yes. Do they show a major difference from other Dems, as in all DSAers along with all other Dems voting FOR Warmonger Joe’s Ukrainian arms bazaar? Different issue.

  2. George Phillies George Phillies Post author | June 19, 2022

    The DSA’s current Representatives are
    Rashida Tlaib
    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
    Cori Bush
    Jamaal Bowman.

    That includes AOC and her squad. News that they just vote with other Democrats all the time will come as a welcome surprise to the Democratic Party leadership in the House. For example, there was the occasion a few years back on which they lost a vote roughly 430-5, standing up in defense of the First Amendment.

  3. SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly June 19, 2022

    George, I didn’t say they vote with other Democrats “all the time.” I just specifically cited the one issue. (And Omar voted for it after calling the Ukrainian arms sales world exactly that — a bazaar — just a month earlier.) But, beyond the Ukraine arms bazaar, they tend to follow the party line pretty tightly on foreign affairs.

    As for the SPUSA? I had the chance to vote Mimi Soltysik for president by write-in in 2016 instead of Stein. Halfway regret that I didn’t, just as a “marker” if nothing else. (I’ve told SPUSA leadership it needs to move its convention back a year to the actual presidential election year in the future, so that it has more of a chance to see all Green candidates in action before it signs off on nominating the eventual Green nominee.)

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