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.