Democratic socialism is the belief that the government and the economy should be managed by the people it represents, rather than a handful of people fighting against the majority’s wishes. The objective of democratic socialist groups today is to ultimately abandon capitalism altogether.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) believe that capitalism itself conceives oppression and marginalizes citizens. They aspire to revolutionize aspects of democracy in order to align it with the values of the DSA, such as dissolving the senate and replacing it with a more representative body.
There are three main campaigns that the DSA has agreed on as their unifying principles: providing free Medicare for all American citizens, electing more democratic socialists into senate, and strengthening workers unions.
“What that looks like is we show up on picket lines when workers are trying to form a union of negotiate a contract,” said Julia Salazar, a DSA member running for the New York state senate, in an interview with NPR. “If their unions are kind of sitting with their head in the sand and they’re not really being effective at organizing their coworkers, we support members organizing their coworkers.”
Bernie Sanders brought the concept of democratic socialism to the forefront of national conversations during his run for president during the 2016 election. He pronounced himself a democratic socialist, which caught the attention of young activists around the nation, and ignited grassroots followings.
Since then, the DSA has become one of the fastest growing political organizations on the American left. According to the Los Angeles Times, it has tripled in size over the last year thanks to its 19,000 due-paying members. Comparatively, this number may appear smaller when looking at major parties in the American political system, but socialism hasn’t had this much representation or voice in decades.
The sudden spike in democratic socialist activists pools from a few primary causes. The most substantial of them is that younger Americans are more open to socialism than previous generations.
Kevin Joerger, a member of DSA, explained his desire for a same-minded community in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. He deliberately sought out people who shared his values and dreams, that also worked to stimulate change.
Joerger expressed feelings of frustration when he realized that politics had become a game for the top one percent of the nation. He felt that capitalism had failed the citizens of America, and that he wanted “to be part of a movement in my community to see change locally, and not just nationwide.”
The DSA has big dreams which are quite different than current United States policies. The group has addressed this with a sense of hope, saying that for the time being, they are focusing on demobilizing Republican rule.