The thousands of democratic socialists in the United States who have been organizing and fighting for justice in political obscurity for years likely never thought their ideas would be the subject of heated debates on prominent talk-shows like “The View” or feature pieces in such establishment mainstays as PBS and NPR.
“A political revolution is coming, and establishment politicians can get on board or be swept away.”
—Tascha Van Auken, DSA
But—driven in large part by the persistent popularity of Bernie Sanders’ brand of politics and the recent landslide victory of self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s congressional primary—the past several weeks have seen a torrent of news headlines, television segments, and hot takes on democratic socialism’s rapid emergence into everyday political discourse, an indication that ideas previously defined as “fringe” by corporate media outlets, pundits, and politicians are quickly going mainstream.
“Democratic Socialism Surging in the Age of Trump,” reads a representative headline from the Associated Press. “Is socialism having its moment in U.S. elections?” asked the title of a recent PBS “NewsHour” segment.
Even the New York Post, a right-wing tabloid, grudgingly admitted, “Like it or not, America is now seriously debating socialism.”
Here are a few other headlines that have appeared in major publications over the past few weeks:
“Socialism is no longer a dirty word in the U.S,” noted the Guardian‘s Arwa Mahdawi in a recent column highlighting the massive surge of interest in socialism over the past several months, which has translated into a record-breaking membership spike for the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
Previously hovering below ten thousand members, DSA’s membership exploded past 20,000 in the months following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections. Now, just over a month after Ocasio-Cortez trounced corporate Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley, DSA boasts more than 47,000 dues-paying members.
“One month after voters in the South Bronx put ‘democratic socialism’ in the headlines, real America has registered its outrage at the Democrats’ hard-left turn—by giving the party a larger lead in the generic congressional ballot.”
—Eric Levitz, New York Magazine
It should perhaps come as no surprise that Americans—and millennials in particular—are seeking a bold and humane alternative to capitalism, a system that has produced staggering and ever-growing levels of inequality, rampant poverty, an existential environmental crisis, and, of course, soaring wealth for the few at the very top.
As New York City DSA member Neal Meyer explained in a recent piece for Jacobin, democratic socialists want to build an alternative future where—in contrast to the current economic landscape defined by financial insecurity for most—”everyone has a right to food, healthcare, a good home, an enriching education, and a union job that pays well.”
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