Democratic Socialists of America
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The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is an organization of democratic socialist, left-social democratic and labor-oriented members in the United States. It is often affiliated with other political parties and/or organizations.
A member of the Socialist International (SI) from its founding in 1982, the DSA voted to leave SI in August 2017 over the SI’s acceptance of what the DSA perceived as neoliberal economic policies.
The DSA has its roots in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), whose most prominent leaders included Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington. In 1973, Harrington, the leader of a minority faction that had opposed the SPA’s rightward shift and transformation into the Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA) during the party’s 1972 national convention, formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC).
(The other faction that split following that convention was the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA), which remains an independent democratic socialist political party.) The DSOC, in Harrington’s words “the remnant of a remnant”, soon became the largest democratic socialist group in the United States. In 1982, it merged with the New American Movement (NAM), a coalition of intellectuals with roots in the New Left movements of the 1960s and former members of Socialist and Communist parties of the Old Left, to form the DSA.
Initially, the organization consisted of approximately 5,000 ex-DSOC members and 1,000 ex-NAM members. Upon the founding of the DSA, Harrington and the socialist feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich were elected as co-chairs of the organization.
The DSA does not run its own candidates in elections, but instead “fights for reforms […] that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people”. These reforms include decreasing the influence of money in politics, empowering ordinary people in workplaces and within the economy and restructuring gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable. The organization has at times endorsed Democratic electoral candidates—notably Walter Mondale, Jesse Jackson, John Kerry, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders—and the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.
The DSA is not only by far the largest socialist organization in the United States in the 21st century, it is also the largest socialist organization in the United States in over a century. By the end of 2017, membership in the organization had risen to 32,000, primarily due to the influx of youth in reaction to the presidency of Donald Trump.
As of August 2018, membership stood at 48,000 and the number of local chapters had increased from 40 to 181. The median age of its membership is 33, compared to 68 in 2013. In the 2017 election, fifteen candidates who were members of the DSA were elected to office in thirteen states, most notably Lee Carter in the Virginia House of Delegates, adding to the twenty members already holding elected office nationwide.