By Douglas Williams
The Guardian (8/12/17)
For the Democratic Socialists of America, there has been a silver-lining in this dark year dominated by Trump. Thanks to a post-election membership boom, the organization is now 25,000 people strong. The DSA has become the largest socialist organization since the heyday of Eugene Debs and the Socialist Party of America at the turn of the 20th century.
Most of the new members of the organization have been young people, whose affinity for socialist ideas – or at the very least a rejection of capitalism – has been growing in recent years as the punishing blows of neoliberalism have placed them in a more precarious place than ever before.
This newfound energy was on display at their biennial convention last weekend in Chicago, where approximately 1,000 delegates from dozens of chapters around the country gathered to debate resolutions, set priorities for the next two years, and elect people to serve on the National Political Committee.
The growth of the DSA – and, perhaps, Bernie Sanders’s run for president – would not have been possible were it not for the complete isolation that working-class Americans and their families felt from mainstream politics.
So why has the DSA’s membership increased three-fold since Donald Trump won? The first reason is the most obvious one: the Bernie Sanders effect.
While polls had shown a growing dissatisfaction with capitalism in the wake of the Great Recession, there had not been a national figure that was able to coalesce that disquiet into an alternative vision for society, politics, and economy.
It was thought that Barack Obama might be this person at one point, but disillusionment set in once it became clear that Obama was not keen on using his mandate for the kind of truly transformational change that had been promised throughout his 2008 campaign for president.
Sanders’s entry into the race in April 2015 was, at first, treated as an afterthought. Not completely surprising, of course, given that Hillary Clinton had been, essentially, running for president for nine years. But with shock results in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Bern-feeling was off to the races.
Sanders, previously a little-known “democratic socialist” independent Senator from Vermont, was able to garner over 13 million votes and 43% of the Democratic primary electorate. But his biggest impact came in what he did for socialism in the United States.
Bernie Sanders managed to revive a political current that seemed all but dead in American politics. After decades of continual red-bashing from right-wing forces in media and politics, the notion that the people, not corporations, should own more of the wealth in this country suddenly became something worth discussing.
This feeling only accelerated after Trump’s elevation to the White House in January. While many Democrats saw the mass protests against Trump’s election as an aberration, leftists saw an opportunity to engage in building the base for socialist ideas around the country. …