Statement by: Geoffrey Abram
I’m sure that many chapter members, like myself, first learned of DSA through the 2016 Sanders campaign or the 2018 AOC campaign, but it's worth acknowledging that not all DSA members subscribe to the socialism to the same degree - some members straddle the blurred line between Democratic Socialist and Social Democrat, while other members tend towards communism, anarchism or something else.
Regardless of the ideal political and economic system you’d vote for, if you're like me, you joined DSA because it's an environment to discuss and organize others around your core values. A Bernie Sanders presidency or even a political nomination from the DNC is the our most likely chance to improve organizing conditions and shift the long-term balance of political leverage in the United States. The two biggest obstacles to our political ideas are (1) the influence of economic capital in elections and (2) the public perception that our political/economic beliefs are extreme, unpopular, or anti-American.
To the first obstacle: The influence of private money in our elections has always been a problem and the problem has only increased exponentially since the Supreme Court decided unlimited donations to SuperPAC do are allowed (Citizen’s United). The tragic reality is that politicians are able to increasingly get away with holding unpopular opinions – their election outcomes are far more dependent on money from the wealthy than on the popularity of their platform. Bernie Sanders is one of the only politicians in America who consistently prioritizes a reversal or negation of Citizens United as a major political priority. Such a shift would greatly improve the health of our democracy, by limiting the power of the wealthiest Americans and allowing us to organize and build class consciousness in a more favorable political environment.
To the second obstacle: I believe that the main reason DSA remains a relatively small “mass movement” organization is because of the public perception of identifying as a socialist in the United States. A majority of Americans have grown up equating socialism with the USSR and gulags, or the violence of China’s cultural revolution. Very few bother reading Marx or considering at socialism’s potential to improve society.
That being said, I’ve personally noticed that RELATIVELY MORE Americans are reading Marx and discussing socialism with an open mind than was the case prior to 2015. We’re all aware that DSA’s membership has multiplied by at least 10 since Trump’s election. I think it’s safe to attribute an improved perception of our ideas to Bernie’s primary campaign in 2016 and his performance against Hillary Clinton despite losing.