To make sure newly elected socialists don’t end up looking like corporate Democrats, we need a democratic socialist caucus in Congress.
lexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in June took the Democratic Party and media establishment by surprise. Running in New York’s fourteenth congressional district, she handily defeated one of the party’s most entrenched politicians and quickly became a national figure.
But the question suddenly became, “What now?”
There’s every reason to believe that Ocasio-Cortez’s success in NY-14 can be replicated. Previously powerful Democratic machines are sputtering. Voters are staying at home instead of turning out for Democratic National Committee–favored candidates. And as Ocasio Cortez’s race shows, a small group of committed activists with a popular message can win in elections even if they’re massively outspent.
Consider the role of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), whose members helped canvass, phone bank, and fundraise for Ocasio-Cortez. DSA now has over fifty thousand members — forty-five thousand more than it did a few years ago. Buoyed by the rise of Bernie Sanders, youth disillusionment with the Democratic center, and outrage at Trump’s election, DSA has garnered widespread attention and its share of local victories.
Of course, fifty thousand members in a country of 330 million people isn’t much. But with the mobilization capacities of political parties, trade unions, and civic organizations hollowed out, organizations like DSA can help fill the void. Tens of thousands of people, if organized in common campaigns, if trained to speak and connect with people and assist them in their struggles, can have a national impact. Many fewer than that can swing local races and bring new ideas and demands into the popular consciousness.