New Orleans joins growing Democratic Socialists movement in U.S.


Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) recently announced its card-carrying membership reached 25,000, its biggest assembly yet, as the organization prepared to host its Chicago conference this weekend with hundreds of representatives from chapters around the U.S. It's likely the largest gathering of socialists in the country in decades.

Among those chapters is New Orleans, which went from a few dues-paying members to more than 70 within a few months after being formally recognized earlier this year. Hundreds of others regularly attend its chapter meetings.

Interest in DSA groups follows significant momentum following Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign, as well as frustration with status quo politics and moderate and center-leaning Democrats in the wake of the 2016 election and President Donald Trump's administration. Surge in membership and interest in socialism mirrors a national political realignment among young people, the majority of whom don't support capitalism. And young people also are growing in support for like-minded issues like health care — 67 percent of people under 30 believe the government has a responsibility to provide health coverage, and 45 percent believe it should be provided through a single-payer program.

Support for a single-payer system is growing, too, up to 33 percent as of June 2017 — up 5 points from January 2017 and 12 points from 2014.

On The Intercept, Zaid Jilani asks, "Now what?"

"Translating the burgeoning anti-capitalist sentiment into power means, at least partly, running for and winning elected office," Jilani writes. "Along with DSA’s growth, many local chapters have made electing members to local seats a priority."

Progressive groups have made gradual but significant gains in putting candidates in elected offices around the U.S., notably next door in Jackson, Mississippi where 34-year-old mayor-elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba won by more than 90 percent of the vote earlier this year. DSA chapters also are backing candidates in smaller local races in the South and throughout the U.S.
New Orleans is not quite there yet, and New Orleans' DSA chapter is unlikely to issue endorsements in New Orleans' fall municipal elections, explains chapter member Joshua Lewis.

But the group is deferring to progressive organizations and platforms like Step Up Louisiana and the Peoples Assembly, which have issued sweeping calls for economic reform on platforms advocating for rights to unionize, a $15 minimum wage, increased access to public transportation, and pay equity, among other policy changes it hopes to put on candidates' radars.

Step Up recently announced more than 20 candidates running in the mayor's race and each seat of the New Orleans City Council have pledged to incorp orate its platform into their agenda if elected.

“New Orleans’ Democratic party is pretty all-powerful,” Lewis says. “You don’t get a lot of candidates for [City] Council who are going to rock the boat because it’s so critical for them to have the support of the party. … Over time, hopefully that will change, and the more political engagement you have in the city, and more people paying attention, the more possibility for different kinds of candidates becoming successful.”

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