10,000 people have joined the Democratic Socialists of America in recent months, and the organization cites the coronavirus pandemic as the reason why.
Local chapters of Democratic Socialists of America are calling laid off Americans and offering to assist in the procurement of food or groceries, filing for unemployment, as well as inviting to take part in rent-cancellation campaigns.
The number of dues-paying members of DSA around the country increased in the prior eight weeks by an estimated 10,000 people and the organization now has 66,000 members.
“People are really starting to just look around and say, ‘Man, capitalism isn’t working,’” said the co-chair of the Detroit DSA chapter. “If the markets can’t even produce hand sanitizer or toilet paper or masks during a plague—what good is this system?”
The Los Angeles chapter of DSA gained 300 members in April, marking its largest growth ever. The DSA, which was founded in 1982, had 5,000 members in 2015. With 66,000 members , it for now trails far behind the 600,000 registered members in the Libertarian party. However, it has allies in Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, who are card-carrying democratic socialists. In 2018, eleven DSA members were elected to state legislatures in 2018. More than a dozen others are seated on city councils across the U.S..
Mariah Wood, DSA Denver labor chair, says the organization is recruiting by positioning itself as offering workers “a way to fight back.” In Denver, the group has organized more than 200 laid-off service workers. Midwest chapters are also growing, as membership in the Twin Cities DSA grew by 200 members since February. The Twin Cities DSA is calling for an eviction moratorium to cancel rents and mortgages and for the state health-insurance provider to extend its open-enrollment period.
According to David Meyer, a sociology professor at UC Irvine who studies social movements and public policy, the U.S. government is “going to be spending sh*tloads of money” as stimulus, noting the DSA could “get in and decide where that goes and to make claims.”
Some suggest that the relief bills passed by Congress could lead people to rely on handouts, even beginning to expect them. “When the government responds in a crisis like this and rolls out specific policies that help people … they’re not taken for granted,” said Suzanne Mettler, a political scientist at Cornell University. “And when the government’s role in [those policies] is really visible, that really helps with people’s sense that the government is being responsive to people like them.”