Can we call it a “meltdown”?
“Wake up, New York — or the Democratic socialists really will take over” was the New York Post’s editorial headline on Monday. It accompanied a 650-word reported piece that ran the same day covering the New York City Democratic Socialists of America’s “Tasks and Perspectives” document.
“The 13-page draft ‘tasks and perspectives’ strategic plan is a mix of hard-headed tactical planning and hard-left policy goals. It aims to exploit the large number of City Council seats open in the 2021 elections,” the editorial accurately notes. The Tasks and Perspectives document is a regular feature of chapter planning, intending to outline strategy for the next one to two years.
The answer is simple: for decades, the Right has never faced an opposition that sincerely, succinctly, and effectively organizes for things that people actually want. But DSA’s recent history and current strategy prove it does exactly that.
With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s and Julia Salazar’s victories in 2018, and the DSA for the Many slate’s clean sweep in 2020, the largest chapter of the country’s largest socialist organization has already proven it is an electoral force to be reckoned with.
The chapter and the DSA for the Many candidates, all of whom were backed by a constellation of other progressive organizations aside from DSA, won on an unabashedly left platform. The campaigns called enthusiastically for the massive redistribution of wealth and power from the rich to the working class through programs like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and dramatically stronger tenants’ rights, among many others.
As the last two election cycles have shown, the more New Yorkers hear about the socialists, the more they support them.
As the Post writes, NYC-DSA’s short-term strategy focuses on winning a number of New York City Council seats. “If the socialists can win enough primary races, they figure, even Democrats who didn’t embrace their radical agenda will fear to oppose it, lest they lose the next time out.”
Heavens! Elected officials might have to vote for popular programs like cutting bloated police budgets, increasing and improving public housing, and canceling rent in the middle of the biggest recession in modern history — or else face an electoral challenge? Get the smelling salts.
Accustomed to corporate Democrats who feign support for popular programs but always seem to find an excuse when the time comes to put them into action, outlets like the Post are scandalized to find out that there are some people out there who actually mean it. They’ve been falsely calling neoliberal Democrats socialists for so many years that they don’t know what to do when real socialists come along — and voters love them.
The Post does have a point in one sense, though. The city establishment’s active attempts to undermine democracy and avoid accountability are a major reason they are so unpopular. Rather than deliver things voters and workers actually want, the establishment focused over the years on making it unduly onerous for people to do anything about it. They thought they had made the possibility of building a political alternative so tedious and complicated that no one would bother to organize to challenge them in significant numbers.
DSA proved them wrong. How?
In the long term, it isn’t just the policy demands in NYC-DSA’s Tasks and Perspectives document that are a threat to the establishment. The bigger threat is the way in which the chapter developed the document: with active input from hundreds of the chapter’s seven thousand members, many of whom are leaders in their workplaces and their neighborhoods. The document was then open to review, amendment, commentary, and critique by all members, before a final version was debated and voted on.
In other words, the strategy was developed deliberately and democratically, with every member given a chance to have a say in the process.
What makes DSA so effective is the way its members are fully bought into its strategy — not because someone told them it was a good idea, but because they all had a hand in developing it. This is exactly the kind of grassroots democracy socialists want to see everywhere in society — and it scares the hell out of papers like the Post.
Because what if seven thousand members in New York deliberating and organizing became seventy thousand? Then the establishment would really have a real problem on its hands.
Does that sound outlandish? Sure, for now. But even seventy thousand members would be less than 1 percent of New York City’s population. Many more than that would benefit enormously from the platform DSA is advocating.
Ironically, the Post might just be helping to make that happen. If it keeps threatening its hundreds of thousands of readers with a good time by explaining how much DSA wants to cancel rent, win a Green New Deal and universal health care, and take on the corrupt and torpid establishment, the Post will bring an incredibly popular message to many more working-class people than DSA could afford to do on its own. And it’s telling them, rightly, that the socialists are leading the fight for all those things. We’ll have to send them a card.