New York University Democratic Socialists of America
New York University Democratic Socialists of America is affiliated with Democratic Socialists of America.
New York University Democratic Socialists of America formed in February 2017, with an organizing committee of just 4 people
“There’s been incredible levels of support and sympathy among students. We just had one meeting and we had I’d say 40 to 50 people and that was organized on a relatively short notice,” said Niall Reddy, a PhD student on the group’s organizing committee. “I’m confident that as the semester goes on we’ll be able to build a message and views and develop our publicity.”
“DSA owes a lot of its recent surge in membership to the Sanders 2016 presidential campaign,” wrote Tisch senior and organizing committee member Cale Brooks in a statement to NYU Local.“In a very different way, it also owes some of its growth to the Trump campaign as well,” he continued, adding that Trump’s election gave the left a heightened sense of urgency “to create a more equitable, peaceful world.”
Ella Wind, a PhD student on New York University Democratic Socialists of America’s organizing committee, told Local she was one of the many that joined after the 2016 election. “I joined, I think, one month after Trump won the election, which I think is a pretty common experience for a lot of people who join DSA,” she said.
“There is this kind of political orientation that I’ve had for a long time which I think in the American public used to feel more niche, like it was this pipe dream,” she said. Wind added that Trump’s election served as a wake up call for young leftists; even though there are many more socialists than previously thought, now, more than ever, they need to organize to exert their influence.
“I don’t think many people last year were able to conceive, let alone predict, what a Trump administration would look like,” said Brooks, an original member of the group. “His election was both surprising and deeply painful, leaving a large number of people in utter shock,” he added, explaining why he believes many had joined DSA of late. “And I realize that phrase is thrown around a lot, but I really think a great deal of people had their emotional, political, and social sensibility paralyzed by the overwhelming possibilities of horror his campaign represented.”
Reddy also attributed most of DSA’s newfound popularity to Sanders’ candidacy. “My assumption would be that, to a large extent, there is a significant positive momentum behind this turn towards a more radical form of left politics that would have existed were Trump not there,” he said in an interview with Local. “And I think Bernie was critical…because the message he was getting across was able to reach a much wider audience than it previously wold have been able to,” said Reddy.
Reddy went on to posit that Sanders had activated and helped to mobilize an already existing undercurrent in American politics. “Younger people, particularly, I think who already had an entrenched sense of dissatisfaction with centrist politics, were looking for an alternative.”
“I don’t want to discount the Trump effect,” Reddy said, adding that Trump has pushed the phenomenon “farther and faster.”
“I think [Trump’s election] pushed a lot of people who had marginal political involvement into really deciding that things were at some critical level and they want to do whatever they can to contest the direction the country is heading,” he said. He cited the fact that left-wing movements have gained traction in other countries that do not have “polarizing, vile figures” such as Trump to suggest that the uptick in DSA membership would have occurred even had Trump not been elected.
Though DSA and the Democratic Party have both been vocal in their opposition to President Trump, DSA separates itself from the larger party by taking more forthrightly leftist stances on a number of key issues; this is a key component of DSA’s appeal. Indeed, none of the DSA members who Local spoke with identified themselves as Democrats. “I do think that the core of the Democratic Party is fundamentally opposed to my interests,” Wind said. “And it doesn’t really share my values in any capacity.”
The Democratic Party leadership’s perceived derision and apathy towards Sanders, his agenda and ideological heirs, coupled with their failure to win an election with ostensibly more electable candidates, has diminished the party’s credibility. This has driven people away from the Democrats and towards DSA. For Ben Zinevich, one the group’s newer members, centrist congressional candidate Jon Ossoff’s loss of the high-profile special election in the Atlanta suburbs was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“It’s kind of less about Jon Ossoff as a candidate and more about the continual pattern of open seats that Democrats can win, but they’re not running the correct candidate for it,” Zinevich said of the Democratic Party’s recent woes. “The fact that we were all watching it on a national scale and they still happen to fuck up, it kind of showed the incompetency in that [they] can’t really win these things.”
While many DSA members are ideologically sympathetic with Sanders, there is an ongoing debate in the group of how much to align themselves with the Vermont Senator. “The organization would divide quite considerably on essentially just how close we want to hitch our own wagon to Bernie’s,” said Reddy. “I think there is definitely a large contingent that see Bernie as playing a critical role in opening a space for left politics, but not necessarily being the vehicle himself.” On topics such as foreign policy, some in the group feel he hasn’t been sufficiently critical of U.S imperialism. “For many people on the left, Bernie was a compromise candidate — many leftists were uncomfortable with his stance on war and American empire,” Brooks wrote.