Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Socialists of America’

Democratic Socialists have become a political force in New York City

December 3, 2018

Spurred by the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Congress and Julia Salazar to the state Senate, the Democratic Socialists of America has become a potent political force to be reckoned with in New York City politics.

The far-left group was once seen as part of a fringe movement. But at least eight candidates for public advocate — considered a stepping stone to the mayoralty — have filled out the DSA’s 42-page questionnaire in a bid to win its endorsement in the special election to replace incoming state Attorney General-elect Letitia James, who currently holds the post.

In a special, nonpartisan election that will take place in the middle of winter and could include as many as a dozen candidates, a bloc of votes from committed Democratic socialists could determine the winner.

Among the candidates cozying up to the DSA are Brooklyn Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan’s West Side and liberal activist and DSA member Nomiki Konst.

The candidates’ answers show they back nearly the entirety of the DSA’s leftist agenda, including: giving noncitizens the right to vote in municipal elections; supporting illegal strikes by government workers; allowing public funding for pro-Palestinian groups that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] movement against Israel; a pledge to refuse campaign contributions from the real-estate industry; endorsing government-controlled “universal” rent control and health care; lessening criminal sentences for violent criminals; protecting sex workers; and providing free CUNY tuition for all.

James will become AG on Jan. 1, and Mayor de Blasio is expected to schedule the election for sometime in February.

Analysts said the surge in popularity for democratic socialism has been propelled by younger voters first inspired by the 2016 presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

But it was Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset victory over veteran Queens-Bronx Rep. Joe Crowley in the June Democratic primary that provided clear evidence of the DSA’s growing clout in the Big Apple. She whipped Crowley, also the Queens Democratic Party chairman, in a 15-point landslide, thanks to a surge in young voters in neighborhoods like Astoria.

Salazar trounced veteran Brooklyn state Sen. Martin Dilan in gentrifying Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.

“Everyone wants DSA’s endorsement. When they endorse a candidate, they go all out. They show up. They knock on doors,” said political consultant Rebecca Katz, who worked for Cynthia Nixon, a candidate for governor who was endorsed by the DSA. “DSA is growing in importance every year. They’re getting some wind.”

And the DSA holds its candidates accountable.

The group endorsed Williams for lieutenant governor earlier this year, but during a candidates’ meeting last week, a DSA questioner grilled him for taking tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from real-estate interests after vowing he would not, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Post.

A DSA leader said the gain in popularity is no fluke, and politicians who cater to the corporate class have been put on notice.

“DSA has definitely proven itself to be a force in NYC politics this year,” the group’s Sam Lewis said.

”We are going to stay focused on building grass-roots power this year, but more and more candidates are realizing they need to pick a side. You can’t stand with working people if you are bankrolled by the powerful and privileged.”


As US midterms approach, ‘socialism’ no longer a dirty word

October 31, 2018

In the US, ‘socialism’ has long been seen as a dirty word. But now, as they seek to push the Democratic Party further left in the run-up to the midterms, some progressive candidates are no longer afraid to campaign under its banner.

“Today, I saw something truly terrifying… I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage.”

Those were the words of a reporter from the ultra-conservative website Daily Caller, covering a campaign rally by Democratic candidate for the House Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in New York in July this year.

Though the reporter’s words drip with skepticism, they are revealing: in a country where capitalism is king and where the word “socialism” has long been associated with the worst aspects of communism and the days of the USSR, the “s-word” is no longer taboo. So much so, that socialist ideals can now be spoken about at political rallies by mainstream Congressional candidates.

© Scott Eisen / Getty Images / AFP | Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court on October 1, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts

Gallup poll released in August found that, for the first time, Democrats have a better image of socialism than capitalism. A small increase in the number with a positive view of socialism (57 percent in 2018 compared to 53 percent in 2010) was compounded by a slightly larger decrease in the number with a positive view of capitalism (dropping from 53 percent eight years ago to 47 percent today).

This shift has already been in evidence at the ballot box, not least in Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning primary victory against the established party favourite Joseph Crowley back in June, catapulting her to star status as the darling of the Democratic left.

A disciple of Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez is openly socialist. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), she supports public healthcare for all, tuition-free higher education and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These are radical policies in a country where the young are often saddled with student debt and health insurance so expensive that many go without it.

Before Sanders, there was Occupy

There have been other surprise successes for leftist candidates at the primaries. In Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is set to become the first Muslim woman elected to the House of Representatives. Tlaib has also been embraced by Sanders and the socialist wing of the Democrats. In Florida, candidate for governor Andrew Gillum, another Sanders disciple, won his primary with a promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 (€13) an hour (up from $8.25 currently).

Socialist candidates or those supported by the DSA have also been enjoying success in local elections. They include Julia Salazar in New York, Sara Innamorato in Pennsylvania and Gabriel Acevero in Maryland. In total, 50 DSA-backed candidates were victorious in the primaries.

To some it may appear that this phenomenon started with Sanders and his attention-grabbing but ultimately doomed bid to win the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential vote. Not so, says historian Maurice Isserman, a professor at Hamilton College and himself a member of the DSA.

“The origin can be dated to the 2008 financial crisis,” says Isserman. “In many ways, young people in the United States are still feeling the consequences of that crisis: student debt became an increasing problem, the kind of steady, well-paying jobs that previously might have allowed them to pay it off or get into the housing market for the first time are increasingly scarce.”

As a consequence, faith in “the durability and the benefits of the capitalist system” was shaken, particularly among the Millennial generation, says Isserman.

“Moreover, 20 years past the fall of the Soviet Union, and the old fears of socialism – that just a step towards communism was a step towards the gulag – have faded for the younger generation.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, new social movements sprang up, such as Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and Black Lives Matter two years later.

“There would have been no Bernie Sanders campaign without Occupy,” says Isserman. “Even though Occupy disappeared quickly, its issues, like income inequality, and its slogans – ‘the 1 percent versus the 99 percent’ – really did change the conversation politically.

“And so suddenly you have this guy walking around, describing himself as a democratic socialist [though not a member of the DSA]. Tens of thousands of people are Googling ‘democratic socialism’ to see what the heck that is. Because that was not a familiar term for many Americans.”

Many of those internet searches led to the curious stumbling upon the website of the DSA, says Isserman, and its membership numbers began to expand dramatically.

Founded in 1982 with around 5,000 to 6,000 members, the DSA had grown little by 2016, according to Isserman.

But today, it has 50,000 members. What’s more, this sudden growth has been fuelled mostly by the relatively young.

“Since the 2016 election, the average age has plummeted from around 65 to around 30,” says Chris Maisano, a DSA organiser based in New York. “I was usually the youngest person in the room, but now at age 36 I am something of a grey-hair!”

The Trump effect

But if Occupy and Sanders acted as the catalysts for the rehabilitation of socialism in America, there is only one man to thank for it becoming the coherent political movement it is today.

“Bernie primed the US public, particularly younger people who were anxious about their economic situation and their future prospects, for democratic socialism,” explains Maisano. “The shock of Trump’s election pushed them into political organisation.”

That was certainly the case for 28-year-old DSA activist Margaret McLaughlin, from Washington, DC. A Sanders supporter during the presidential primaries, she joined the movement on November 9, 2016 – the day after Trump’s election.

“I’ve always considered myself to the left of the establishment Democrats,” she says. “But it has only been in the past couple of years that the political binary has been disintegrating. And people in the USA feel that they can call themselves something other than Democrat or Republican.”

In the months following Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory, McLaughlin has seen a big rise in membership at her local DSA branch.

“We have taken on about 400 new members since then. We now have about 1,600,” she says.

But while this new breed of American socialism has grown out of the Democratic Party and DSA candidates are running under the party’s banner in the midterms, it does not always sit easily within it. Some, like McLaughlin, feel uncertain the party will give the movement the space it needs to grow in the future. McLaughlin says that, in the long term, she would like to see the creation of a true “workers’ party”.

But not everyone is in agreement.

The DSA is a “big tent” covering a host of different factions, according to Isserman.

“The newer generation in the DSA is by no means united in its political perspective. Some of them have the traditional Harrington perspective, which is to be ‘the left of the possible’, meaning: ‘We should operate within the Democratic Party itself’,” he says, referring to the DSA’s founder Michael Harrington.

“There are also people who are very uncomfortable with the Democratic Party, they have one foot in, one foot out. They were very turned off by Hillary Clinton and hope eventually to see a third party, an explicitly socialist party.”

Maisano also recognises that there are “numerous internal threads” in the DSA, but points out that at its 2016 convention, the organisation defined three key priorities: supporting socialist and progressive candidates in election; working with the unions; and building a national movement for universal health insurance.

Within a population of 325 million Americans, 50,000 social democrats may not be a huge number. But socialist ideals seem to be permeating more and more into the policies of the wider Democratic Party. Leftist policies such as universal health insurance have been adopted by even the moderate wing of the Democrats.

“Diversity helps the party,” Christine Pelosi, a member of the Democratic National Committee who helps the party stay more connected to grass-roots activists, told the New York Times in April. “I welcome their constructive criticism.”

But other Democrats fear that openly socialist candidates, or policies seen as too radical, could put off moderate voters and make winning back power from the Republicans less likely.

The midterms on November 6, therefore, will be something of a testing ground for this new breed of Democrat and could well determine who the party chooses as their candidate – and the platform they stand on – to take on Trump in 2020.

This article was adapted from the original in French.


The New Socialists

August 26, 2018

Why the pitch from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders resonates in 2018.

Throughout most of American history, the idea of socialism has been a hopeless, often vaguely defined dream. So distant were its prospects at midcentury that the best definition Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, editors of the socialist periodical Dissent, could come up with in 1954 was this: “Socialism is the name of our desire.”

That may be changing. Public support for socialism is growing. Self-identified socialists like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are making inroads into the Democratic Party, which the political analyst Kevin Phillips once called the “second-most enthusiastic capitalist party” in the world. Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the country, is skyrocketing,especially among young people.

What explains this irruption? And what do we mean, in 2018, when we talk about “socialism”?

By Corey Robin

Image result for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, photos

Some part of the story is pure accident. In 2016, Mr. Sanders made a strong bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Far from hurting his candidacy, the “socialism” label helped it. Mr. Sanders wasn’t a liberal, a progressive or even a Democrat. He was untainted by all the words and ways of politics as usual. Ironically, the fact that socialism was so long in exile now shields it from the toxic familiarities of American politics.

Another part of the story is less accidental. Since the 1970s, American liberals have taken a right turn on the economy. They used to champion workers and unions, high taxes, redistribution, regulation and public services. Now they lionize billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, deregulate wherever possible, steer clear of unions except at election time and at least until recently, fight over how much to cut most people’s taxes.

Liberals, of course, argue that they are merely using market-friendly tools like tax cuts and deregulation to achieve things like equitable growth, expanded health care and social justice — the same ends they always have pursued. For decades, left-leaning voters have gone along with that answer, even if they didn’t like the results, for lack of an alternative.

It took Mr. Sanders to convince them that if tax credits and insurance exchanges are the best liberals have to offer to men and women struggling to make stagnating wages pay for bills that skyrocket and debt that never dissipates, maybe socialism is worth a try.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree.

Socialism means different things to different people. For some, it conjures the Soviet Union and the gulag; for others, Scandinavia and guaranteed income. But neither is the true vision of socialism. What the socialist seeks is freedom.

Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

Listen to today’s socialists, and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the “working class” — not “working people” or “working families,” homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

One of the reasons candidates like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Salazar speak the language of class so fluently is that it’s central to their identities.

Walk the streets of Bushwick with a canvasser for Julia Salazar, the socialist candidate running to represent North Brooklyn in the New York State Senate. What you’ll hear is that unlike her opponent, Ms. Salazar doesn’t take money from real estate developers. It’s not just that she wants to declare her independence from rich donors. It’s that in her district of cash-strapped renters, landlords are the enemy.

Compare that position to the pitch that Shomik Dutta, a Democratic Party fund-raiser, gave to the Obama campaign in 2008: “The Clinton network is going to take all the establishment” donors. What the campaign needed was someone who understands “the less established donors, the real-estate-developer folks.” If that was “yes, we can,” the socialist answer is “no, we won’t.”

One of the reasons candidates like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Salazar speak the language of class so fluently is that it’s central to their identities. Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton struggled to cobble together a credible self out of the many selves they’d presented over the years, trying to find a personal story to fit the political moment. Today’s young candidates of the left tell a story of personal struggle that meshes with their political vision. Mr. Obama did that — but where his story reinforced a myth of national identity and inclusion, the socialists’ story is one of capitalism and exclusion: how, as millennials struggling with low wages and high rents and looming debt, they and their generation are denied the promise of freedom.

The stories of these candidates are socialist for another reason: They break with the nation-state. The geographic references of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — or Ms. Tlaib, who is running to represent Michigan’s 13th District in Congress — are local rather than national, invoking the memory and outposts of American and European colonialism rather than the promise of the American dream.

Ms. Tlaib speaks of her Palestinian heritage and the cause of Palestine by way of the African-American struggle for civil rights in Detroit, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez draws circuits of debt linking Puerto Rico, where her mother was born, and the Bronx, where she lives. Mr. Obama’s story also had its Hawaiian (as well as Indonesian and Kenyan) chapters. But where his ended on a note of incorporation, the cosmopolitan wanderer coming home to America, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez aren’t interested in that resolution. That refusal is also part of the socialist heritage.

Arguably the biggest boundary today’s socialists are willing to cross is the two-party system. In their campaigns, the message is clear: It’s not enough to criticize Donald Trump or the Republicans; the Democrats are also complicit in the rot of American life. And here the socialism of our moment meets up with the deepest currents of the American past.

Like the great transformative presidents, today’s socialist candidates reach beyond the parties to target a malignant social form: for Abraham Lincoln, it was the slavocracy; for Franklin Roosevelt, it was the economic royalists. The great realigners understood that any transformation of society requires a confrontation not just with the opposition but also with the political economy that underpins both parties. That’s why realigners so often opt for a language that neither party speaks. For Lincoln in the 1850s, confronting the Whigs and the Democrats, that language was free labor. For leftists in the 2010s, confronting the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s socialism.

To critics in the mainstream and further to the left, that language can seem slippery. With their talk of Medicare for All or increasing the minimum wage, these socialist candidates sound like New Deal or Great Society liberals. There’s not much discussion, yet, of classic socialist tenets like worker control or collective ownership of the means of production.

And of course, there’s overlap between what liberals and socialists call for. But even if liberals come to support single-payer health care, free college, more unions and higher wages, the divide between the two will remain. For liberals, these are policies to alleviate economic misery. For socialists, these are measures of emancipation, liberating men and women from the tyranny of the market and autocracy at work. Back in the 1930s, it was said that liberalism was freedom plus groceries. The socialist, by contrast, believes that making things free makes people free.



Hysteria over socialism mostly the result of fear among American elites — Never mind Venezuela, Cuba

August 16, 2018
Election pearl-clutching reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about why the DSA is experiencing such explosive growth.
by Kate Aronoff and Miles Kampf-Lassin / 
Image: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a campaign stop for Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed in Detroit, on July 28, 2018.Paul Sancya / AP file

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory in New York earlier this summer, pundits warned of a socialist takeover. The front page of the New York Post put the city on “Red Alert,” cheekily depicting the likely incoming congresswoman in bright red lipstick.

Following the primary elections on August 7 — where leftist challengers Abdul El-Sayed and Kaniela Ing lost their bids — just as many outlets declared socialism dead on arrival. Then on August 14, a string of progressive insurgents — including Ilhan Omar, Jahana Hayes, Randy Bryce and Christine Hallquist — clinched victories, leading to a new round of media takes announcing the “resurgence” of left politics.

The reality is the progressive left hasn’t gone anywhere. Indeed, membership in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has been ticking upward since long before all these elections, exploding by 800 percent since 2015. According to DSA’s national office, the group now counts nearly 50,000 members in all 50 states — most of them millennials. And as our September cover story at In These Times magazine explains, they don’t look to be going away anytime soon.

More than a few pearls have been clutched as a result. Former FBI director James Comey warns Democrats not to “lose your minds and rush to the socialist left.” A recent story at Vox argues Americans aren’t “ready for the bill” posed by democratic socialist policies. At the New York Times, Bret Stephens says embracing democratic socialism is “Dem Doom.” And at the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf says it actually “threatens minorities.”

This hysteria reveals a fundamental misunderstanding among media pundits and political elites about why the DSA is experiencing such explosive growth. Whether suggesting democratic socialism is just for white men, that its policies are too radical for most Americans, that it will bankrupt the country, that it’s a dangerous foreign concept, or that it will spell disaster for the Democratic Party, these critics consistently seem to miss the mark. In reality, such claims often betray the fact that the rise of socialism materially endangers their current positions of both wealth and power.

Having lived through the worst financial crisis in a generation and a pitiless job market while facing mounting student debt and the looming threat of climate havoc, millennials — on the cusp of becoming the country’s largest bloc of eligible voters — have grown disillusioned with capitalism and, according to a 2016 YouGov survey, now view socialism more favorably.

This hunger for a more egalitarian political system is translating into support for a constellation of left-wing ideas, real electoral gains and the rapid growth of the DSA as a vehicle advancing these policies and candidates.

For our In These Times story, we talked to dozens of DSA organizers who explain that the group’s commitment to grassroots organizing is key to its rise. Many of these organizers are people of color avidly fighting for democratic socialism — including policies like ending cash bail and abolishing ICE. They also know that the redistribution of wealth is key to advancing racial justice, as inequality falls largelyalong racial lines.

Americans overall think redistributing wealth is a pretty good idea. According to a 2017 Reuters/Ipsos poll, over 75 percent of adults believe the rich should pay more in taxes. An Economist/YouGov poll taken the same year concluded Medicare for All, a cornerstone of the renewed socialist movement, issupported by 60 percent of Americans. Making college tuition free is supported by 63 percent of registered voters, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll, while Civis Analytics found that 52 percent of respondents backed a federal jobs guarantee. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour? A Pew poll shows 52 percent are behind it. And when it comes to getting corporate money out of politics, an Ipsos poll finds 57 percent of Americans are on board.

Image: Kansas congressional candidate James Thompson, left, U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Kansas congressional candidate James Thompson, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congressional candidate from New York, stand together after a rally on July 20, 2018, in Wichita, KansasJaime Green / The Wichita Eagle via AP

And though opponents harp on about the costs of implementing such social programs, the United States actually has more than enough wealth to invest in them — that it’s not already doing so is a matter of misplaced priorities.

Congress recently passed a massive $717 billion defense bill to fund ongoing wars, and with last year’s tax plan, Republicans spent $1.5 trillion to allow corporations and the super rich to hoard more money. At the same time, even a study funded by the right-wing Koch brothers finds that Medicare for All could save Americans $2 trillion over our current system.

Some media analysts have even attempted to disparage DSA by linking it to authoritarian regimes. But ultimately, no amount of red-baiting can change the fact that socialism is a proud — if forgotten — American tradition. From the founding of Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party of America at the turn of the 20th century, to the “sewer socialists” who governed Milwaukee for nearly 60 years, to democratic socialist civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., and now members of Congress like Bernie Sanders, socialism has been a running thread throughout American history.

And if socialists are bleeding into today’s Democratic Party, as some pundits have warned, it’s for the party’s own good. Democrats’ top brass can’t claim that the tepid centrist agenda they’re pushing is pragmatic when it’s really resulted in the near-decimation of the party. Over the course of the Obama administration, Democrats lost over 1,000 seats up and down the ballot.

Unsurprisingly, more and more Democrats are starting to get on board with democratic socialism: A new Gallup poll shows Democrats now view socialism more positively than capitalism — for the first time in the poll’s history.

The DSA is advancing a political alternative that makes sense even without studying Karl Marx. What if no one had to choose between going into massive debt and getting life-saving medical care, or an education? What if instead of stringing together rent with two or three jobs you could work one that put food on the table, with plenty of time left to spend with friends and family? What if your housing wasn’t determined by the market, but guaranteed as a right?

These aren’t radical visions — in fact, they’re the norm in countries around the world. Democrats simply haven’t been ambitious enough to put them on the table.

Luckily, a new crop of insurgent candidates is.

On August 7, DSA member Rashida Tlaib won her Michigan Congressional primary running on a federal jobs guarantee, Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Another democratic socialist, 30-year-old Sarah Smith, moved on to the general election for Washington’s 9th Congressional District. They join other recently nominated and elected democratic socialists such as Summer Lee in Pittsburgh, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in Chicago and Lee Carter in Virginia. Altogether, there are now nearly 50 DSA-endorsed politicians nominated or elected to office across the country.

Democratic socialism offers a world to work toward that looks a hell of a lot better than the one we’ve been handed — and a moral roadmap for how to get there.

Establishment politicians and media elites are hostile to socialism because it threatens their interests — and because they don’t understand our current political moment. But socialism is in the spotlight precisely because there’s a growing movement behind it. While anger toward capitalism is nothing new, the DSA has found a way to mobilize that outrage into organizing — and winning elections.

Democratic socialism offers a world to work toward that looks a hell of a lot better than the one we’ve been handed — and a moral roadmap for how to get there. We can expect a lot more Americans to get on board.

Kate Aronoff is a Brooklyn-based writer covering climate and American politics, and a regular contributor to In These Times. She is the co-editor, with Michael Kazin and Peter Dreier, of a forthcoming anthology about democratic socialism in the United States.

Miles Kampf-Lassin is a web editor at In These Times and member of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. His writing has appeared in Jacobin, Salon, Alternet and the Chicago Reader.

List of socialist states

See also:

Top 10 Most Socialist Countries in the World

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Celebrating Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and The Democratic Socialists of America

July 19, 2018

“Socialism has known increments of success, basic failure and massive betrayal. Yet it is more relevant to the humane construction of the twenty-first century than any other idea.”

With those words, Michael Harrington began his book “Socialism,” published in 1972. In his day, Harrington was often called “America’s leading socialist.” He was also one of the most decent voices in politics, a view shared not just by his friends but also by most of his critics.

Harrington founded Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which, in the often splintered politics of the left, was a breakaway group from the old Socialist Party. My hunch is that Harrington — whom I counted as a friend until his death in 1989 at the age of 61 — would be amazed, though not entirely surprised, by the extraordinary growth of DSA since Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.

By E. J. Columnist — July 18 at 4:27 PM
The Washington Post

It would thrill him that the organization is now heavily populated by the young, although I also suspect he would have spirited tactical arguments with youthful rebels about what works in politics. Harrington was a visionary realist, and the dialectic between those two words defined his life. He preached vision to those worn down by a tired political system, and realism to those trying to change it.

Socialists have had quite a journalistic run since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old DSA member, defeated veteran Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), a genial and rather liberal stalwart of the old Queens Democratic machine, in a primary last month.

Image result for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, photos

Opinion has been divided, roughly between those who see her as the wave of the future and those who warn of grave danger if Democrats move “too far to the left.” I use quotation marks because that phrase has been repeated so much, and because it’s imprecise and misleading.

The triumph of a young Latina who emphasized the interests of working people caught the imaginations of not only progressives but also many who do not fully agree with her politics. Even her posters were innovative, as Nolen Strals and Bruce Willen pointed out in The Post. But she also represented something very traditional: the transition of power from one ethnic group to another. As Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan taught us long ago in their classic book “Beyond the Melting Pot,” never underestimate the role of ethnicity in New York politics.

Yet to use her victory as a prelude to a radical takeover of the Democratic Party badly misreads what has been happening. In Democratic primaries this year, more moderate candidates have done well. There have been important progressive victories, Ocasio-Cortez’s being one of the most striking, but no lurch left.

Moreover, Jake Sullivan, who was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 senior policy adviser, is right to argue in the journal Democracy that “Democrats should not blush too much, or pay too much heed, when political commentators arch their eyebrows about the party moving left.” (Disclosure: I have long-standing ties to Democracy.)

Sullivan sees “the center of gravity” in our politics moving in a more progressive direction in response to “the flaws of our public and private institutions that contributed to the financial crisis” and “the decades of rising inequality and income stagnation that came before.” Rescuing and rebuilding the American middle class require boldness, not timidity, he says, and an engagement with the persistent experimentation that Franklin D. Roosevelt championed.

The presence of an active democratic socialist voice encourages the conversation Sullivan describes. It serves as a corrective to a debate that had skewed so far right that middle-of-the-road progressives — Barack Obama, for one — found themselves (laughably) labeled as “socialists.” Having real socialists in the arena laying out more adventurous positions — among them, single-payer health care and free college — moves the boundaries of discussion and could, in the long run, improve the outcomes in legislative bargaining. Radical tax cuts from the right and measured austerity from the center represent a dreary choice for discontented voters and offer little hope for solving the problems that ignite their anger.

Our new left should attend to the realism Harrington preached. Social reform in our country has usually depended on alliances of the center and the left, and outright warfare between them only strengthens the right. The word “democratic” must always be given priority over the word “socialist,” and broad coalitions are the lifeblood of democracies.

But Ocasio-Cortez and, if I may use the word, her comrades are shaking up politics in constructive and promising ways. For this moderate social democrat, that’s a cause for cheer.


Ocasio-Cortez draws ire from Democrats: ‘Meteors fizz out’ — Called ‘clueless’ by critics

July 17, 2018

Frustrated Democratic lawmakers are offering Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez some advice: Cool it.

Image result for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, photos

Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political world with her upset primary victory last month over Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the head of the House Democratic Caucus and a rising star within the party.

But while the improbable win made Ocasio-Cortez an overnight progressive superstar, a number of House Democrats are up in arms over her no-holds-barred approach, particularly her recent accusation that Crowley, who has endorsed her candidacy, is seeking to topple her bid with a third-party run.

Some legislators are voicing concerns that Ocasio-Cortez appears set on using her newfound star power to attack Democrats from the left flank, threatening to divide the party — and undermine its chances at retaking the House — in a midterm election year when leaders are scrambling to form a united front against President Trump and Republicans. 
The members are not mincing words, warning that Ocasio-Cortez is making enemies of soon-to-be colleagues even before she arrives on Capitol Hill, as she’s expected to do after November’s midterms.“She’s carrying on and she ain’t gonna make friends that way,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “Joe conceded, wished her well, said he would support her … so she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.”

“She’s not asking my advice,” he added, “[but] I would do it differently, rather than make enemies of people.” 

Asked if Ocasio-Cortez is, indeed, making enemies of fellow Democrats, Pascrell didn’t hesitate. 

“Yes,” he said. “No doubt about it.”


Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) offered a similar message, saying success in the 435-member House comes slowly — and hinges largely on the ability of lawmakers to forge constructive relationships with other members. Alienating more senior lawmakers within your own party, he warned, will only stifle the ability of Ocasio-Cortez to get anything done — even despite her newfound celebrity.

“Meteors fizz out,” Hastings said. “What she will learn in this institution is that it’s glacial to begin with, and therefore no matter how far you rise, that’s just how far you will ultimately get your comeuppance.” 

He added: “You come up here and you’re going to be buddy-buddy with all the folks or you’re going to make them do certain things? Ain’t happening, OK?”

The criticism highlights a broader debate among House Democrats, who have wallowed in the minority for the past eight years and are still reckoning with the unexpected ascension of Trump to the White House. The discussion has featured animated internal disagreements over how — and when — to realize generational change at the top of the party, as well as ideological conflicts between liberals and centrists over how best to broaden the party’s regional appeal and retake power under the bombastic Trump administration.

Those questions have been revisited with the rise of Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old democratic socialist whose grass-roots campaign hinged on a promise to eschew corporate interests and discard the machine-politics approach she’s accused Crowley and the Democrats of adopting. In the eyes of her progressive supporters, Ocasio-Cortez is a breath of fresh air who will help in the fight for their ideals. 

“There is a need for progressive members in the caucus to raise the bar in terms of what we want and what we’re willing to do to get it,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who called Ocasio-Cortez to congratulate her on her victory. “And that involves a lot of risk, and that involves stepping on toes.”

Ocasio-Cortez scored a resounding victory over the 10-term Crowley, winning almost 58 percent of the vote, and the musically inclined Crowley quickly conceded the race on election night with a dedicated rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”  

Yet New York’s archaic election laws have complicated the contest, as write-in votes on a third-party line — the Working Families Party — will likely result in Crowley’s name being on the ballot in November. 

The revelation led Ocasio-Cortez last week to take to Twitter with accusations that Crowley retains hopes of upsetting her bid and returning to Congress next year. 

“So much for ‘Born to Run,’ ” she tweeted.

Crowley quickly responded, also on Twitter, noting that he can remove his name from the ballot only by dying, moving out of the district or running for a separate office he has no intention of holding — a dynamic he equates with election fraud.

“Alexandria, the race is over and Democrats need to come together,” Crowley said. “I’ve made my support for you clear and the fact that I’m not running.”

Corbin Trent, spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, downplayed the divisions, dismissing the episode as “one tweet” that’s been blown out of proportion.

“It’s a dead issue,” Trent said Monday by phone. “The election’s over.” 

Trent said there’s been no direct communication between Ocasio-Cortez and Crowley since the blowup, but suggested a conversation is “imminent.” 

Crowley’s office declined to comment on Monday.

Meanwhile, some Democrats are seething that Ocasio-Cortez would attack Crowley so publicly after securing her victory.

“Once an election is over and you win, why are you still angry?” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “I think it’s a lack of maturity on her part, and a lack of political acumen, for her to be that petty.

“We as Democrats better figure out who the real enemy is. And it’s not each other.”

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, was more gentle, though he still lamented the tone of the post-primary debate, attributing it to inexperience on the part of Ocasio-Cortez.

“When it comes to courtesy and decency, and especially the way — the class way — in which Joe Crowley has conducted himself and every overture that he’s made, I think she would be wise to rethink some of the things that she’s saying,” he said.

Separately, a number of Democrats are also going after Ocasio-Cortez for her decision to endorse a handful of progressive candidates challenging sitting Democratic lawmakers, a list that includes Clay and Reps. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Adam Smith(D-Wash.), as well as Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Ocasio-Cortez has defended that decision, saying she’s merely endorsing other liberal candidates “who uplifted & acknowledged my own campaign before anyone else would.”

Some Democrats have rushed to her defense, arguing that primary endorsements are a healthy part of the democratic process — even when you’re bucking incumbents in your own party.

“Look, I took on Pelosi. I’m all for having fights and doing what needs to be done,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) following the 2016 elections. “As long as you’re doing that with sportsmanship and class, then I think it’s fine. 

“Let’s have a fight.”

Grijalva noted that he’s backed primary challenges to sitting Democrats, most recently in endorsing the liberal candidate hoping to unseat Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.).

Still, Grijalva acknowledged that such endorsements could make life tougher on Ocasio-Cortez when she arrives on Capitol Hill.

“The rules [she’s adopted] might not apply in terms of the protocols and the niceties of incumbents here in the House,” Grijalva said. “But once you’re in the middle of the work and you have an agenda to promote, you might need their help.”


Ocasio-Cortez criticizes ‘occupation of Palestine,’ but admits she’s no expert

Democratic congressional candidate says she recognizes Israel’s right to exist, called ‘clueless’ by critics

Congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning for Zephyr Teachout in New York City, July 12, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images via JTA)

Congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning for Zephyr Teachout in New York City, July 12, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images via JTA)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decried the “occupation of Palestine” during a television interview, but stumbled when pressed to explain what she meant.

Appearing July 13 on PBS’s “Firing Line,” Ocasio-Cortez, 28, admitted that she was “not the expert” on the issue, drawing accusations that she was “clueless.”

Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, upset 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in last month’s primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District, which straddles Queens and the Bronx. Although she has commented infrequently on foreign affairs, in May she called the killing of Palestinian protesters by Israeli troops at the Gaza fence a “massacre.”

On “Firing Line,” host Margaret Hoover asked Ocasio-Cortez “What is your position on Israel?” Ocasio-Cortez responded, “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist.” She added: “I am a proponent of a two-state solution.” The candidate said her previous position on the Gaza clashes “is not a referendum on the State of Israel.”

“The lens through which I saw this incident, as an activist, as an organizer – if 60 people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, if 60 people were killed in the South Bronx, unarmed, if 60 people were killed in Puerto Rico – I just look at that [Gaza] incident more through just, as an incident, and to me, it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores,” she said.

“Of course the dynamics there, in terms of geopolitics … is very different than people expressing their First Amendment right to protest,” Hoover replied.

Israel and its supporters have noted that among those killed in Gaza were members of the Hamas terrorist group, which encouraged its followers to breach the border fence. Hamas has acknowledged that at that May demonstration, 50 of the 61 killed were its members.

“Yes,” Ocasio-Cortez conceded, adding, “But I also think that what people are starting to see at least in the occupation … of Palestine [is] just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue.”

When Hoover, a former aide to President George W. Bush, asked Ocasio-Cortez to clarify what she meant, Ocasio-Cortez paused and answered: “I think what I meant is like the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas in places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes.”

After Hoover asked Ocasio-Cortez to expand on her comments, the candidate said: “I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue,” and “I just look at things through a human rights lens and I may not use the right words … Middle Eastern politics is not exactly at my kitchen table every night.”

Her comments on Israel have prompted criticism from the right and left.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing a great service. Her argument is twofold: Israel a colonizing occupier of Palestine, and that she doesn’t know anything about the conflict,” wrote Seth Mandel, op-ed editor of the New York Post, on Twitter. “Accurate: those who think this have no idea what they’re talking about. At least she’s honest.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bashes Israel while admitting she is clueless about what is going on there. She simply toes the far-left, radical agenda. Elected Democrats are endorsing this when they endorse her.”

Asad Abukhalil, a professor in political science at California State University, Stanislaus, lamented that Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about a two-state solution and support for Israel’s right to exist are “a sign that you have become an already mainstream Democratic candidate.”

“‘Israel’s right to exist’ is a euphemism for Israel’s right to occupy Palestine,” Abukhalil added. “@Ocasio2018 should have known that.”

Although the Democratic Socialists of America endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Ocasio-Cortez has not discussed her position on the boycott.

Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has called Ocasio-Cortez the “future of our party.”

The Millennial Socialists Are Coming

July 1, 2018

In May, three young progressive women running for the state Legislature in Pennsylvania, each endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, won decisive primary victories over men heavily favored by the political establishment. Two of the women, Summer Lee, 30, and Sara Innamorato, 32, ousted incumbents, the distant cousins Dom Costa and Paul Costa, members of an iconic Pennsylvania political family.

Elizabeth Fiedler, 37, announced her run three months after giving birth to her second child, and she had a nursery in her Philadelphia campaign office so other parents could drop off their kids before canvassing shifts. Talking to voters, she spoke of depending on Medicaid and CHIP for her kids’ health insurance, and of the anxiety she felt during two weeks when their insurance lapsed.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling

Credit: Illustration by Selman Design; Photographs by Tammy Bradshaw, Seth Wenig/Associated Press, Mark Makela for The New York Times, and Jeff Swensen for The New York Times.

Lee was open about the more than $200,000 in student loans that have weighed on her since graduating from law school, which gave her a visceral sense, she told me, of the “need for free, quality education for everybody.” (An African-American woman running in a largely white district, she ended up with 68 percent of the vote.) Innamorato spoke about how her father’s opioid addiction had pushed her and her mother from the middle class. “I’ve lived the struggles of my district,” she told me.


By  Michelle Goldberg
The New York Times

Their races were part of a grass-roots civic renewal that is happening across this country, something that is, for me, the sole source of optimism in this very dark time. Marinating in the news in New York City, I’m often sick with despair. An authoritarian president of dubious legitimacy and depraved character is poised to remake America for generations with a second Supreme Court pick. The federal government is a festival of kleptocratic impunity. Kids the same age as my own are ripped from their migrant parents.


Summer Lee defeated a longtime incumbent for a State Senate seat, in her neighborhood of Swissvale, Penn.Credit Mark Makela for The New York Times

But all over the nation, people, particularly women, are working with near supernatural energy to rebuild democracy from the ground up, finding ways to exercise political power however they can. For the middle-aged suburbanites who are the backbone of the anti-Trump resistance, that often means shoring up the Democratic Party. For younger people who see Donald Trump’s election as the apotheosis of a rotten political and economic system, it often means trying to remake that party as a vehicle for democratic socialism.

Read the rest:



Democrats Will Lose if They Keep Maxine Waters and the Politics of Hate Out Front

June 28, 2018

Teeing Off on Trump

When voters have to choose between left and right incivility, Democrats will lose.

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Maxine Waters speaks at Los Angeles rally Saturday,.



Why blame Maxine Waters?

The combustible, tenured congresswoman from California is being run through the tut-tut wringer for calling down her version of jihad on an elected president.

“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station,” Rep. Waters said in her normal habit of discourse—a shout—“you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them.”

This isn’t an original thought. Ever since the election returns unexpectedly said Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton, the left hasn’t needed marching orders from Maxine Waters. The American left is always cocked, locked and ready to go into the streets, shout someone down, confront, harass and punish.

A week after the election, thousands of anti-Trump activists, some carrying pictures of Donald Trump and Hitler, shut down highways and blocked commuters going home during rush hour around New York and other cities. On Inauguration Day, they fought cops in the streets of Washington.

The Trump decision to separate migrant children from their parents flipped a familiar switch. Activists from the Democratic Socialists of America burst into a crowded D.C. restaurant to scream at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, while the owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia sanctimoniously kicked out Sarah Sanders and her family.

The media is calling this “the civility feud,” though the word “civility” looks quaint and innocent among this crowd.

The political question of the moment is about something more: Can the Democratic Party control its left?

History suggests that centrist and independent American voters become uncomfortable when the news is dominated, as increasingly it is now, by the left pushing politics by other means. Voters in the past have turned rightward for solutions.

Richard Nixon in part rode the “law and order” issue into the White House during a publicly disordered time. Ronald Reagan ran on order, too.

Eventually, Democrats saw they would continue to lose elections if they nominated left-wing presidential candidates like George McGovern or Walter Mondale, and so they turned to centrist Southern governors such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

For today’s Democrats, the centrist Southern governor option is gone. As of this week, President Trump’s opponent in 2020 will be a man or woman of the Democratic left.

Bernie Sanders lost the 2016 nomination to Mrs. Clinton, but he won the party. Supporting Sen. Sanders’s Medicare-for-all option is now mandatory writ for the party’s 2020 contenders. If anyone, say Joe Biden, had a doubt about where the party has landed, that ended with Tuesday’s primaries. The most famous Democrat in the U.S. right now is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America from Queens, N.Y.

Her primary opponent, Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, was considered unbeatable. Yet atop a wave of social-media progressivism, she sent Mr. Crowley into retirement. The national Democratic template is set: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is it.

The X-factor for the Democratic path back to national power is Donald Trump. The always-whirling Mr. Trump is capable of spinning himself off his gyroscope. What he has going for himself is that his opponents are crazed. Mr. Trump knows this, because he keeps feeding their mania.

The Trump opposition justifies what it says and does—such as equating the border actions with Auschwitz—as a moral imperative. The restaurant owner who drove out Sarah Sanders announced: “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

Psychologists will study for years how a candidate and now president whose substantive threat to “our democracy” consists mainly of unprecedented boorishness drove normally temperate people into a frenzy.

Classical conservatives, including the Founders, have warned that a society too far gone on political obsessions and animosities would put its ability to function at risk. We’re just about there, unable or not even willing to let political normality exist.

When the right tips over, it mostly gets grouchy, spending its energies defining people out of conservatism. The problem for the Democratic Party is that its left wing’s frenzies can turn ugly. If politics doesn’t go their way, they go into the streets, or invade a restaurant to shriek at a cabinet secretary.

Over the past week or so, two activist groups in Oregon—Occupy ICE PDX and Direct Action Alliance—have shut down the federal immigration-service building in Portland. “If they arrest us on federal property,” said one organizer, “we’ll shut the roads down. You can’t stop us.”

Our politics are putting a lot of pressure on voters, who are expected to sort it all out. When they enter the voting booth—this November and in two years—the choice will be more complicated than picking between a president who tweets insults and tens of thousands of left-wing Democrats promising “we’ll shut the roads down.” But if the choice is between two brands of incivility, the Democratic version generally loses.


Eric Holder, Barack Obama Lead Activities of Progressive Left Faction of the Democratic Party

June 19, 2018

Former President Barack Obama and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have planned — and are leading — a massive counter-offensive to give the progressive left faction of the Democratic Party control of key state legislative bodies and state supreme courts in time for congressional redistricting after the 2020 census.

Image result for obama, holder, photos

By Bill McCollum | Chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and former Florida congressman

If they are successful, Democrats could well control the U.S. House of Representatives for the decade of the 20s and have in place a progressive left farm team from which to draw leftist national leaders for many years beyond.

Presently, Republicans control 67 of our nation’s 99 state legislative bodies. This is near an all-time high for Republicans who have been steadily gaining majorities in every election cycle since 2010. It is the result of smart candidate recruitment, messaging better ideas for education and growing jobs and businesses, strong state leadership and a national plan and organization led by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).

But this could change quickly.

In recent election cycles, Republicans, Democrats and their allies have been spending roughly at parity on state legislative and judicial races across the country. The Obama-Holder led effort is on pace to exponentially outraise and outspend Republicans this November and again in 2020. Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee alone already has raised its goal from $30 million to $40 million in new funds this cycle. Their targets are legislative and judicial races in about a dozen key battleground states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida. Among the groups spawned to help this scheme, Forward Majority announced it would spend $100 million to spend on targeted legislative races in the same key states in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles. The Center for Popular Democracy Action announced it will raise and spend an additional $80 million mobilizing progressives and will target six state legislatures. Additional funding will continue to come from unions, trial lawyers, Planned Parenthood, George Soros, Tom Steyer and others.

At the same time those supporting the Obama-Holder led counter-offensive are working to suppress political donations by corporations and their executives to Republican causes and candidates. The Soros funded Center for Political Accountability’s Hicklin Index is used by progressive left activists to paralyze and silence pro-business interests. The group works closely with the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS) which aims “to direct corporate America to change its ways,” promising to “inflict economic damage on offending companies.” CAPS partners with activists and unions to submit proxy resolutions at shareholder meetings, not in hopes of passing a resolution, but rather getting the attention of the C-Suite and silencing a company’s efforts in public discourse and political participation. The fear alone of becoming a CAPS target is reducing contributions to pro-business political organizations and boosting corporate giving to Democratic and “Social Justice” causes working against free enterprise and even the existence of shareholder owned corporations.

Last week Publix, Florida’s leading grocer, suspended making political contributions in the face of store “die-ins” organized by anti-gun activists to protest Publix’s support of a Republican candidate for Governor because of his views in the gun debate. The success of such intimidation will encourage more of the same not just concerning guns, but on any controversial topic arising in campaigns. The issue is corporate free speech. The organizers of the Obama-Holder led counter-offensive know that the more companies and their executives decide to quit making political contributions for fear of possible customer or shareholder disapproval, the less money will be available to Republicans to counter their massive spending plans.

If the Obama-Holder effort is successful in rolling back Republican legislative majorities, there is more to be lost than control of redistricting. States with GOP governors and legislative majorities have demonstrated how to grow jobs, spur innovation and provide children with a better education by reducing taxes and regulatory burdens, enacting litigation reform and right to work laws, restoring solvency to government pension plans, and putting in place school choice, charter schools and school accountability standards. Contrast Republican led states with New York, Connecticut, California and Illinois where progressive left Democrats have driven up taxes, appeased unions and trial lawyers, thrown money at bad schools and lost jobs as businesses relocate elsewhere. Never have the differences between the two parties been greater or easier to see than in the states. The choice is between states governed by those focused on opportunity, economic growth and choice and those using a socialist lens to redistribute wealth and beholden to government unions and trial lawyers.

In the category of “you can’t make this stuff up,” recently four Pennsylvania state House candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) won Democratic primaries. As reported by the HuffPost, Arielle Cohen, co-chair of Pittsburg DSA stated, “We won on popular demands that were deemed impossible. We won on health care for all; we won on free education.” And she added, “We’re turning the state the right shade of red tonight.”

The Obama-Holder progressive left counter-offensive is real. Unless Republican and business leaders wake up and take action to confront it with a plan, leadership and adequate resources it could succeed and end the America of individual liberty and free enterprise upon which this nation was founded.

Bill McCollum, is the chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and former Florida congressman and attorney general.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Protests Turn Violent in Berkeley; 13 Arrested

August 28, 2017

Right-wing events in the Bay Area failed to materialize but sparked left-wing marches

People who oppose Marxism and left-wing Antifa protesters clash at Martin Luther King Park Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday.
People who oppose Marxism and left-wing Antifa protesters clash at Martin Luther King Park Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday. PHOTO: AMY OSBORNE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BERKELEY, Calif.—A mass protest opposing a right-wing rally that had been planned here turned violent on Sunday, as black-clad activists clashed with a handful of conservative demonstrators.

The protest, which drew thousands of people chanting anti-fascist slogans and denouncing white supremacists, was the second major action in the Bay Area by left-wing groups this weekend.

Several thousand protesters also gathered in San Francisco on Saturday, in response to a conservative group’s plans to hold a rally there. Both right-wing rallies were ultimately canceled, with organizers citing fears of violence against their supporters.

While Saturday’s events were mostly peaceful, they turned violent Sunday, leading to several arrests in Berkeley.

Protesters dressed in black, some carrying shields, attacked Joey Gibson, organizer of the conservative group Patriot Prayer, on Sunday according to videos posted online. Mr. Gibson, who had canceled a Saturday event in San Francisco, appeared to have been arrested later Sunday, according to videos posted online.

The Berkeley police said 13 people were arrested on Sunday afternoon but the department couldn’t confirm the names of those arrested.

Mr. Gibson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The events echoed similar protests that turned violent in Berkeley on March 4 and April 15.

Police had braced for a potentially violent showdown in San Francisco this weekend between left- and right-wing activists, but any direct conflict was largely muted by the cancellation of several of the planned right-wing events. Several thousand protesters marched through streets in the city on Saturday.

Mr. Gibson had organized a “Freedom Rally” to take place in San Francisco’s Crissy Field, which is operated by the National Park Service. On Friday, Mr. Gibson canceled the event, citing fears of violence from left-wing protesters, and said he would instead hold an event in a San Francisco public park.

But police closed the park off entirely on Saturday morning. Left-wing protesters then took over a nearby block and marched through the streets with a police escort, aiming their ire at President Donald Trump as well as the right-wing groups.

“We’re going to deny space to Nazis,” said Mike Selden, a member of Democratic Socialists of America’s San Francisco chapter. “The idea is to get them to cancel. This is an ideal outcome. No one had to get violent, and we showed we’re not going to accept fascism.”

Mr. Gibson blamed local and federal authorities for his decision to cancel the events. In a video posted on his  Facebook  account, he said the city’s actions “felt like a setup.” He said police told him they would allow about 50 of his supporters into the public park, while other supporters would remain outside, where they risked enduring violence from left-wing protesters and anarchists.

In a statement, Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the San Francisco Police Department closed the park in the interest of public safety.

Patriot Prayer, a conservative group whose leaders say they are dedicated to fighting corruption and protecting free speech, has organized rallies that led to violent clashes with left-wing protesters in the past.

Mr. Gibson, the group’s founder, has denounced white nationalists, and identifies himself as a person of color. His opponents allege that his events draw white supremacists.

Write to Ian Lovett at and Patience Haggin at

Appeared in the August 28, 2017, print edition as ‘Protesters Clash in Bay Area Rallies.’