One story that flew under most media outlets’ radar after Tuesday night was the stunning victory of candidates endorsed by Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
On Tuesday night, CNN’s Jake Tapper dismissed hopes of a “blue wave” of Democratic victories after conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats like Senators Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) lost to their Republican opponents by large margins. The Indiana Daily Student described Donnelly’s loss as a “heartbreak” to Indiana Democrats despite Donnelly outwardly running on his support of Donald Trump and his agenda.
But in reality, progressive Democratic candidates either running as Democratic Socialists or endorsed by DSA — which boasts more than 50,000 dues-paying members — had a historic night, bagging 38 victories to send candidates to local, state, and even federal office.
All together, nine candidates who affiliate directly with DSA won their elections: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are headed to Congress after winning U.S. House races in New York and Michigan, respectively. DSA member Julia Salazar was elected to the New York state senate. Mike Sylvester, a DSA member from Maine, won his election to serve in the Maine legislature. DSA members Gabriel Acevedo and Vaughn Stewart will now serve in the Maryland House of Delegates after their victories Tuesday night, and DSA members Elizabeth Fiedler, Sara Innamorato, and Summer Lee will all serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
“Each of these candidates ran against corporate-backed Republican or Democratic political establishments on inspiring platforms demanding an end to austerity and oppression,” the DSA’s national political committee stated in a press release. “We are building a pipeline from local positions all the way to national politics.”
In addition to the nine DSA-affiliated candidates, 29 other candidates running in local and state legislative elections across the country also won their races:
Eduardo Martinez, City Council, Richmond, CA
James Chang, Rent Board, Berkeley
John Selawsky, Rent Board, Berkeley
Justin Cummings, City Council, Santa Cruz – At-Large
Lorrie Brown, City Council, Ventura – District 6
Maria Poblet, Rent Board, Berkeley
Paola Laverde, Rent Board, Berkeley
Rachelanne Vander Werf, American River Flood Control District Trustee
Sofia Rubalcava, City Council, Ventura – District 1
Soli Alpert, Rent Board, Berkeley
Julie Gonzales, State Senate – District 34
Beau Finley, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C-04
Dan Orlaskey, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B-02
Emily Gasoi, Board of Education, DC Ward 1
Matthew Sampson, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B-01
Ryan Linehan, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5D-01
Todd Brogan, Democratic State Committee – Ward 4
Amy Perruso, State House – District 46
Marc Elrich County Executive, Montgomery
Katie Scott, Board of Commissioners, Washtenaw County – District 9
Kristy Cooper, District Library Trustee, Ypsilanti
Kara Gloe, School Board, Moorhead
Emily Adams, Democratic State Committee Member – AD 125
Sam Bell, State Senate – District 5
Rachel Miller, City Council, Providence – Ward 13
Danny Norris, Department of Education Trustee, Harris County – Precinct 1
DaSean Jones, Judge – 180th Criminal Court
Julie Ann Nitsch, Community College Trustee, Austin – Place 9
Franklin Bynum Judge, County Criminal Court: Harris County 8
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) initially put Democratic Socialism into the mainstream political discussion in his 2016 campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. In a 2015 speech at the Georgetown University Institute of Politics, Sen. Sanders described Democratic Socialism as akin to the agenda of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he implemented the New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression.
While some socialists would argue that anything that doesn’t involve workers controlling the means of production isn’t true socialism, Sanders framed Democratic Socialism as a strong public sector capable of reining in the greed of the private sector, a strong social safety net capable of providing for Americans when they’re in need, and the robust taxation of the super-rich in order to provide those things.
“Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was ‘socialist.’ The concept of the ‘minimum wage’ was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as ‘socialist.’ Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as ‘socialist,’ ” Sen. Sanders said. “Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.”
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.