The Squad is bigger than before: electoral gains on the left

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Many of us on the Left have mixed feelings about November’s election results. We dumped Trump (or at least he will be out of office, and we hope soon under indictment, come 12:01 am on January 20). But not only is his base still a prominent feature of the American political landscape, we are also facing a very neoliberal Biden administration. As expected, the appointments to his administration so far have not been that promising for the Left, with the same old Biden buddies, DC insiders, and strong corporate influence that for far too long has characterized the Democratic Party.

But, we can take heart from the wins made by DSA and DSA-endorsed candidates on November 3. In short, it was a good night for the Left. First, the DSA members caucus in the incoming Congress has doubled in size!  Both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib were resoundingly re-elected. In January the “Squad” will be joined by DSA’ers Cori Bush (St. Louis) and Jamaal Bowman (The Bronx and Westchester County, NY). Several other progressives that have championed demands like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, including Pramila Jayapal, Ayanna Pressley, Ro Khanna, Mondaire Jones, and Marie Newman were either elected or re-elected. In fact, all 112 Congressional candidates who previously had co-sponsored Medicare for All won re-election. Every. Single. One.

On Election Night, 28 out of DSA’s 37 nationally-endorsed campaigns won their races (a win rate of over 75%). Sixty more chapter-endorsed candidates were also elected. Some of these DSA wins were in red states like Montana and Texas. Despite what those in media and in the establishment of the Democratic Party say, socialists can win in “Republican red” areas.

Meanwhile, eight of nine major ballot initiatives, all written and organized by DSA chapters around the country, were successful. These included universal preschool in Portland, Oregon; tenants’ rights protections in Boulder, Colorado; and $15 minimum wage wins in Portland, Maine and the state of Florida (despite Florida remaining a Trump state, and Maine giving one of its three electoral votes to Trump). Again, unlike what those in the media and in the Establishment of the Democratic Party maintain, socialist ideas can win in “Republican red” areas, too, and not just in more diverse urban areas.

When the moderate-centrist Democratic Party has nothing to say about kitchen-table issues, such as jobs and climate change, universal health care, affordable housing, and the cost of having decent, nurturing child care, even right-leaning voters will go for left proposals if they think that these ideas will make their lives better. Despite massive opposition spending, DSA now has “squads” in fourteen state legislatures. The State of New York, for example, will now have five socialists in its state legislature, the largest number in 100 years!

Minnesota was not left out of these socialist gains at the state legislature level. The Minnesota legislature will now have three DSAers holding office: Omar Fateh, a DSA member endorsed by TCDSA, in MN SD-62; Jen McEwen, a DSA member endorsed by Twin Ports DSA, in MN SD7; and Heather Keeler, a member of Red River Valley DSA, who won her race for the MN House, District 4A. So, probably for the first time since the Farmer-Labor Party days of the 1930’s, there will be open democratic socialists in the Minnesota legislature! A stronger democratic socialist voice in the legislature will give vital energy to the task of building a more just and sustainable Minnesota: a statewide $15 per hour wage; Minnesota’s version of Medicare for All, “The Minnesota Health Plan” as promoted by Senator John Marty; a Green New Deal for Minnesota; a publicly-owned state bank (as in North Dakota); statewide rent control; public utilities; justice for the indigenous peoples of the state; and universal child care.

One more thing: From October 1, to about one week after election day, DSA gained 15,000 new members! An ever-expanding DSA will be a potent force in the upcoming struggle with Democratic Party neoliberalism. As we had in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, we may well have a Biden “corporate cabinet”, with administration members coming directly from major corporations and bringing their devoutly capitalist values. DSA’s message is far more compelling than anything the Democrats — a party that has distanced itself from the working class, the union movement, and the real needs of the people — have to offer. With our work in these elections, we have been able to change the conversation. DSA and its left allies will carry on the fight both in the streets and in the electoral arena for a people’s politics, ending the reign of powerful corporations and their political minions. We will not let the right wing or the milquetoast Democratic Party define what is politically possible or what the future will look like. Onward!

Kim William J.

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