Democratic socialism is alive and well, as evidenced by the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). She defeated the incumbent Joseph Crowley, who was the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. Ocasio-Cortez‘s victory is a clear sign that there is an identity crisis in the Democratic Party.

Further evidence of this problem is Michigan’s Thirteenth Congressional District general primary. Rashida Tlaib emerged as the clear winner of the DSA platform. She will run unopposed in the November election, which means that she will most likely be the first Muslim woman in Congress next year. Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez could be two DSA congressional representatives next fall, pending election results.

 

Who are the Democratic Socialists of America?

The national director of the DSA is Maria Svart. She took the position in 2011 after Frank Llewellyn vacated the office. According to a Twitter post by DSA, they claim 48,000 members. DSA’s website boasts that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States.” On the same page, the DSA states their position is that “working people should run both the economy and society to meet human needs, not to make a profit for the few.” They describe themselves as a political activist organization, not a political party. Regardless, most of the DSA’s members align with the national Democratic Party.

 

Political Achievements       

Lee J. Carter was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017 as a Democrat; however, his socialist agenda is to the far-left of the main Democratic Party. He is an active member of and also endorsed by the DSA. In the 2017 off-season elections, the DSA gained fifteen seats in various areas of government, ranging from city alderman, school board representatives, and city council. There is no doubt that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Lee J. Carter are the new public faces of the Democratic Socialists of America. Their recent political victories prove they are trying to position themselves as the new representatives of a changing Democratic Party.

In the 2018 primary elections, there are other DSA candidates that are making a bid for high-ranking political office. Kristin Seale, Summer Lee, Elizabeth Fiedler, and Sara Innamorato won their Democratic Party primaries for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Lee and Innamorato defeated the two conservative Democratic incumbents, Paul and Dom Costa. These men are part of the older Democratic mainline party, as they come from established political families.[1] In Montana, Amelia Marquez and Jade Bahr won their primaries. In Maine, Jeremy Mele won the primary for the Maine House of Representatives. California watched Jovanka Beckles win the primary, which advances her to the East Bay State Assembly general election. She will face the Democratic incumbent Buffy Wicks.

 

Political Platform

The mainline Democratic Party seems oblivious to the new Democratic Socialists agenda, which is using them as a springboard into high profile politics. Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, dismissed the Ocasio-Cortez victory. When asked if democratic socialism was “ascendant” she stated, “It’s ascendant in that district perhaps…our party is a big tent, our districts are very different, one from the other.” The fact remains that the Democratic Socialists of America are running against (in most cases) incumbent Democrats who do not have the same political agenda as the DSA. Emily Jashinsky, in her “Opinion” column for the Washington Examiner, states, “Anti-establishment sentiments are high on the Left (and across the board) this year, and progressive as she may be, Pelosi is the face of the establishment. If a new wave of anti-Pelosi Democrats from the center and the Left are elected this November, that coalition could be big enough to put her leadership job in jeopardy.”[2]

 

What is the goal of the Democratic Socialists of America?

National Director Maria Svart, in her November 7, 2011 article, “Let’s Talk Democratic Socialism, Already,” subtitled that same article, “After 30 years of failed neoliberalism, we need a real alternative.”[3] The subtitle reveals that the DSA is rejecting the old Democratic platform. She states that “DSA’s strategy is to push American politics to the left by strengthening social movements such as Occupy Wall Street. Movements are the only force capable of making elites respond to popular demands.”[4]

The heart of DSA is to weaken capitalism and place more authority into the hands of the employee. The web post titled “About DSA” states, “As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people.”[5] DSA’s political viewpoint, named Where We Stand, states their strategy recognizes that the social platforms of earlier generations are exhausted in scope. In order to revitalize that momentum of previous attempts at socialism, the DSA wants to end privatization of industry and move toward “the assertion of democratic control over private resources such as insurance and credit, making them available for socially responsible investments as well as over land, raw materials, and manufacturing infrastructure.”[6]

Conclusion

            Essentially, the goal of the DSA is the wholesale restructuring of society. This includes education, healthcare, the economy, business, and land ownership. DSA’s argument is that capitalism and old liberalism failed in America. Those two systems did not produce racial, social, gender, or financial equity among the population. DSA offers a renewed vision of socialism. Yet, their vision is nothing more than reviving the old vision of Marxism.[7]

For Christians, the rise of Democratic Socialists is problematic in that their political platform espouses public ownership of property at the expense of private ownership. The Bible recognizes private ownership as legitimate (Acts 2:44-45). The sharing of private property to advance the work of God is done so by the personal desire of the owner. It is a voluntary action based upon the convicting work of the Holy Spirit upon the life of the believer. Thus, property owners may sell, barter, trade, or give away property to advance the cause of the church, feed the poor, endow a ministry, or simply give as an offering. The sharing of property by the early church could not be accomplished if property were not privately owned.

Socialism denies the convicting work of the Holy Spirit by having a government coerce the property to be placed in shared ownership regardless of the owner’s wishes. In the socialist platform, the sharing of one’s resources is the goal but requiring the responsible work ethic to earn private property is diminished.

The second problem for Christians opposing Democratic Socialists is that there is not a forthright political or economic theology proposed as an alternative. When Christians oppose the socialist’s agenda there must be a viable, biblical, position offered as a replacement. Many young Christians do not have a firm grasp on the dangers of socialism simply because there has not been a political theology presented for them to learn. The responsibility for the Christian is to develop a biblical position that honors the Lord’s commands for a free society so that the church may flourish.

 

[1] Eliza Griswold, “A Democratic-Socialist Landslide in Pennsylvania,” in The New Yorker, May 16, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/a-democratic-socialist-landslide-in-pennsylvania. Accessed August 11 2018.

 

[2] Emily Jashinsky, “It’s not just Centrists: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Dodges on Nancy Pelosi,” August 9, 2018.   https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/its-not-just-centrists-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-dodges-on-nancy-pelosi, Accessed August 11, 2018. The author italicized “and” in the article.

 

[3] Maria Svart, “Let’s Talk Democratic Socialism, Already: After 30 Years of Failed Neoliberalism, we need a real alternative,” November 7, 2011 in In The Times, http://inthesetimes.com/article/12165/lets_talk_democratic_socialism_already, Accessed August 11, 2018.

 

[4] Ibid.

 

[5] https://www.dsausa.org/about_dsa. Accessed August 18, 2018.

[6] https://www.dsausa.org/where_we_stand. Accessed August 18, 2018.

 

[7] The connection to Marxism will form the basis of Part II of “Examining Democratic Socialists of America.”

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