Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign website does not readily mention the Democratic Socialists of America. But the socialist organization played a major role in fueling her victory in last week’s Democratic primary in New York.
The Democratic Socialists of America, who were early endorsers of Ocasio-Cortez, say its members knocked on 11,000 doors for the candidate. Two DSA members from Detroit filmed her viral campaign video. A DSA member introduced her to her campaign manager.
And after her win, DSA boasted that their membership surged by a factor of 35.
A big question now is whether Ocasio-Cortez will continue close ties with the group, as it appears poised to pursue radical strategies that even leftist Democratic leaders in Congress reject.
DSA is the same group that harassed Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen while she was having dinner at a Mexican restaurant. DSA also went to her home in Virginia, yelling “Shame!” and “Nazi,” and posted flyers throughout the neighborhood.
They did the same to White House adviser Stephen Miller. “As long as Stephen Miller and the Trump regime terrorize black and brown communities, penalize immigrants and ban Muslims, they will be met with frequent displays of public anger and moral outrage,” Jesse Rabinowitz, DSA member and one of the organizers of the Miller protest, told USA Today.
The group is also targeting lesser known Trump officials at their homes. Its members went to the home of DHS employee Lori Ries in Virginia on May 31, to protest what they say is her profiteering from deporting illegal immigrants.
Ries also worked in the Bush administration as immigration policy director at DHS and worked on software to enforce legal employment. DSA members marched through her neighborhood holding signs that read, “No one is illegal.”
DSA on Sunday went to the home of outgoing director of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tom Homan in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to protest.
“The idea is to expose to their neighbors the sort of person that they are,” DSA member Austin Kendall told Vice. “We think the neighbors don’t always realize these are people who make a profit off of destroying immigrants’ lives.”
DSA calls these protests “direct actions.” And they appear to be a core part of their strategy to gain more attention and members, at the same time Democratic leadership has called for confrontations of public officials to stop.
The group’s website says it is “democratic socialist” — a strand of socialism that believes the public should share ownership over means of production along with the government, versus being just entirely owned by the government.
However, it often seems indistinguishable from socialism. The group’s “About Us” section on its website calls for a “vision of socialist economy.”
Its charter calls for a redistribution from the rich to the poor — from private corporations and the wealthy to government services and the poor. It also calls for the United States to give up “global dominance,” and for a “genuinely multinational armed force.”
Its charter often drops the word “democratic” before “socialist.” Its members do, too.
Kendall told Vice, “We’re socialists, not liberals.” DSA’s Houston chapter recently tweeted “#trysocialism.” It also tweeted a graphic with Ocasio-Cortez in front of it with the words: “Socialism will win!”
Tonight we had a win, but there's much more to do.
— Houston DSA (@HoustonDSA) June 27, 2018
And it seems that Ocasio-Cortez herself cannot describe the difference between “democratic socialism” and “socialism.” When asked last week on ABC’s The View to explain the difference, she did not go into detail.
“First of all, there’s a huge difference between socialism and Democratic socialism. Democratic socialism and really what, what that boils down to me is the basic belief, that I believe that in a moral and, and wealthy America, and a moral and modern America, no person should be too poor to live in this country. And that’s what I believe,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez and DSA have both embraced calls to abolish ICE, which would seemingly go against DSA’s pro-union and pro-workers’ rights agenda. DSA has called for raising the minimum wage to $15.00, but U.S. business employing illegal immigrants has depressed workers’ wages.
Regardless, DSA argues that family detentions and ICE raids are “racist” and “divide” working people.
“Family detention and workplace and community raids are designed to sow fear in our communities and divide working people. That hurts us all. We say no. #AbolishICE,” said a post on DSA’s website. “Every raid cuts communities apart. (ICE) raids and detentions are part of a racist nationalist fear campaign across the country. is time to #AbolishICE.”
But DSA’s calls to abolish ICE could help raise the group’s profile. DSA is working to build a “stronger and broader base” in order to hold politicians accountable, according to the Daily Beast. It has gone from 5,000 members in November 2016 to 40,000 nationwide.
Its pro-immigrant stance could also help them appeal to minorities. According to The Nation, the group is about “90 percent white and 75 percent male.”
While Ocasio-Cortez has openly talked about being a democratic-socialist, she has not said much about DSA. Some profiles say she is a “proud member.” Her Twitter account only says she is “endorsed” by the group.
Her campaign did not respond when Breitbart News sent the following questions: 1) Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a member of DSA? 2) If so, how long has she been a member? 3) What role did DSA play in Ocasio-Cortez’s victory earlier this week?
In recent interviews, she has been cagey about being a “democratic socialist,” let alone member of the group.
“There is so much focus on this endorsement,” she told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on Sunday. “An important part of my strategy in winning was building a broad based coalition of people. So while there is a focus on this one aspect of the coalition, and to me, you know, to answer your question, the definition of Democratic Socialism, to me, again, is the fact that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live.”
Asked point blank whether she was a “democratic socialist,” she seemed to distance herself from that label.
“I mean, it’s part of what I am. It’s not all of what I am. And I think that that’s a very important distinction. I’m an educator. I’m an organizer. And I believe that what we’re really seeing is just a movement for health care, housing, and education in the United States.”