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Talking Points Memo - December 11, 2020

While Democrats debate whether the party has moved too far to the left or not far enough, Democratic Socialists of America — the nation’s largest socialist organization — scored its biggest victories in this year’s election cycle. There are currently 71 DSA members holding public office. This year, one was defeated for reelection and two did not run for reelection.

Another 33 DSAers were elected this year for the first time, bringing the total to 101 when the new winners take office in January. This is greater than at any time since about 1912, when the Socialist Party had a strong foothold in both urban and rural America. Most of the socialists who have recently been elected to office represent safe blue areas, but they have also made inroads in purple areas, including Montana, Indiana, North Dakota, Texas and Tennessee. DSA also spearheaded several impressive ballot measure victories around progressive causes like the minimum wage, rent control and universal pre-school.

The number of democratic socialists in the U.S. House of Representatives will soon double — from two to four. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezs (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), both elected as part of the 2018 blue wave, will be joined in January by Cori Bush (D-MO) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who were elected in November.

Bush, a registered nurse, pastor and formerly homeless single mom, became politically active as part of the Ferguson protests in 2014. In 2018 she garnered only 37 percent of the vote in her Democratic primary fight against long-term incumbent William Clay, but this year she defeated him by almost 5,000 votes and went on to win in November on a platform that included Medicare for All, public housing, nationwide rent control, tuition-free public college and a Green New Deal. Bowman, a founder and principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a public middle school in the Bronx, upset 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary and easily won the seat on November 3. 

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