You’re probably aware that the 2016 Presidential Election is over and done with. But, if you’re like me, you yearn for the days when you couldn’t imagine a world with Donald Trump as the President. Republicans aside, the Democratic race was very interesting to me. Mostly because of how divided Democrats seemed to be. You were either pro-Hillary, or pro-Bernie. And when Bernie Sanders was no longer in the race, it seemed like the Bernie supporters didn’t want to back Hillary. I’m not here to argue the merits of either of their platforms. In my opinion, both Hillary and Bernie lean a little too far to the right, to be considered “liberal”. But that’s just my opinion and based on my governmental system. Where am I going with this? Well, there is movement afoot in the United States that might move politics a little farther to the left.
What am I talking about specifically? An organization known as the Democratic Socialists of America. I should note that the DSA has actually been around since the 1980s. But I think that we’re living in a world where it’s now or never. People are ready for change. Which is perhaps why the DSA is gaining momentum right now. The innate problem with an organization like the DSA is the fact that they have the word “socialist” in their title. Socialism is believed to be a system where a dictator rules, and everyone shares everything. But that’s not really the case. There is also this idea that socialists are lazy and don’t want to work or make money. I think a lot of people make the leap from socialism to communism. But they’re not the same. In fact, socialism promotes an egalitarian way of thinking.
I apologize for getting into an economic/political lecture here, but I think this is important to understand, given the state of society. Egalitarianism, for those of you who don’t know, just means that humans are equal in worth and status. Again, I think this is really important. Historically the United States has promoted the idea of capitalism. Which is essentially every man for himself. But if you have money, you are worth more.
Where am I going with this? Well, move over Bernie Sanders, because the DSA is coming to make a difference. R.L. Stephens was elected to the DSA’s National Political Committee. In an interview, he described what got him interested in social justice and socialism. His answer? A good friend of his had a brother who was killed in a neighbourhood in Chicago. At the time, both Stephens and his friend were in college. But the little brother was only about 12 at the time. She was really proud of him, as all signs pointed to him getting out of that neighbourhood and making something of himself.
But that quickly changed. The little brother started to get involved with armed robberies and breaking into people’s houses. The friend did everything she could do to get him out of that situation. Including trying to get custody of him. A few years later, when the little brother turned 19, he was killed. According to Stephens, that was a big part of his life. “People need not just resources in the abstract, they need stuff that speaks to them emotionally. That’s the foundation of organizing, is the connection between people. It’s in how you feel about yourself and the world around you that gets changed and is the stuff that makes you fight”.
According to Stephens, the biggest drain on budgets are the police and the prison system. The idea is that when there is something that needs to get cut, you cut the services to actually help people and you reinforce the prison system. Making it the service, as opposed to the service of last resort. The DSA is pushing a piece of what the Black Lives Matter and Black Youth Project came up with. Which is a divestment and reinvestment framework when it comes to the police and the prison system. The way we currently deal with the system is purely capitalist. It speaks to money, rather than looking at the people and figuring out a way to help them. Figuring out a way to prevent them from going to prison in the first place.
I mean, a million things come to mind, just off the bat when I think about how money could be better spent, but I’m not a politician. The DSA isn’t just about that one particular issue. There is so much more that it does. So much more that it could do. I think a big piece of that is education in order to help people understand what socialism is and that it’s not scary. Maybe America isn’t ready for socialism as a political and economic system, but I do think America is ready for some change in that direction. I hope organizations like the DSA can move forward, and I hope that people like Stephens continue to make an impact on the movement.