New York City Socialists Aren't Going Anywhere
Moderates and conservatives long for what cannot be
The endorsement of a pro-Palestinian rally on Sunday should spell the end of the Democratic Socialists of America in New York, various politicians and commentators have declared. Hamas’ surprise attack, which has killed hundreds of civilians, has been likened, by some, to another 9/11. Israel has responded with a declaration of war and the region, once more, is bathed in fire and blood.
This will not be an essay where I reckon with my Jewishness and what it means, in 2023, to be a Zionist. I am not Israeli and I have long been disturbed by the treatment of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Hamas is vile; so too are the far-right Israeli politicians who do not value the lives of civilians who just want food, water, and safe housing. Two years ago, I wrote on the contradictions of Zionism, and I’d urge you again to read that piece. Perhaps, at some point, I’ll offer additional thoughts.
In the meantime, I want to speak to the future the Democratic Socialists of America in New York. Their support of the Palestinian people, in the wake of Hamas’ attack, has been read as an endorsement of terrorism. Many mainstream Democrats have denounced DSA and some are predicting they will be defeated soon or at least marginalized. There are two DSA-endorsed New York City Council members and eight in the state legislature, including three state senators. All ran and won on the Democratic Party ballot line. DSA does not follow the model of the old Socialist Party, which was built as a third party and hoped to defeat the collective might of the Republican and Democratic machines. DSA’s strategy has allowed it to function well in our two-party duopoly.
But DSA is no longer growing and incumbent Democrats are taking the organization much more seriously. Outside super PACs and Democratic organizations can spend enormous sums of money to defend incumbents against socialist insurgents. The days of Joe Crowley sleepwalking through a primary against a 28-year-old political organizer are long gone. DSA’s critics are right in one sense: it’s not the 2010s anymore. Public sentiment on crime does not align with socialists who want to defund the police. Israel is still supported by plenty of Democrats. If Democrats do manage to take control of the House next year, their speaker will be Hakeem Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat who openly loathes DSA. Darker times might be coming.
All of that, however, does not mean DSA in New York is crumbling. In fact, come 2025, it’s plausible there will be more DSA-endorsed Democrats in the state legislature.
Why, DSA’s critics might ask, won’t this controversy over Israel finish the socialists for good?