Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialists of America member. Here’s what that means.

If you hadn’t heard of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before last night, you’re sure to know the name now. Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bronx native, beat longtime establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in the primary for the 14th Congressional District in New York City. The district includes much of the Bronx and Queens. The upset was so unexpected (she won 57 percent of the vote), even Ocasio-Cortez was shocked.

What makes Crowley’s defeat so striking is not just that he lost to a young progressive. He also lost to a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). You’re likely to hear a lot about the DSA in coming days, some characterizations that get it right — and a lot that gets it wrong.

Jeff Stein wrote about the DSA in 2017 so Vox could clear up some misconceptions.

Stein gave more specifics:

But the DSA is not a formal political party. Rather, it claims to be “the largest socialist organization” in America and tries to work within the Democratic Party to weaken capitalism, not end it.

As Stein wrote:

The question still remains — are the Democrats and Democratic Socialists for America all that different? Yes and no.

Stein explained:

And Stein offered some helpful examples:

Socialists often get a bad rap in the press. Some US citizens who lived through the Cold War era succumbed to fears that socialism was “the close cousin of Soviet communism” and that a single-payer health care system was “a first step to the gulags,” according to the Guardian’s Chris McGreal. Some in the media (mostly Fox News) used socialism as an epithet against President Barack Obama, thereby giving voters a reason to fear him.

Ocasio-Cortez is changing those notions. Vox’s Dylan Scott has noted that Ocasio-Cortez supports Medicare-for-all and a single-payer health care system, tuition-free college for all, banning private prisons, and most notable, abolishing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Scott also observed that although her platform is certainly leftist, it in no way is unpopular.

For whatever the reason — her grassroots campaign, identity as a Bronx native with Puerto Rican heritage, lefty platform, or work for Sen. Bernie Sanders and the DSA — voters wanted Ocasio-Cortez. In this heavily Democratic district, that means she’s all but officially bound for Congress.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialists of America member. Here’s what that means.

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