'F**k capitalism': Report shows Democratic Socialists of America are on the rise — in Iowa
Although President Donald Trump has been using the word “socialist” to tar and feather the Democratic Party and rally his base, “socialist” is a label that most Democrats reject. Nonetheless, there has been a lot of discussion of “socialism” and what it does or doesn’t mean—and an article written by Elaine Godfrey and published in the Atlantic on Friday takes a close look at the growth of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in, of all places, Iowa.
Iowa is much more of a swing state than its deeply Republican neighbor to the west, Nebraska. President Barack Obama won Iowa in both 2008 and 2012, while Trump carried the midwestern state in 2016. Iowa, Godfrey acknowledges, seems an unlikely place for the DSA to be making inroads, yet she notes that Iowa native Caroline Schoonover heads a DSA chapter that “has about 160 members” and “didn’t exist before” 2016. In fact, Godfrey writes, “none of Iowa’s DSA groups did.”
For her article, Godfrey interviewed Schoonover and other DSA activists in Iowa and found that they were motivated by issues like “climbing rents and high student-loan debt” and have concluded that “the cause of their financial woes is capitalism.” Their “solution,” Godfrey writes, is to “replace” capitalism “with something else.”
There are some caveats in Godfrey’s article, however. DSA members in Iowa, she writes, don’t necessarily have an across-the-board view of exactly what “socialism” means—and “under the DSA umbrella,” she says, “one can expect to find all types of political philosophies, including Marxists, Leninists, communists and even libertarian socialists.”
But if all of these DSA members have something in common, according to Godfrey, it is that “socialism, to them, means a fairer world—one where every person is born with a guaranteed right to things like health care and education.”
A few members of the Democratic Party who were elected in the 2018 midterms openly identify with the term “socialist,” including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who has been a member of the DSA. And her ally, Sen. Bernie Sanders, describes himself as a “democratic socialist.” But as Godfrey points out in her article, most Democrats don’t identify as socialists—even liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren has described herself as “capitalist to my bones.” And the DSA members that Godfrey spoke to in Iowa consider themselves to be quite separate from the Democratic Party.
Schoonover, for example, told Godfrey, “We don’t talk about Bernie. He’s not a factor in our organizing at all…. We’re not a Bernie Sanders fan club just waiting for our chance to finally knock doors for him.”
Godfrey shows a contrast between Warren’s liberalism and DSA members. Warren is vehemently critical of crony capitalism and abuses in the banking sector but doesn’t consider capitalism itself to be the problem. And in contrast to Warren’s “capitalist to my bones” comment, Godfrey quotes Iowa-based DSA activist Rob Shaw as saying, without hesitation, “Fuck capitalism.”