The Washington, D.C. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has grown to a current membership of around 1,000 members from 200 last October.

The membership surge can be attributed to the strong showing by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary as well as President Donald Trump’s ultimate victory, according to Jacquelyn Smith, a member of the DSA’s steering committee.

“For DSA overall, the Sanders campaign was huge. He helped a lot of people distinguish themselves from liberals and it’s a lot more socially acceptable to identify as a socialist now,” Smith wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Trump’s election was a pretty radicalizing event and shook a lot of people into action (like me).”

DSA DC
Membership in D.C.’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has surged since last October.

According to the chapter’s website, the organization “advocate[s] for a radical restructuring of our economic and political systems to value people over profits.” The group’s mission includes empowering “workers, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized Americans.”

There are more than 30,000 DSA members nationwide. The D.C. chapter of the DSA is one of 130 current chapters, including Georgetown’s Young DSA chapter.

Some of the new recruits of D.C.’s DSA found the chapter through social media platforms or by attending local meetings. The group also reaches out to the community by hosting social events such as monthly happy hours and “Grrl’s Night,” an event catered toward women, femme and nonbinary members.

The chapter held its first local convention Oct. 21. According to Smith, the chapter’s bylaws had not been updated since 2011 when the landscape of the organization looked very different. The convention allowed the general body membership, the highest authority responsible for democratic decision-making within the organization, to gather and vote on the operations and priorities of the chapter.

The group of around 100 members passed several measures including a grievance procedure and anti-harassment policy, enumerated rights for caucuses and a permanent administrative committee focused on sustaining the chapter in the future and a resolution to discourage “tone policing” — criticizing someone else’s heated tone in a debate or conversation.

Like most chapters, the D.C. DSA’s primary focus is supporting political campaigns, including that of Lee Carter, a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 50th District, whose campaign is not receiving support from the state Democratic party. The D.C. DSA, however, has been sending dozens of volunteers to canvass in Manassas, Va., every weekend.

Carter said that the work of the D.C. DSA has had positive political and social influences on his campaign.

“They’ve been tremendously helpful in my fight to bring a message of inclusion down the Richmond,” Carter said in an interview with The Hoya.

Beyond its contributions to Carter’s campaign, the D.C. DSA is currently working with Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, the most localized levels of government in the city, and D.C. ReInvest to push the D.C. Council to cancel its contract with Wells Fargo to manage the city’s public money. The chapter also participates in mutual aid projects such as cooking for the homeless and offering free brake light repairs.

Founded in early February of this year by Andrew Adams (NHS ’20) and Jordan Brown (COL ’20), the Georgetown YDSA received about 100 student signups for its email list this semester.

The chapter plans to begin collecting petition signatures for an affordability campaign, the goals of which are greater socio-economic diversity on campus and tuition affordability, allowing students to graduate without debt.

Adams said the chapter is also looking to become more involved with the local D.C. chapter. On Nov. 25, some members plan to join the D.C. chapter in campaigning for Carter in Virginia.

“In the future, I hope that our chapter will get to participate in some of the anti-eviction training and canvassing that the DC chapter does,” Adams wrote in an email to The Hoya.

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