The Democratic Socialists of America has officially endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, with the organization throwing its growing political clout behind the Vermont senator ahead of the 2020 election.
The DSA’s National Political Committee leadership team voted to back Sanders during a meeting on Thursday night, after the rank-and-file membership had earlier overwhelmingly pledged their support.
The backing of the DSA will provide a further fillip to Sanders, who quickly outraised most of his rivals for the Democratic nomination. The DSA endorsed Sanders in 2016 and helped the leftwing candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib win long-shot elections to Congress in 2018.
“He has the best possible chance of the Democratic field to beat Trump,” said Jeremy Gong, a member of the NPC who voted to endorse Sanders.
“Specifically because he has a working-class political agenda, as opposed to an elite, or moderate, or corporate-friendly agenda that is not exciting to anyone electorally – except a very small number of either Democratic party diehards or upper middle class or wealthy people.”
Sanders announced his run for president on 19 February and raised $5.9m in the first 24 hours of his campaign, second only to Texas’s Beto O’Rourke among Democratic candidates. Sanders is running second, behind Joe Biden, in most polling of Democratic candidates – although the pair are probably benefitting from superior name recognition at this point in the election cycle.
The DSA has seen a dramatic increase in membership since the 2016 election, rising from 5,000 members to more than 55,000. Ocasio-Cortez is the highest-profile beneficiary of the DSA’s political heft, her victory in New York’s 14th congressional district aided by the wealth of volunteers DSA can offer access to.
Gong said the DSA was still working on its strategy to support Sanders, who is advocating for Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage and a Green New Deal climate policy. There are more than 100 chapters in the US and each will decide how to promote Sanders. But Gong said the DSA was looking beyond just electing Sanders as president.
“Sanders alone, once in office, is not capable of pushing through these reforms,” Gong said.
“We need to have a mass movement of ordinary people building organizations like the DSA, building their union, going on strike, demonstrating in the streets, pushing for his radical reform agenda.”
The DSA also aims to elect progressive candidates to local government across the country. Six democratic socialists are running for election to the Chicago city council this year, and despite Republicans seeking to use the term “democratic socialist” to denigrate Democrats, the DSA is continuing to grow.
Sanders, 77, has been criticized in some quarters for entering what promises to be the most diverse race for the Democratic nomination in history, but Gong pointed to some polling which shows Sanders is popular among black and Latino voters, and said there is “not a deep bench” of candidates who have the politics and reach of the veteran senator.
“It’d be better and preferable if Sanders was not an old white man, and that there be someone who has the same track record, and the same politics and the same potential to transform our society that Sanders does,” Gong said.
“[But] there is no one else who is advancing the Sanders agenda and building a movement in the way that Sanders is who could also be elected president.”