A recent story in the New York Times discussed the increasing willingness of political candidates in the United States to run as socialists. Times reporter Farah Stockman wrote that the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is surging, even in conservative-leaning states. “Since November 2016, DSA’s membership has increased from about 5,000 to 35,000 nationwide,” Stockman wrote. “The number of local groups has grown from 40 to 181, including 10 in Texas. Houston’s once-dormant chapter now has nearly 300 members.”
Franklin Bynum, a 34-year-old attorney, avowed socialist, and DSA member, won the Democratic nomination for criminal court judge in Houston. At least 16 other socialists appeared on the ballot in primary races across Texas.
Many of the candidates and much of the support come from millennials, the largest generation of Americans in history. In part, millennials’ attraction to socialism can be traced back to Occupy Wall Street and the 2016 presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist. These well-publicized movements emphasized inequalities in income, access to capital, criminal justice, healthcare, childcare, access to education, and housing affordability. Amy Zachmeyer, a 34-year-old union organizer who helped restart the Houston DSA chapter said that socialism “resonates with millennials who are making less money than their parents did, are less able to buy a home, and drowning in student debt.” Millennials’ attraction to socialism is reflected in surveys.
A 2016 survey of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 16 percent self-identified as socialists, while 33 percent supported socialism. Only 42 percent supported capitalism, while 51 percent did not. Another survey, in 2017, found that 51 percent of millennials identified socialism or communism as their favored socioeconomic system. Only 42 percent favored capitalism. Jorge Roman-Romero, 24, who leads a new DSA chapter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said, “It’s not a liability to say that anymore,” referring to calling oneself a socialist candidate.