DSA Should Take Advantage of the House Vote to Condemn Socialism

The United States House of Representatives recently voted on a resolution “Denouncing the horrors of socialism.” As DSA moves forward in planning its electoral strategy, we should use the list of Democrats who voted in favor of this resolution as a guide for the next few electoral cycles. 

On Thursday February 2nd, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution to denounce socialism. The resolution states that “socialist ideology necessitates a concentration of power that has time and time again collapsed into Communist regimes, totalitarian rule, and brutal dictatorships,” and it lists Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, among others, as dictators who committed atrocities in the name of socialism. This resolution passed with the support of every single Republican, alongside 109 Democrats. There were 86 Democrats who voted against the resolution, with 14 more voting “present.” 

The reactions to the passage of the resolution came swiftly. Summer Lee, a progressive member of Congress from Pennsylvania and former DSA member, took to Twitter to mock the New Democrat Coalition, a moderate caucus within the party, coming out in support of the resolution, stating, “They’re going to call you socialists anyway.” Republicans had a field day in the media after the resolution vote, with many using the 86 Democrats who voted against the resolution as proof that the party had been taken over by socialists. Many comrades took to social media to criticize the vote and used it as an example as to why DSA should be looking to quickly break from the Democratic party. They are missing the massive benefits that come from the passage of this vote.

The vote to condemn socialism can be a great gift to the Left. The breakdown of the vote should dictate how DSA prioritizes primary campaigns, and it tells the Left who we can and can’t rely on. 

The 109 Democrats who voted for the resolution can be broken up into three main groups: Democrats in swing districts, like Mary Peletola (D-AK) and Jared Golden (D-ME), who probably think that voting against the resolution would mean a likely loss in 2024 (this is not an excuse for their votes, just an explanation); “Progressive” Democrats in deep blue districts who shocked many by voting for the resolution, such as former Bernie-endorser Ro Khanna (D-CA); and conservative Democrats from deep blue districts who are openly antagonistic to the Left. This last group of resolution-supporters is where the left has been given a massive advantage. This last group should go straight to the top of the list of Democrats that the Left should challenge in a primary. 

What better way to send a message to the party, than to go after the leaders? It probably won’t surprise you that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), voted for the resolution. House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA) won her last election with 75% of the vote and also voted for the resolution. The top Democrats on several committees, such as Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA), who won their last elections with 75% and 72% respectively, voted in favor of the resolution. Ed Case (D-HI), one of the “Unbreakable 9” who derailed Build Back Better, and one of the last-remaining members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, is also an example of a top target, as he won re-election with 77% of the vote. These are just a few names on what should be a long list of targets for DSA and other socialist groups. Primary challenges against these representatives, who cannot possibly come up with any semblance of an excuse for this vote, must take priority. These representatives are also those most likely to hold views significantly more conservative than their constituents, meaning they are ripe for a primary challenge from the left.

This list of targets is not all that we have gained from this resolution. We also know of two so-called progressives who are either currently running or likely to one day run for higher office: Khanna and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). Gallego recently announced a run for Senate, challenging incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who has been a thorn in President Biden’s agenda and who recently left the Democratic Party to become Independent. Progressives outside and inside DSA were actually excited about Gallego’s run. After all, Sinema is up there with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in terms of Democrats who are universally despised by the left of the party. Arizona is a purple state and Sinema’s participation in a 2024 election could make things even harder for Gallego, but that will not pass as an excuse. Gallego has been seemingly trying to cater to progressive voters over the past few months. After this slap in the face, socialists across the country should know not to contribute to or volunteer for his campaign. 

Khanna might be the more puzzling of these two votes. He did, after all, famously co-chair the presidential campaign of the most popular socialist in the country, Bernie Sanders. After speculation that he might enter the already crowded field himself, Khanna recently opted to endorse Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Regardless, Khanna’s vote in favor of the resolution condemning socialism eliminates him as a serious option in a future run for higher office for any member of a California DSA chapter.

Many have argued that the passage of this resolution, and the number of Democrats voting in support of it, proves that realignment does not work. But it could be argued that this vote shows the exact opposite. There are 86 Democrats who believe that socialism is popular enough among their constituents that voting in favor of the resolution would hurt them electorally. This view also does not take into account all of the DSA-endorsed and DSA-adjacent representatives who do support democratic socialism. Socialism is already starting to gain momentum within the Democratic party, and this vote is just further proof of that. If this vote had been brought before the House just 20 years ago, there is no chance that 86 Democrats would have voted against it.