The Current

U.S. millennials are embracing democratic socialism because the American Dream is 'crazy': writer

Millennials in the U.S. are embracing brands of democratic socialism espoused by politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We discuss what's driving their disenchantment with the status quo.

Politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making democratic socialist ideas possible, says Marissa Brostoff

The membership of the Democratic Socialists of America has swelled from 7,000 to 50,000 since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Charles Krupa/The Associated Press)

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U.S millennials are embracing democratic socialism instead of the capitalist definition of the American Dream, according to one young woman on the left. 

For 33-year-old Marissa Brostoff, life in the United States today is anything but "rosy."

"I am picturing, you know, a state that is full of police brutality ... there is skyrocketing opioid addiction, there's like rising suicide levels, like Trump is the president," said Brostoff, a freelance writer and member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

"I think that in 2019, to take the idea of the American Dream seriously, I mean that honestly feels crazy to me," she told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

"I think that most people I know, at least who are around my age, feel the same way," she said.

Brostoff is just one young American rejecting her country's dominant economic and political models — and she thinks change is possible.

"There's actually political will now, to try and build a really radically different alternative to the neoliberal kind of order, that we've been living under for, you know, as long as I've been alive."

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) grew from political groups that started in the early 1970s. The political party has seen a swell of support since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as membership ballooned from 7,000 to 43,000 by mid-2018, according to NPR.

Harold Meyerson, the organization's former honorary vice-chair, wrote in a column that the number topped 50,000 by the fall, and that growth in membership is "almost entirely" driven by millennials.

One of its most high-profile members is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last November. In her short tenure, she has co-sponsored the Green New Deal — an economic plan to solve the climate crisis — and floated the idea of a marginal tax rate for America's highest earners.

Brostoff said that while she'd like politicians like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders to move their policies further to the left, they have brought democratic socialist ideas "into the realm of political possibility."

They "have done something incredible in the sense of galvanizing this movement and making it into something that can be pushed for on the ground, and not just kind of dreamed about," she said.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to Congress last November. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Prosperity dependent on 'accidents of birth'

Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin magazine, said that young people looking at today's society feel that their prospects depend on accidents of birth.

"In the United States today, you could fall into medical debt through no fault of your own, or be saddled with student debt pursuing the education required for the job market," said Sunkara, author of The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality.

"I think all strands of the socialist ideal, at the very least, believe in making less of life [about] accidents of birth, and I think that's what's so appealing," he told Lynch.

He argued that we need to think about bringing democratic principles into the everyday aspects of our lives.

"If we were to agree that democracy is a good thing to have in the voting booth and in society, why not also have it in the workplace?" he said.

I've never worked in an industry where I've made enough money to be able to functionally pay my rent.- Marissa Brostoff

"Why do we — from at best 9-to-5, more like 8-to-6 these days — have to deal with bosses that run workplaces like dictatorships?"

As a young writer living in New York, Brostoff has been a graduate student and worked in media organizations and "industries that are basically falling apart, and not providing living wages."

What she and other democratic socialists want is for "the people who do the work actually [to be] the people who stand to gain from the things that they build."

"That really means something for people who are being exploited in whatever workforce they are a part of."

Click 'listen' near the top of the page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Danielle Carr.


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