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Democratic Socialists Capitalize on Trump Presidency

Mar. 14, 2017
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Derek Beyer, one of the co-chairs of the Democratic Socialists of America—Milwaukee Chapter (DSA—Milwaukee), experienced the failures of capitalism first-hand teaching at Bay View High School. “It’s a human tragedy how the system keeps failing these kids by not providing them with a quality education and economic stability.” 

Seeing up close the toll the country’s current economic climate is taking is a big reason why he decided to help start DSA—Milwaukee. The group formed last December with the goal of promoting the association’s national platform in Milwaukee. 

The platform: “The economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. We are a political and activist organization, not a party; through campus and community-based chapters DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people.”

Beyer said he first noticed the need for this platform during Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. “I saw what Bernie was doing at a national level and realized that there was an untapped market for Democratic Socialist politics, especially in Milwaukee with its history of ‘Sewer Socialism.’”

For much of the 20th century through 1960, the city and County of Milwaukee included socialist public officials responsible for a pragmatic set of initiatives that improved the lives of local residents through everything from cultivating one of America’s most impressive public park systems to the installation of two public television channels, the construction of the old County Stadium and, yes, well-kept streets and sewers.

“After the election of Donald Trump, I got a call from national DSA rep Bill Barclay, and he told me membership was exploding and now would be a good time to get the chapter started,” Beyer continued. “I reached out to some friends on Facebook, and we had our first meeting in early December.” 

Fellow co-chair Ai Csuka had also reached out to Beyer. Csuka said she noticed a silver lining: that people are motivated more than ever to get involved in DSA. “As much as I would’ve loved a Clinton or Sanders presidency, I think if that would have happened, people would have stayed complacent about the issues that have been facing our country for years now,” she said.

A self-proclaimed “Bernie Bro,” Csuka said, she knew after the election more tangible action was needed. “I kind of had an existential breakdown, like the rest of America. I realized that social media activism isn’t enough and that I had to do more.” 

The Milwaukee chapter membership has grown from seven people at its first meeting to more than 40 dues-paying members. These include Dan Black, the outreach officer, and Robert Miranda.

Black is suing Sheriff David Clarke for abuse of power following a much-publicized incident at Mitchell International Airport. Clarke ordered Black detained at the airport by sheriff’s deputies after a verbal exchange between the two men on a Jan. 15 flight from Dallas to Milwaukee. 

A chapter member before the altercation, Black said, “I think he was trying to intimidate me, but it backfired because now I want to fight back even more.”

Miranda, an activist well known in Milwaukee, said he had identified as an independent for 30 years, but joined the chapter because he saw it as a place for “independent organizers to come together and work.”

For more information, contact milwaukeedsa@gmail.com.

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