Democratic socialists in Miami seek a third way

With the 2020 election just weeks away, the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter is reaching out to young voters dissatisfied with both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Miami chapter held its first of three online political orientation courses Wednesday evening, where members discussed class struggles within a capitalist society and provided methods to talk about the ideology to members of the wider public.

The second and third courses will take place Oct. 14 and Oct. 28.

“There is a sense of powerlessness installed by our political and economic systems,” said member Morgan Gianola, who helped organize the events. “Unless you are already in a position of power, there is not really a lot that most of us can do to reshape the way things operate.”

The idea of the three-part Zoom webinars is to develop a better understanding of the movement, said Jahdiel Murray, another organizer.

“We want to present people with an alternative lens,” he said. “A framework, by which people can begin to understand the world and the situation going on.”

Members attended a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting in August to advocate for rent relief during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a “sobering center” to reduce the number of people jailed for public intoxication. The group also pushes for more money to be spent on combating climate change.

“We are working at the local level to benefit the working people across the county,” said spokesman Filipe De Sousa. “Having rent relief would be a great help to me because, having lost my job because of COVID-19, I have such a difficulty paying rent in the city.”

It has been very difficult, he said, because officials do not always listen.

“We are restricted from putting much input in these matters where our tax dollars go,” said De Sousa. “It’s a challenge for sure, but we’re definitely dedicated to see some change, here at the local level and across Florida.”

Though members say they have issues with Biden, they believe his election will do more to forward the issues they care about and are not urging people to vote for any third-party candidate.

“I’m in full agreement with the vast majority of the people on the left, who find Trump’s behavior to be absolutely abhorrent,” said Murray. “I do find that Biden is unable to articulate something fundamentally different, or radically enough, to attract people to his message.”

Still, Morgan Murphy, another member of the group, said Biden is better than the alternative.

“A Trump presidency hurts everyone, even if they don’t know it,” she said.

In his campaign, Biden has promised to work for a universal minimum wage of $15 the hour. This is something the Miami DSA wants to see done.

“If Biden wins, there is plenty he could to,” said Gianola. “But there is basically nothing he would do without massive pressure from huge chunks of society.”

De Sousa also does not think that Biden would use his presidency to make big changes.

“We have two bad choices, but one is worse than the other,” said De Sousa. “There is an obvious worse situation for the working-class fighting for equality and justice under somebody like Trump who openly antagonizes groups like our own.”

Murray hopes that Biden, if elected, could embrace some of the core elements of Bernie Sanders’s campaign.

“There is no justification to deny people of universal healthcare, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Murray.

The Miami DSA wants to develop a movement that does not rely on any particular politician, but one that organizes operations that can put pressure locally for policies to pass. The group’s leaders said the organization is looking at ways to embed itself in the public sector to advocate for political, economic and social socialistic demands.

“There is plenty of options and ways to achieve a comprehensive public health reform, and not just for the wealth of corporations, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies,” said Gianola.

Socialism is people power, said Murray.

“Republicans and Democrats alike have been unable to answer this question and deal with its problem,” he said. “And it’s out of that failure that you see a re-emergence of this type of radical politics.”

Gianola stressed that it is important to ask people what are the issues that are important to them, what they are facing to try to center a conversation about those struggles.

“As a society, we have the resources necessary to create political-economic systems that do away with a lot of those issues,” said Gianola. “People should not be struggling with medical debt.”

De Sousa acknowledged it can be tricky to talk about socialism locally, where a large number of people fled communist or socialist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

“In dealing with the bad connotation of socialism, I try to do so gracefully,” he said De Sousa. “Especially in a [place like] South Florida, where there is so much direct antagonism for socialism.”

Still, Gianola said autocrats exist as much on the right as the left.

“I want to understand it,” she said. “I can’t speak from my own experience, because I have not lived in an oppressive authoritarian regime, but as someone who’s lived in this country, I see the Trump administration be OK with firing rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters. This seems like the form of authoritarianism to be concerned about, to fight to prevent.”

And Murray believes there is a pathway is to reeducate people and to provide the historical and present-day analysis necessary for others to understand what socialists, people like the Miami DSA members, fight for.

“Bernie Sanders, for example, was able to bring into mainstream a lot of these conversations,” said Murray.

CorrectionAfter publication, the DSA reported the dates for Zoom calls had changed to Oct. 14 and Oct. 28. Those dates have been updated in the story.

Caplin News Contributor

Monica L. Correa is a journalism student with a strong passion for social issues, international law and politics. Correa has a background in Spanish literature and hopes to become a voice for her community.