Democratic socialists have made significant inroads in New York — winning key congressional races against longtime moderate incumbents — and now they are looking for more.
After young upstarts such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman made waves on the national stage by taking out establishment lawmakers Joe Crowley and Eliot Engel, respectively, others are poised to gain ground on the state and local level. Assemblyman-elect Zohran Mamdani from Long Island City believes their success is a result of being bold and open with their policies.
“No one voted socialist by accident,” Mamdani told Crain’s New York. “We said what we believed, and it resonated.”
Mamdani ran unopposed in November after defeating a 10-year incumbent in June’s primary race.
Next year, the New York City Council will be up for grabs, with 35 out of 51 seats opening as a result of term limits. Democratic socialists have generated buzz over their chances to snag at least six of them.
One of those seats is being sought by Tiffany Caban, who fell less than 100 votes shy of winning a race for Queens District Attorney in 2019, losing to Melinda Katz. Several democratic socialists are riding momentum in Brooklyn.
An established blue state, it remains to be seen whether New York will embrace far-left values outside of certain pockets of the city.
Those values include what critics say is open hostility toward Israel, a staunch U.S. ally that has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. The New York City Democratic Socialists’ platform says that they “must support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement,” which aims to influence relations between Israel and the Palestinians by seeking to pressure and alienate the Jewish state.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the BDS movement “discriminatory” and “a manifestation of anti-Semitism.”
The platform also calls to “cease all US aid to Israel” and “stop exchanges between Israeli military and US police departments.”
In addition to the platform, the city’s party issues a questionnaire to city council candidates looking to run under their banner. According to Crain’s New York, that questionnaire calls on candidates to make a commitment “not to travel to Israel if elected to City Council” and asks if candidates support the BDS movement.
A major knock on democratic socialists from within the Democratic Party has been a concern that their radical idealism is short-sighted.
“The policies they are promoting, if adopted by the city, would empty the city out, and you’d have no resources and no tax base to do any of the things we need to get done,” state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs told Crain’s. “It would be destructive.”
Jacobs accused supporters of democratic socialist candidates of “not paying attention to the specifics” of their policy proposals.
“What they are saying has unintended consequences that they choose not to recognize,” he said.
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