Are you ready for the Democratic Socialists of America? 

Last weekend in Chicago, 11 Montanans representing the state chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, including Indy reporter Michael Siebert, crowded into the University of Illinois at Chicago's Forum building to vote on the future of the largest socialist organization in the country. The Democratic Socialists of America held its national convention August 3-6. Almost 700 elected delegates from 49 states participated in the weekend-long process of steering and defining the organization: where its priorities lie, what issues it supports and its general structure.

The DSA has seen explosive growth in the past year, with the election of Donald Trump serving as a catalyst for a tripling of its membership, from just 8,000 members in November 2016 to more than 25,000 members today—a small slice of the pie, all things considered, but a marker of significant interest nonetheless. In Montana, chapters and organizing committees are springing up in Helena, Billings, Missoula and the Flathead.

DSA is not a political party. Its website's homepage describes the group as a "political and activist organization." Its primary goal is not to elect, say, a socialist president, but rather to "fight for reforms that empower working people." To date, that has largely meant rallying around single-payer health care and other traditionally socialist causes. DSA has no affiliation with the Democratic Party, and is generally critical of that party's policies, in line with its strident anti-capitalism stance.

Though a membership of 25,000 pales in comparison to more established political organizations, the rapid growth of the DSA signals a new trend in national politics. Plenty of people—Montanans included—are beginning to question the very systems that govern us, and attempting to dismantle them. But is DSA's offer enticing enough to appeal to a critical mass of Americans disillusioned with mainstream politics? How successful the group will be depends on whether its surge is sustainable, and whether the nation can buy into the idea that an alternative—a country, if not a world, in which capitalism is no longer the organizing principle—is attainable.

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