Portland Now Has 600 Dues-Paying Democratic Socialists

Don’t be surprised if they show up at your door to talk about single-payer healthcare.

Who's that knocking at your door? It might be a member of the fastest-growing political movement in Portland.

The Portland chapter of Democratic Socialists of America announced Wednesday that it has reached 600 dues-paying members. That's an 3,900-percent increase from this time last year, when the chapter had 15 members.

"I think the election is really what spurred people into action," says Olivia Katbi Smith, chapter secretary and co-chair of the chapter's feminist branch. "After the election, a lot of people felt pretty helpless. You see DSA is on the ground doing stuff, making stuff happen, and I think people want to be a part of that."

Dues at the Portland chapter start at $45.

The democratic socialism movement—which for decades has agitated for labor rights, healthcare for all, sharing of wealth, and all those other good Marx-n'-Engels angles—has achieved unprecedented prominence in the past year after the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders is a self-identified democratic socialist, and his supports have put their energy into DSA since the 2016 election.

So what exactly do Portland's Democratic Socialists do? They knock on doors to talk about single-payer healthcare.

"Right now, our big national priority is Medicare for all," says Katbi Smith. "We're canvassing, going door to door, and telling people what single-payer healthcare actually is. We need to inoculate people against the attacks that are inevitably going to come against single-payer."

The DSA's next canvassing stop? The Southeast Portland neighborhood of Montavilla, where a recent neighborhood association election turned into a referendum on homelessness and anti-fascist organizing.

"We're trying to hit every neighborhood in the next year," says Katbi Smith.