Pa. Democratic Socialists look to ‘radicalize Rust Belt,’ nudge Dems left

Jon Torsch, center, wears a t-shirt promoting democratic socialism during a gathering of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America at City Hall in Portland, Maine, Monday, July 16, 2018. On the ground in dozens of states, there is new evidence that democratic socialism is taking hold as a significant force in Democratic politics. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Jon Torsch, center, wears a t-shirt promoting democratic socialism during a gathering of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America at City Hall in Portland, Maine, Monday, July 16, 2018. On the ground in dozens of states, there is new evidence that democratic socialism is taking hold as a significant force in Democratic politics. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

As Pennsylvania’s Democratic Socialists get ready to have some of their own in the state House next legislative session, they’re also looking to broaden their coalition.

This weekend, Pittsburgh hosted around two dozen DSA chapters from in and outside of Pennsylvania, in a gathering of members called the Rust Belt Conference.

The group splashed the hashtag #RadicalizetheRustBelt across social media as DSA chapters from Harrisburg, Erie, Philadelphia, and surrounding Rust Belt states gathered in Pittsburgh.

The city is home to two of the state’s four Democratic Socialist primary winners. Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato beat longtime incumbents Dom and Paul Costa, and are set to take office in January after uncontested general elections,

Two other DSA-endorsed candidates, Kristin Seal and Elizabeth Fielder, won primaries in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh DSA co-chair Arielle Cohen said this is all a step toward shifting Harrisburg farther left.

“We know that we need to go farther than the Democrats have been willing to go in the past,” she said.

Cohen said the group’s ultimate goal is speaking to working-class voters who feel they don’t have a place in either major party.

The DSA’s policy platforms include Medicaid for all, free public education from preschool to college, and strong unions.

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