The Atlantic

Socialism, but in Iowa

DSA members in the state view socialism as a vehicle for changing their own immediate circumstances—and they want to build a movement that transcends electoral politics.
Source: Kathryn Gamble

DES MOINES—Caroline Schoonover has two immediate goals. One of them is to systematically dismantle capitalism. The other is to finish watching all seven seasons of Vanderpump Rules.

“There are a lot of things that are not funny to me when I’m thinking about the state the world is in, but there is something about Vanderpump Rules,” the 28-year-old told me, referring to the Bravo reality show that revolves around a wealthy British restaurateur and her employees. “It is just purely entertaining for me, in a way that is very low stakes.”

Schoonover, who grew up near Martensdale, Iowa, just south of the state capital, is one of the thousands of Millennials across the country who joined the Democratic Socialists of America after the 2016 election of Donald Trump. I met her one evening in mid-March during a visit to Iowa, my home state, right before she led a monthly chapter meeting. Schoonover is tall, blond, and ruddy-cheeked, with a goofy sense of humor that probably comes in handy during her day job teaching children about agriculture at a local museum. She’s finishing up her second year as the co-chair of the Central Iowa DSA, a position she sees as a way “to actually do something instead of being mad and upset every day after Trump became president.”

Iowa is a state that most Americans associate with straw polls and horse-race politics, and whose residents are generally thrilled to soak up the national-media spotlight every four years ahead of the caucuses. It isn’t, in other words, where most people would expect to find participants of a budding movement to overthrow the country’s political and economic system. One popular perception of socialism in from magazine described the DSA as feeling like a “never-ending Brown University reunion,” where “extremely online” people attend mixers and try to date each other.

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