Democratic Socialists of America strive to turn Arizona blue

ASU students and alumni hope to bring democratic socialism to the Grand Canyon State

Every other Saturday of the month, members of the Phoenix chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, who are all ASU students and alumni, gather to canvass an area of Phoenix.

The group spends the day knocking on doors and having conversations about healthcare. The chapter is in its early years, but is trying to establish themselves as quickly as they can.

Devin Howard, a biology senior at ASU, is the president of the Phoenix chapter. She said that DSA’s long term goals are to have socialism instead of capitalism in America. 

“We recognize that this is a long-term goal so locally, at least in Arizona, what we are trying to do is have a socialist presence and educate people," Howard said. "As well as work toward goals that are more achievable in the short term.” 

Howard said that the canvassing campaign is a new initiative, as the club just completed the second canvassing event this past month. Right now, the campaign is focused on pushing single-payer healthcare and the Medicare for All plan that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders advocates for. 

“We try to just talk to people and the really powerful thing is that everyone has a healthcare story. And a lot of people are super eager to share that,” Howard said. 

Taylor Cifuentez, a 2016 ASU graduate and the Vice President of the Phoenix chapter, said that now is a really radical time, but having conversations with other strangers will spark change in the current political climate. 

“Sometimes people just need to be asked questions from somebody else,” Cifuentez said. “Some people would rather cry to a stranger on their doorstep then talk to their friends about healthcare.” 

The canvassing doesn’t include getting signatures for petitions for anything — it's simply an educational and conversational campaign. 

“We go out to canvass to ask if other people also want to go canvass too," Cifuentez said. "We are going out to canvass to have a conversation too.”

Some DSA members are expanding their political presence as well. Jake Bell, a W.P. Carey and Cronkite alumnus in DSA, is running for Arizona Corporate Commission. He said that many students are advocates for socialism and a part of DSA because of lack of financial stability.

“I graduated and was unemployed for six months,” Bell said. “Getting the MBA wasn’t something that really interest(ed) me. I just got it because there was a paycheck at the end of the rainbow. Only there really wasn’t a paycheck at the end of the rainbow.” 

Cifuentez agreed, adding that the "very obvious answer" to why students are so involved in DSA is student debt — after two degrees, she was left with thousands of dollars in debt herself, she said. 

She said that being on such a big campus brings in different perspectives about several political issues.

Reach the reporter at or follow @tinamaria_4 on Twitter.

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