The consequence of this willingness to play in the main arena is that a loose confederacy of splinter groups—socialists, anarchists, communists and leftists, all spearheaded by the DSA—are more willing than ever to sacrifice ideological purity for a chance to work as insurgent coalition inside the Democratic Party. The DSA leadership insists that it feels no loyalty to the Democratic National Committee, but it is eager to challenge Democrats on their own turf.

“Absolutely, we definitely want to primary neoliberal Democrats,” says Maria Svart, the DSA’s national director, who like others in the DSA uses the epithet “neoliberal” to paint moderate Democrats as insufficiently progressive. “What we’re trying to do is build an organized grassroots constituency for democratic socialism, and the politicians we’ll support are the ones who can win.”