Why Maurice Isserman quit DSA
An aging historian floats conspiracy theories as political progress leaves him behind.
Public opinion on the war between Israel and Palestine has shifted dramatically in the US over the past twenty years, with sympathy with Palestine surpassing sympathy with Israel among Democrats for the first time in 2023. Popular support for third parties has also swelled from a minority to a supermajority position in the 21st century. Americans have even famously warmed on socialism in recent years, though that trend seems to finally abated.
If I were looking at these polls as a historian, I would first notice what they have in common: they are all large scale national trends, often reflecting changes that can be seen internationally as well. I would also notice that these trends all have the same pronounced generational inflection: young people, in the crosstabs, are always at their vanguard, with older folks showing less movement or even a reactionary bump in the other direction. I would finally, because I am a historian, recognize that this all an extremely familiar story of political change, to the point of utter banality. The times are a’changin.
And that’s what makes historian Maurice Isserman’s new post in The Nation, Why I Just Quit DSA, so goddamn embarrassing. At first glance, most readers are going to see this as just the latest round of accusations that the org has become too tolerant of support for Israeli civilian deaths. But read just a little bit further, and this becomes the unmistakable rant of an aging squish shaking his fist as a changing world, a grievance saturated in naked resentment of young people and devolving, finally, into imbecilic delusions of conspiracy.