Bernie Sanders is a self-described “democratic socialist” or “social democrat.” And of course, we all know that social democracy is not just unpopular in the United States, it is un-American----NOT!
That Sanders, given his background, is garnering huge crowds who shout his name with an enthusiasm reminiscent of the heyday of the People’s Party in the 1890s, radiates a special glow. Americans may once again be remembering who they are and what they need to do to recapture a government now in thrall to the Money Power. And that ain’t extreme. It’s fundamentally American.
Social democracy is 100 percent American. We may be latecomers to recognizing a universal right to health care (indeed, we are not quite there yet). But we were first in creating a universal right to public education, in endowing ourselves with ownership of national parks, and, for that matter, in conferring voting rights on males without property and abolishing religious tests for holding national office. That's "social democracy at it's best!
It was the American Revolution’s patriot and pamphleteer, Thomas Paine — a hero today to folks left and right, including tea partiers — who launched the social-democratic tradition in the 1790s. In his pamphlets, Rights of Man and Agrarian Justice, Paine outlined plans for combating poverty that would become what we today call Social Security; a program that almost every American past their 60's is knowingly (or unknowingly grateful for. Ah! Social Democracy! How would we get along without it?
Then, there's the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt, whose grand, social-democratic New Deal initiatives – from the CCC, WPA and Rural Electrification Administration, to Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act — that not only rescued the nation from the Great Depression, but also reduced inequality and poverty and helped ready the United States to win the second World War and become the strongest and most prosperous nation on earth.
Moreover, those we celebrate as the Greatest Generation, the men and women who confronted the Great Depression and went on to defeat fascism, fought for the decidedly social-democratic;
Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear – and the chance of realizing them at war’s end.
Polls conducted in 1943 showed that 94 percent of Americans endorsed old-age pensions; 84 percent, job insurance; 83 percent, universal national health insurance; and 79 percent, aid for students — leading FDR in his 1944 State of the Union message to propose a Second Bill of Rights that would guarantee those very things to all Americans.
All of which would be blocked by a conservative coalition of pro-corporate Republicans and white supremacist southern Democrats. And yet, with the aid of the otherwise conservative American Legion, FDR did secure one of the greatest social-democratic programs in American history: the G.I. Bill that enabled 12,000,000 returning veterans to progressively transform themselves and the nation for the better which is a far cry different with what we have today (see; 10 Statistics You Didn't Know About Veteran Homelessness)
Nor did that generation of veterans give up their social-democratic aspirations. On reaching middle age in the 1960s, they enacted civil rights, voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid; established protections for the environment, workers and consumers; and dramatically expanded educational opportunities, especially in public higher education.
We ourselves honor America’s social-democratic history with two great monuments on the National Mall – not just the FDR Memorial, but also the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Yes, King was a democratic socialist. Drawing on the New Deal experience, embracing the American tradition of Christian socialism and peaceful activism, and believing, like so many of his generation, that Americans could harness the powers of democratic government to enhance freedom and equality, he campaigned for both racial justice and the rights of working people and the poor.
The Democratic Party, embodied in the Democratic National Committee has, in election after election, shrunk from some of the party’s best traditions in order to keep up in the race for campaign cash, even to the extent of marginalizing and openly scorning what is described as its “left wing.”
Indeed, when America’s purpose and promise have been in jeopardy we acted radically, progressively, and, yes, as social democrats.
Whether simply tactical or genuine on her part Hillary Clinton herself seemed to recognize the power of that history and its legacy by launching her new presidential campaign at New York City’s Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. Though she never did actually pronounce the words of FDR’s Four Freedoms, her speech revealed some awareness of a reviving — dare we say it? — social-democratic spirit?
Bernie Sanders sounds like FDR, not simply because you can practically hear him saying of the one percent what FDR did — “I welcome their hatred” — but all the more because of what he wants to do: tax the rich, create a single-payer national health care system, make public higher education free to all qualified students, create jobs by refurbishing the nation’s public infrastructure, and address the environment and climate change.
But even more critically, like FDR he doesn’t say he wants to fight for us. He seeks to encourage the fight in us: “It is up to us to launch the most heroic of all struggles: a political revolution.”
Social Democracy is as American as apple pie! Something to remember every time you;
* Log in to the internet or watch "free to air" TV
* Drive on an "Interstate" highway
* Visit a National Park
* Your state calls on FEMA for disaster relief
* Dangerous foods or drugs are recalled to keep you out of harms way
* Your automobile is recalled after being deemed unsafe
* You or someone you know becomes disabled and is provided with SSDI
* Social Security benefits are provided to you or someone you know to retire on
* Medicare health benefits are provided to you to ensure your survival in old age
Many Americans take these "social" services for granted and, just like children being cared for by their parents, feel secure in knowing it's there but have no idea on how it got there.
It's taken someone like Bernie Sanders to remind Americans that they need to remain vigilant in protecting their social democratic form of government from predators (Wall Street) who are relentless in their efforts to weaken the society they prey on and destroy the democracy that protects it.
Their battle cry is "smaller (weak) government and lower taxes (for the rich) to make America (them) stronger. How this plays out rests in the hands of every American and is the most powerful weapon a democracy wields; their vote! Bernie says; Use it!