As Duke Univeristy law professor Jedidiah Purdy reminds us, socialism is as American as baseball, apple-pie, and Chevrolet. “Much of today’s socialism,” he argues, “was once the bread and butter of the Democratic Party.” Here is a taste of his piece at Politico:
Recent elections are bringing the largest crop of self-described socialist candidates in nearly a century, not just in New York and on the Left Coast, but in places like Virginia and Pennsylvania. For critics, this represents a futile and dangerous radicalism; for some who welcome it, it’s nothing more than a youthful resurgence of Ted Kennedy-style liberalism.
The reality is more interesting. The new socialism is both thoroughly American and pretty damned radical. Much of today’s “socialism,” like Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, has deep roots; it’s basically the left wing of New Deal and Great Society liberalism, promising free higher education and universal health care, stronger unions and more support for affordable housing. These were once the bread and butter of the Democratic Party. But the new socialism is also genuinely radical—and not just because the country has moved so far away from the goals of widely shared wealth and leisure of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
Read the rest here.
One of the best books I read in graduate school was Nick Salvatore‘s Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist. Salvatore argued that Debs’s socialism was rooted in the republican and democratic traditions at the heart of the American experience. I highly recommend it.