Jeremiah Purdy of The New Yorker shows how Bernie Sanders's definition of "Democratic Socialism" looks a lot like the policies of F.D.R. and Ike.
We finally know what Bernie Sanders means by “democratic socialism.” Speaking on his political philosophy at Georgetown yesterday, the Vermont senator and Democratic Presidential candidate opened with a long invocation of Franklin Roosevelt and the social protections that the New Deal created: minimum wages, retirement benefits, banking regulation, the forty-hour workweek. Roosevelt’s opponents attacked all these good things as “socialism,” Sanders reminded his listeners.
Curiously, Sanders seemed to agree with them, taking his definition of “socialism” from its nineteen-thirties opponents, the people Roosevelt called “economic royalists.” “Let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders said. “It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans.”
This isn’t the first time Sanders has defined his position from the right flank of history. Pressed in the most recent Democratic debate to say how high he would take the marginal income tax, Sanders answered that it would be less than the ninety (actually ninety-two) per-cent level under the Eisenhower Administration. He added, to cheers and laughter, “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.”
But, of course, both Roosevelt and Eisenhower distinguished themselves vigorously from “socialism,” which they understood to be a revolutionary program of extreme equality, committed to centralized control of the economy, and a cat’s paw of Soviet power. Accusations of “socialism” trailed liberals for decades after Roosevelt parried his opponents, from Ronald Reagan’s attacks on Medicare to the Republicans’ refrain against Obamacare. Democrats, like Roosevelt, have furiously defended themselves against the charges. But now a candidate whose ideal American economy does in fact look a lot like Eisenhower’s—strong unions, secure employment, affordable college—is waving the red flag, and finding favor with large numbers of Democratic voters.
Read the rest here.