Being anything that remotely resembles a socialist in the United States has always carried a heavy price, and in terms of presidents only two have ever really come close to fitting the bill. Both share the same last name, which makes one of their marriages a little creepy-balls if I’m being honest, but that’s a subject for a different time. The family I’m referring to of course is the Bush family.
I’m just fucking around. It’s the Roosevelts. Teddy and then Franklin.
Neither man was free from his glaring faults. Both were pretty imperialistic and one of them interred U.S. citizens for shit’s sake. So you’re never going to find me counted among those who idolize the Roosevelts so much as I respect the hell out of what they were both able to accomplish. In their own individual way, both men — who came from enormous wealth ironically enough — were able to carve out a little bigger piece of the American Dream for average citizens.
Teddy busted the unions and gave the richest men in the country a harsh reminder that they were not the ones elected by the people. Franklin, saddled with trying to help the country’s economy recover from the Great Depression, boldly pushed an extremely aggressive and progressive agenda that certainly met stiff resistance in the courts and legislature. What remains of FDR’s economic legacy though, stands as a testament to what can happen when you have someone in the White House who isn’t afraid to wield the bully pulpit and the powers of the executive like a mighty broadsword.
Bernie Sanders, if he continues his Cinderella story and wins not only the nomination but the White House too, will need to be downright Rooseveltian if he is going to succeed.
During the 1936 presidential election, FDR gave a historical speech at Madison Square Garden in New York, just three days before the election. The speech was a fiery one, and it directly addressed the attacks his progressive agenda had been under from Wall Street (sound familiar), or FDR put it, “the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” The most memorable line from that speech came when Roosevelt said, “They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”
This is the kind of “IDGAF” attitude that FDR became known for, and that I believe many liberals were hoping Barack Obama would adopt. For many reasons, President Obama chose not to go that route, and was thanked for his kindness by congressional Republicans with unrelenting obstruction. Bernie will need to summon his inner FDR and welcome the hate, scorn and derision of his foes, because he will face them from all around, especially since he’s not an “official” Democrat.
If he can harness the power that the Roosevelts had and turn the media on his political adversaries, he can do great things. Cynical people all over the country are telling us now that he can’t pay for his pie in the sky visions. They said the same thing about Social Security. That program, which every Republican will tell you until they’re blue in the face is a Ponzi scheme sure to collapse hasn’t missed a single payment since its inception. Cynical people also told us we couldn’t make it to the moon and that there’d never be a black man in the White House as anything but a staff member.
Don’t kid yourselves, Bernie supporters, the deck is crazy stacked against you right now The fact that he just won New Hampshire by such a huge landslide is historic as hell, no doubt, but he’s now got the cross hairs of both parties on his back. He’s going to need a miracle or ten to make through the primaries and the General Election, but then it’s on him. Sanders will need to muster every bit of strength to remain resolute in the face of a guaranteed onslaught of attacks on his agenda.
But if all that fails, and he doesn’t end up winning, he has forever shaped the world because he’s proven that Americans are ready to hear the word socialism and not panic. That’s a good thing, considering how much socialism we already practice in this country, but a discussion for another time. For now, let’s just hope that if Bernie pulls off the stunner that he has fight left in him, because he will need all of it and more.