2016 Election, 2nd Bill of Rights, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, Economic Bill of Rights, Falsehoods, FDR, Marxism, New Deal, New Deal Democrat, Political Spectrum, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Social Democrats
Every time 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT as of 2015; an Independent prior to last year) says that he is a “Democratic Socialist,” it grinds my beans. The man is leftist and well-educated enough to know that what he is saying doesn’t match up with his voting record or his advocacy. Every time a member of the Socialist Party (or Christian Democratic Party, or Social Democratic Party) in Germany, France or Italy hears Sanders say those two words, they probably just laugh themselves off a bar stool.
The fact is, Bernie Sanders is a Social Democrat, or more specifically, a New Deal Democrat, someone in the camp of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, or former presidential hopefuls Adlai Stevenson and Henry Wallace. What is a Social Democrat? They are folks who believe in taking socialist principles and social justice stands to ameliorate the impact that capitalism has on the lives of the most disadvantaged citizens of their society. They are not fans of capitalism, but they also have no long-term aspirations for an economic revolution that would do away with capitalism as an economic system, either.
Given all that Sanders has done in his thirty-five year career, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981-89), as a congressman (from 1991-2007), and as senator, he has never advocated for the end of capitalism and the installation of a state-controlled or people’s economy. That, however, is EXACTLY what Democratic Socialists advocate. They are somewhere between the Marxist and Socialist camps of leftists, though with a healthy respect for a democratic path toward socialism, and not necessarily one through civil war and a bloody revolution. That Sanders has forgotten the difference is intellectually infuriating and politically imprudent with an electorate and a media that is as fickle as it is center-right ideologically.
There’s nothing wrong with Sanders being a Social Democrat. FDR, JFK, and LBJ, even Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft thought that a combination of regulated capitalism and government intervention in the promotion of social justice was critical to the survival and success of the nation. They firmly believed in the American experiment as constructed in the years since the Civil War. Even though the American experiment is a false narrative, that perception of America as a successful experiment has frequently pushed the levers of ameliorating and justice forward just enough for change to occur. Even if that change is often incremental and symbolic.
President Roosevelt at the end of his life and third term as president proposed a new bill of rights. During his next to last State of the Union address on January 11, 1944, FDR outlined what he called an economic bill of rights. President Roosevelt deemed this second bill of rights necessary in light of the causes of World War II, the combination of the Great Depression and the false promises of totalitarian racist regimes. In introducing his new bill of rights, FDR said, “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence…People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights, “a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed,” included the following:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
This sums up Bernie Sanders and his platform very nicely. It isn’t Democratic Socialism, but it is what most Americans should be willing to hear and support. It would make sense for Sanders to say that he’s a Neal Deal lefty, though.