Would America elect a democratic socialist? We already have. Think FDR

Would America elect a democratic socialist?  We already have. Think FDR

downtown Rochester, NY 2/27/16

A Bernie Sanders march is like an outside political science graduate seminar.


picture the Democratic National Convention in July (Erin Smith holding sign) 2/27/16

I went to Saturday’s march to learn more about democratic socialism. And — a little bit on the fly as we looped from City Hall to the Liberty Pole and back — got plenty of thought provoking responses.

A Finnish-American couple now living in Buffalo walked me  through the history of the post war European welfare state in which Sanders would be considered not a democratic socialist but a Social Democrat.

Another group argued whether democrat socialism means people vote for the economy they want.  For others, the fundamental issue was locating where “the free market” fails to provide desired social goods, like health and education. One man simply defended democratic socialism by pointing to the public school system that helped build the middle class.

Heady stuff!  Glad when we reached the after march party at Scotland Yard for some democratic socializing over beer and good music.


Look, a democrat socialist on American currency. Mary with FDR dime. 2/27/16

To simplify things, I asked, what would you say to a passerby on Franklin Street who wondered, “What is this Bernie Sanders democratic socialism all about? How is it different from a Democrat?”

Mary Lupien, a Sanders delegate, wrote:

If you want to know what Democratic Socialism is, think FDR. The last time we had a democratic socialist president, they had to enact term limits because the American people elected him to office 4 times!

Mary wasn’t the only one to invoke FDR and the New Deal.  Others pointed to how Roosevelt’s “socialism” (although, of course, he avoided the term) advanced programs that today we take for granted.


Jaime Morill 2/27/16

Jaime Morill, an activist and aspiring social worker, wrote:

The truth is there cannot be a democracy without socialism. We’ve been conditioned to fear the word socialism as though it is a threat to our freedom but that just isn’t so. Don’t be afraid. Democratic socialism simply means balance and equality. It means people before profit… all people.

Rather than explain democratic socialism in full depth, one woman would tell a passerby that Sanders represents the left wing of the Democratic Party.  Fair enough.

Besides the party at Scotland Yard, I also went to see — as reported on Friday — whether Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright were right.


Looking like a “real” socialist, St. Petersburg @1917


These women didn’t feel they were BERNing in Madeleine’s “special place.”

All the women I spoke with rolled their eyes at the tempest in a teapot. They came to the march to meet social democrats (boys or otherwise).

Personally, I still strongly object to Steinem referring to male Sanders supporters as boys. Tsk, tsk, Gloria.

Citizenship in action at the corner of Culver and Parsells

On seeing my first Trump supporters outside the Bug Jar

If Donald Trump becomes a footnote in political history, he will become William Randolph Hearst. And maybe Bernie Sanders is William Jennings Bryan

G.O.P. Fears What’s Next If Trump Can’t Be Stopped — New York Times, February 25th, 2016

Which Presidential election mattered the most to you?

“I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin” — Max Boot, 2016; “I foresee very lively election campaigns” — Josef Stalin, 1936 “I foresee very lively election campaigns” — Josef Stalin, 1936

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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