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Danziger: Big Three, Pig Three

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

What Kind Of ‘Socialism’ Is This? Sanders Claims Mantle Of New Deal

Reprinted with permission from The American Prospect.

In 1916, amid the carnage of World War I, the great German-Polish socialist Rosa Luxemburg wrote that humanity was facing a choice between socialism and barbarism.

Earlier today, speaking at the George Washington University, Bernie Sanders noted that we live in a time of rising authoritarianism, citing the regimes of Putin, Xi, Orban, Duterte and Trump as indices of the growing threat. His speech was billed as offering his definition of socialism, which, a la Rosa, was said to be the alternative to oligarchy and authoritarianism.

Socialism as Sanders proceeded to define it is indeed an alternative to oligarchy and authoritarianism. What his speech left hanging was whether his socialism was in fact socialism.

In 2015, as his campaign was just taking off, Sanders came to a different D.C. university—Georgetown—to deliver what was also then billed as his definition of socialism. Before a crowd of wildly cheering college students, he reeled off a series of social democratic proposals—the universal right to health care, to college education and the like – with constant reference to the great American leader who did indeed lead the successful war against barbarism in the 1940s: Franklin Roosevelt. His speech was so FDR-centric that I wrote at the time:

Throughout the 1930s, Republicans claimed that Franklin Roosevelt was really a socialist. Today, Bernie Sanders said they were right.

Then, as today, Sanders referenced Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union speech – FDR’s last great speech—in which Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights. Today, Sanders formally proposed “a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights,” which included a right to a living-wage job, to “quality health care,” to “a complete education,” to “affordable housing,” to “a clean environment” and to “a secure retirement.”

As if citing Roosevelt were not enough, Sanders also cited Harry Truman, whose efforts to create a Medicare for All program in the 1940s were thwarted by conservatives and the medical profession. He quoted Truman, talking about his critics, at length:

Socialism [Truman said] is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.

Nor did Sanders’s talk simply identify socialism with the social democratic reforms of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Truman’s Fair Deal. It also contained two crucial omissions.

First, even as Sanders cited Roosevelt and Truman, but he also did not cite any avowed American democratic socialists, save, in passing, Martin Luther King Jr. He made no mention of his great hero, Eugene V. Debs. Nothing on Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party’s candidate for president in each of FDR’s four elections. Nothing on A. Philip Randolph or Bayard Rustin or Michael Harrington. No reference to Thomas’ line when asked if Roosevelt had actually carried out the Socialist Party’s program. “He carried it out,” Thomas said, “on a stretcher.”

Second, Sanders also omitted his own more socialistic proposals. His speech skipped over some groundbreaking social democratic reforms that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both advocated in the course of the campaign, including dividing corporate boards between shareholder and worker representatives. He made no mention of an American version of the Meidner Plan – a 1970s proposal never quite implemented in Sweden that would gradually transfer the ownership of corporations, through the yearly payment of profits in the form of stock to their employees’ organizations, to their workers.

In short, Sanders’s socialism, as he defined it, is an expansion of America’s semi-demi-welfare state to include more economic rights. It’s an effort to make us a more functional social democracy—which, of course, is no small proposal and by American standards, a great leap forward. But he could have made the same proposals and labeled them neo-Rooseveltian liberalism without straining historical accuracy.

How, then, did his speech depart from his 2015 Georgetown outing? Chiefly, in noting that the world had grown more dangerously authoritarian and xenophobic in the intervening years—a discussion that Sanders also cast in a neo-Rooseveltian light. Twice in his talk, he cited Depression-era rallies at Madison Square Garden: the first, the infamous pro-Nazi rally of 1939; the second, FDR’s election eve speech of 1936—surely, Roosevelt’s most radical oration—in which FDR sounded the anti-oligarchic and anti-authoritarian themes that Sanders is sounding today. This speech, too, Sanders quoted at length:

We had to struggle [Roosevelt said] with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

No line in Sanders’ speech drew a louder spontaneous standing ovation than that one—the one about welcoming their hatred. And it wasn’t Bernie’s line; it was FDR’s.

Sanders’ conflation of democratic socialism with the progressive reforms of an FDR is at some level eminently understandable. Social Security is indeed a social democratic program, as is Medicare; their shortcomings, as Sanders surely realizes in seeking to bolster the first and universalize the second, is that they’re not social democratic enough. In running as a democratic socialist who seeks to complete and update FDR’s agenda, Sanders straddles the very fuzzy border between social democracy and American left liberalism. There, coming from the socialist side, he meets Warren, coming from the liberal side, and a growing number of their fellow Americans.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Salem, Oregon, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Danziger: The Unworthy

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

On D-Day, Military Service Was More ‘Inclusive’

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Beneath the perfectly manicured lawns and under the pines and elm trees at the Normandy cemetery lie 9,388 Americans who died during D-Day or in the liberation of France that followed. Among them is a most unlikely combatant, a 56-year-old Army officer who was a wounded veteran of World War I also suffering from a heart condition and arthritis. With his cane, he was the only general in the first wave under heavy Nazi fire on the beach that day. His name was Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the son of the Republican president. One month later, he would die of a heart attack.

In my home state of Massachusetts, both U.S. senators were Republicans. Henry Cabot Lodge became the first senator since the Civil War to resign to go into military service, as a tank commander fighting in North Africa. Sen. Leverett Saltonstall’s son Peter left Harvard to become a Marine sergeant and was killed in the battle of Guam.

This was a time when the children of privilege and power served and sacrificed: 18-year-old Stephen Hopkins — whose father lived in the White House, where he was the president’s closest adviser — joined the Marine Corps and was killed in the Pacific. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the son of President Franklin Roosevelt’s ambassador to England, died flying a dangerous mission in Europe. FDR had four sons: Elliott became an Army Air Corps pilot and flew 130 combat missions; Jimmy joined the Marines and, in combat against the Japanese, earned both the Navy Cross and a Silver Star. Navy Lt. John Roosevelt earned a Bronze Star while Lt. Commander Franklin Roosevelt, Jr. won the Silver Star for bravery under heavy enemy fire. One sickly young man used his father’s influence to pull strings so that the Navy would permit him go into combat and captain a PT boat in the Pacific. Sixteen years later, he would be President John F. Kennedy.

Americans once did believe that “war demands equality of sacrifice.” We had accepted our first income tax to pay for the Civil War and enacted a permanent income tax on the eve of World War I. After Pearl Harbor, Americans accepted the rationing of sugar, butter, meat, alcohol, gasoline, cigarettes. Civilians in their neighborhoods planted 20 million “victory gardens” which collectively provided 40 percent of the nation’s vegetables. One out of 4 American men wore his country’s military uniform. In the 1950s, 3 out of 4 male high school graduates and 3 out of 4 male college graduates served in the military.

That had, sadly, changed by Vietnam. Prominent sons of influence so often used their family’s contacts to avoid military service. The all-volunteer military, ending the draft, all but guaranteed that America’s upper classes would be spared the burden of defending their country. As eminent historian David Kennedy pointed out, among American males ages 18 to 24, some 36 percent had some college, while in the same age group in the military’s enlisted ranks, fewer than three percent had ever been in college.

Without the real prospect that their sons might go to war, American families lost immediate personal interest in U.S. foreign engagements. Americans have now been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 years, which is longer than the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War combined. But instead of tax increases to pay for our wars, we have lobbied for and welcomed three different tax cuts at a cost to the nation of $5 trillion in accumulating debt.

That’s tragically what you get when the “we” generation is replaced by a succession of “me” generations

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Acrylic screen print of John F. Kennedy in PT-109, the Navy patrol craft he helmed in World War II.