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Mike McCabe: The 'unelectable' four-term president

Mike McCabe: The 'unelectable' four-term president

Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigns in 1936 (copy)

Franklin Roosevelt waves his hat to the crowd from his presidential train in Pierre, South Dakota, on Aug. 29, 1936, during a tour of drought-stricken states.

Cap Times editor and publisher Paul Fanlund thinks Bernie Sanders is unelectable. Fanlund is hardly alone among media pundits who peddle this line of thinking. None of them seems to be able to hear the echoes from history. None of them seems to be pondering history’s habit of repeating itself.

None of them is giving these words much thought: “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.”

Sounds a lot like Sanders, doesn’t it?

Of course, it wasn’t Bernie who welcomed the hatred of the “old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” Those words were spoken in 1936 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only one ever elected president of the United States four times. Roosevelt ushered in policies every bit as socialist as anything Bernie Sanders is proposing today.

It can be soundly argued that Roosevelt’s actions saved capitalism by tempering its worst excesses with policies that were labeled “socialist.” In 1952, Harry Truman came to FDR’s defense and his own, describing the “patented trademark of the special interest lobbies” this way: “'Socialism' is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. 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.”

Time magazine editor-at-large Anand Giridharadas recently called the surge in support for Bernie Sanders a “wake-up moment” for pundits that “I think a lot of us are still struggling to understand.” He said that “something is happening in America right now that actually does not fit our mental models. It certainly doesn’t fit the mental models of a lot of people on TV. It doesn’t fit the mental models of a lot of people in the parties. It doesn’t fit our cultural mental models.”

Giridharadas went on to say that “many of this establishment are behaving in my view … like out-of-touch aristocrats in a dying aristocracy” and are saying ‘how do we stop this, how do we block this?’”

He was responding to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews when he said all that. He could just as well have been talking about Paul Fanlund or a thousand others just like him who are acting not as journalists but as keepers of the establishment.

Mike McCabe is executive director of Our Wisconsin Revolution and author of "Unscrewing America: Hints and Hopes from the Heartland."

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