Bye Bye BernieHistorians in the News
tags: Democratic Party, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, 2020 Election
Sanders ‘is a radical who cares more about being right than being president’
Since he began running for president in 2015, Sanders has defined “democratic socialism” as the fulfillment of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. But his performance at Sunday night’s debate shows that he remains the stylistic disciple of his first political hero, Eugene V. Debs, who, unlike FDR, was so dedicated to socialism that he ran for president five times as the standard-bearer of the party that bore that name.
Like Debs, Sanders spoke passionately for policies that he has advocated for decades. Like Debs, he considered any compromise on such policies a betrayal of core principles of a truly decent, egalitarian society. Like Debs, he refused to abandon or apologize for statements—such as his praise for Cuba’s literacy program or his call for an immediate ban on fracking—that would make it more difficult for him to win key states in the presidential election.
Franklin Roosevelt was the most consequential president in the 20th century. But he would not have earned that honor if he had not been a masterful politician, willing to alter or abandon a position whenever he thought it necessary to win power for himself or his party. Sanders, like Debs, is a radical who cares more about being right than being president.
But unlike Debs, Sanders has done a great deal to transform the policies of a major party. By arguing consistently and fervently for major changes to how the government handles health care, the environment, taxation and labor, he has inspired millions of Americans, particularly young ones, and compelled Biden to take positions that are markedly more progressive than those he has espoused throughout his career.