Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, days after shrugging off concerns from other candidates at the Democratic debates that his self-described democratic socialism would be disastrous in the general election.
During President Trump’s State of the Union address earlier this month, he said “socialism destroys nations” and vowed to stop the lawmakers who want to “impose a socialist takeover of our health care system” — i.e. have endorsed Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan.
But if it seems that the rise of socialist politicians such as Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is something new to American politics, well, it isn’t. The “Pledge of Allegiance” was written by a Christian socialist in 1892. Eugene V. Debs ran for president on a socialist ticket five times; in 1912, he got nearly a million votes.
In fact, dozens of socialists were elected to local offices across the country between 1910 and 1912. In Milwaukee, long a hub for socialist German immigrants, socialist mayors governed for decades.
Around the turn of the century, the country was rapidly moving from being agrarian to becoming industrialized, and interest in social movements such as women’s suffrage, temperance and civil rights began to take root.