The Nation - April 2019
Democrats can get ahead of the curve and disarm Trump and the trolls by embracing the opportunity that Milwaukee offers to talk about socialism as it has existed and succeeded in the United States. For American socialists in the 20th century, Milwaukee was a political mecca, a city that tested and confirmed the validity of their ideas.
“If I owned all the real estate in the world, I wouldn’t feel so powerful as I do on the streets of this socialist city,” declared former New York City councilman Baruch Vladeck when he arrived in Milwaukee in 1932 for the Socialist Party’s national convention in that city.
Norman Thomas, the famed civil-rights and economic-justice campaigner who became the party’s presidential nominee that year, celebrated the fact that he was chosen for that honor in a city governed by Socialists. The success of Milwaukee under then-Mayor Dan Hoan, Thomas said, was proof that the party’s social-democratic “dreams will someday come true.”
“Someday” was dramatically delayed by the results of the 1932 elections. The Socialist ticket did well, securing almost 900,000 votes nationwide and registering its highest percentage of the total vote in Wisconsin. The winner of that year’s race, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, took notice: He met with Thomas after the election and borrowed liberally from proposals that had long been championed by the Socialists—for a Social Security system, unemployment compensation, strengthened labor unions, and public-works programs. Roosevelt’s New Deal took the wind out of the Socialist Party’s sails in the national arena, but the party remained a force in Milwaukee for decades to come. ...
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