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A June 12 headline in Politico might need some unpacking. It reads: “Sanders goes full FDR in defense of democratic socialism.”
FDR, of course, is Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, in office from 1933 to 1945, leading the nation during the New Deal of the 1930s and then, in the 1940s, to victory in World War II.
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Along the way, FDR won four landslide elections, in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. In addition, FDR’s hand-picked successor, Harry Truman, won a fifth national victory in 1948. As such, with those five consecutive victories, FDR’s New Deal coalition amassed the greatest White House win-streak since the 19th century—what vote-hungry politician wouldn’t want a piece of that?
Moreover, more than seven decades after his death, FDR’s legacy is still felt: For instance, there’s the Social Security program, now an evergreen of governance. And more broadly, there’s the general feeling nowadays that the federal government has a responsibility to oversee the management of the economy—that is, preventing depressions and combatting both extreme poverty and excessive inequality. If it seems hard to imagine an America without such policies in place, well, that just goes to show the depth of FDR’s influence.
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Yes, of course, FDR had many fierce critics, in his life and ever since, and yet the continuing popularity of his persona and his ideas is undeniable.
In other words, Bernie Sanders was well advised to stake his claim to Roosevelt’s legacy. In his speech at George Washington University on June 12, Sanders name-checked FDR eight times, arguing that his own proposals are simply an echoing, and an updating, of FDR’s ideas.
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In particular, Sanders recalled FDR’s proposal, in his 1944 State of the Union address, for an “economic bill of rights,” covering such topics as wages, education, and health care.
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