“There is always a charge that socialism does not fit human nature. We’ve encountered that for a long time. Maybe that’s true. But can’t people be educated? Can’t people learn to cooperate with each other? Surely that must be our goal, because the alternative is redolent with war and poverty and all the ills of the world.” — Frank Zeidler
John McCain hopes to revive his campaign by suggesting that Barack Obama is some kind of socialist.
The Republican nominee for president says that his Democratic rival’s plan for stimulating the economy sounds “a lot like socialism.”
“At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are up front about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama,” the Arizona senator claimed over the weekend.
Asked if he thinks Obama is a socialist, McCain offers an insinuating raised eyebrow and a shrug non-response: “I don’t know.”
McCain is not really concerned about socialism. He is trying to suggest that Obama is somehow un-American.
Obama’s no socialist.
But, as a Wisconsinite, I can’t buy the basic premise of McCain’s argument.
I grew up in a state where socialism was as American as my friend Frank Zeidler.
Zeidler, an old-school American socialist who served three terms as the mayor of Milwaukee from 1948 to 1960, died two year ago at age 93. His passing was mourned by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, who recognized the gentle radical as one of the most honorable men ever to cross the American political landscape.
Zeidler actually ran for president in 1976 as the nominee of the American Socialist Party. In fairness, it was more an educational campaign than a serious bid for an office that the former mayor never really coveted. Like so many of the great civic gestures he engaged in over eight decades of activism, Zeidler’s 1976 campaign promoted the notion that: “There’s nothing un-American about socialism.”
Campaigning on a platform that promised a shift of national priorities from bloated defense spending to fighting poverty, rebuilding cities and creating a national health care program, Zeidler won only a portion of the respect that was due this kind and decent man and the values to which he has devoted a lifetime.
Had Zeidler been born in another land — perhaps Germany, where the roots of his family tree were firmly planted — his Socialist Party run would have been a much bigger deal. Indeed, he might well have been elected.