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The S Word

“The instant you print anything calculated to dishearten the boys in the army or to make them think this is not a just or righteous war—that instant you will be suppressed,”

You may laugh and scoff, gentlemen, but I know Victor Berger. No man can devote his whole life and fortune to the great cause of endeavoring to better the conditions of the toiling millions, stand by his principles like a rock of Gibraltar, regardless of personal consequence, without being morally great… Victor Berger’s name will stand in the future as that of a martyr to a great cause—the rights of free speech, free press, and representative government.

For most of the twentieth century, Democrats had been open to ideas proposed by socialists—just as Republicans had been in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it became increasingly difficult to accept Harrington’s premise that “a Democratic administration always opens up a space for those who stand on the left.”

But while the fears of Obama tended toward the delusional, so too did the hopes inspired by his candidacy. Obama was a classic Baskin-Robbins candidate, presenting America with an ideological flavor for every day of the month. Neither a tried-and-tested veteran of “the good fight” nor a Clintonesque compromiser or DLC corporatist, he offered Democratic primary voters whatever alternative they preferred in a race with presumed front runner Hillary Clinton.