August 23, 2019 | 79° F

MEHTA: Democratic socialism saved capitalism in past

Opinion Column: Grass Roots

On Feb. 19, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) threw his hat in the ring for a second bid at the U.S. presidency. Progressive campaign veterans feared, while establishment pundits prayed, that the momentum Sanders held in 2016 would be lost — it was not. Within 24 hours of announcing, the Sanders campaign raised $6 million from grassroots donors, quadrupling Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) 24-hour total of $1.5 million. Sanders is a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, which is a term that scares the ignorant. In the same light, it is these same people who abhor the idea of being taxed on their profits above $10 million to pay for a child’s cancer treatment, and who forget that the last Democratic socialist president to grace the United States saved the capitalism they love so much. 

Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, as historian William E. Leuchtenburg said, not only "rested on the assumption that a just society could be secured by imposing a welfare state on a capitalist foundation," but also “didn't challenge the system of private profit but sought to regulate and channel it,” according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition to job stimulation and the rebuilding of the middle class, Roosevelt’s accomplishments extended to the creation of Social Security and the introduction of the Glass-Steagall Act — two policies Sanders stands by whole-heartedly. The times of today, with a rapidly bankrupting Social Security and a shrinking middle class, practically beg us to look toward history to bring about a savior who can repeat it. 

“For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor — other people's lives. For too many of us, life was no longer free, liberty no longer real, men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness," Roosevelt said in his second inaugural address.

Jeff Bezos holds the same wealth as 23 million Americans, while Amazon paid $0 in federal income taxes for the second year in a row. Nevertheless, it takes 2.5 full-time jobs at minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the wealthiest nation in history. “Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy," Sanders — the modern-day Roosevelt — said.

Lastly, Sanders has the support that Roosevelt had and more. Elected to four terms as president, Roosevelt held popularity among the American people that any president would dream of. Sanders currently sits as the most popular politician in all of America, and has garnered support from around the world as well. Further, Sanders is now joined by a slate of progressives in Congress, introducing ideas and policies that were inspired by his 2016 run. The prospect of a super majority under his presidency could bring about economic change, stricter gun control laws, criminal justice reform and proper environmental policy. The culmination of these ideals would be a better, safer and fairer America. 

Veterans on both sides of the aisle have called Sanders an honest man, and he has proven that he not only has the strategic acumen, but also the staff, support and money to be an effective leader. Further, he, like Roosevelt, can win. The idea that the establishment was better off being burned down rather than letting another one of its candidates see the light of day is another factor which led potential Sanders voters to President Donald J. Trump. With Sanders as the nominee, those votes, along with those of progressives, Democrats and independents, can return home. 

It should not take more than an ethical argument to convince someone that everyone deserves a fair shot at a happy life. Unfortunately, for those who take only their own interests into account, we must be sure their ignorance is trumped. Sanders’s policies extend beyond economic reform, and they bring a much-needed adaptation to the modern-day America. From campaign reform, to solving the ever-so-pressing climate change and environmental issues threatening our globe as we know it, to creating a fair and better economy for all, Sanders brings a vision to this country which has been needed for far too long. We can come to two conclusions: Roosevelt saved capitalism and Sanders may save democracy. 

Rishi Mehta is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and English. His column, "Grass Roots," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Rishi Mehta

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