Students of American Political History know the name of Eugene Debs.
He was the Bernie Sanders of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Senator Sanders is a fan of his.
A charismatic orator, union activist and socialist (of the Democratic Socialist vintage-like Sanders,) he ran for President five times.
He amassed close to one million votes as a Socialist Presidential candidate in the 1912 and 1920 elections. The 1920 vote total is amazing considering Debs was in jail for protesting American involvement in World War One under the repressive Wilson (a President like his current successor who did not like to be told he was wrong) sanctioned Espionage Act.
Wilson (again like Trump) held a grudge against Debs for his anti-war stance and refused to commute his sentence or pardon him. That was left to his successor Warren Harding.
What did Debs stand for?
Like Sanders, he was against wars (like World War One) that killed members of the 99 percent while making money for the affluent one.
He also championed progressive (for that time period) causes that people either take for granted today or have let the radical right attack over the last few decades. These included:
- The right for workers to unionize.
- Better working conditions.
- The right to strike.
- Woman’s Suffrage.
- The direct election of Senators.
- A minimum wage.
- The abolishing of child labor.
- The breakup of large trusts.
- Promoting wage equality.
- Compulsory medical insurance for all (Medicare for all)
These “radical” ideas were later incorporated into the progressive programs of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson.
Like Debs, Senator Sanders has embraced ideas that have moved the Democratic Party left. His more progressive ones like Medicare for All, Free College, and the Green New Deal will eventually become reality in some form and through incremental stages (a public option in Obamacare that eventually drives demand away from private insurers or free community college that evolves to free tuition at four-year state universities or greater targeted investments in solar and wind energy away from fossil fuels) over the next decade.
History will remember Senator Bernie Sanders as the Eugene Debs of the Twenty-First Century.