Sanders’s socialism turns out to be a tweaked New Deal. He began, of course, by saying that the nation is in “a defining and pivotal moment.” Speechwriters actually get paid for such bromides; capitalist America remains a land of opportunity even for the untalented. What Sanders then offered as forward-looking socialism was a warmed-over version of what President Franklin Roosevelt advocated 75 years ago.
In his 1944 State of the Union address, FDR called for “rights” to “useful” jobs, “good” education, “adequate” food and clothing and recreation, a “decent” living for farmers, a “decent” home, “adequate” medical care, “adequate” protection in old age. Details, such as how to define the adjectives and how to pay for what the nouns denote, were for another day. Sanders’s agenda for “completion” of FDR’s New Deal is a right to a “decent” job, “quality” health care, “complete” education, “affordable” housing, a “clean” environment, a “secure” retirement. Details later.
Sanders says, “what I mean by democratic socialism” is “economic rights are human rights.” Really. That’s it. FDR said “necessitous men are not free men,” implying that government can and should remove necessity from the human story. Sanders, FDR’s unimaginative echo, presumably agrees.