Bernie Sanders Could be the Next FDR

Tuesday night, I appeared on the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell to talk about Elizabeth Warren, the rise of progressives within the Democratic Party, and what this means for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

At one point in our discussion, the conversation turned to whether Bernie represents the closest thing to an Elizabeth Warren candidacy.

I said he does, but I also pointed out that he has the potential to be so much more than just a fill-in the blank progressive candidate.

That’s right: Bernie Sanders could be the next FDR. Let me explain.

When FDR took over the White House in 1933, America was in dire straits. Two straight decades of Republican rule culminating in the Great Depression had decimated what remained of the middle-class.

The superrich dominated the political system, Wall Street was a giant deregulated casino, workers had no union rights, and unemployment was rampant. And to make matters worse, many of the protections that we take for granted today, like, for example, Social Security, didn’t yet exist.

So FDR went ahead and oversaw what remains, with the probable exception of the Civil War, the most radical transformation of American democracy in our history: the New Deal.

He signed the Wagner Act, giving workers the right to collectively bargain with their bosses.

He created the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which provided jobs for millions of unemployed Americans and turned the government into the employer of last resort.

He created the Securities and Exchange Commission and signed the Glass-Steagall Act, which clamped down on Wall Street gambling and made the banking industry boring, safe, and sustainable.

He also signed the Social Security Act which created the backbone of the modern day welfare state and, for the first time, made it possible for all Americans to retire with a pension.

But the New Deal was bigger than just a collection of acts and agencies. What made it so important in the long run was that it created the preconditions for an American middle-class.

You, middle-classes are not “natural” in a deregulated capitalist economy. They have to be created, created with regulations, unions, and smart trade policy.

In its natural state, capitalism is a lot like feudalism. There is a small sliver of superrich who rule over everyone else, followed by a slightly larger class of middle-managers and professionals. The vast majority of people, though, fall into the category of working poor, and they’re basically serfs who have no power whatsoever.

This is what American society looked like before FDR became president. But after FDR’s time in office, American society was totally different.

Republicans and Democrats agreed to follow the basic policies set forth in the New Deal, and even expanded on them, as the Republican Party bragged about doing in its 1956 platform. They also supported sensible trade policies that prevented jobs from being shipped overseas in the name of corporate so-called “free trade.”

For decades this “New Deal consensus,” as historians call it, reigned supreme. And not coincidentally, so too did the middle class. From the end of World War II until the 1980s, American society was remarkably equal.

And then Reagan became president, and he and his Republican allies began undoing the New Deal piece by piece.

They gutted union rights, slashed the social safety net, and deregulated big business. Bill Clinton got in on the act too when he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and allowed Wall Street to mix with commercial banking, a decision that led directly to the crash of 2008.

As a result, America has been going backwards ever since 1981. Our country now looks more like it did in 1933 than it did in 1973.

Yes, we have programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security that we didn’t have back then, but thanks to 30-plus years of Reaganomics, wealth inequality is once again soaring to record levels, union membership is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the superrich are sucking up all the income gains made since the crash.

Oh, and thanks to Citizens United, the Economic Royalists can buy any politician they want.

A lot of people understand what’s stake, but the man best equipped to handle this situation is Bernie Sanders. If elected president Bernie would do what FDR did in 1933 -- restore union rights, regulate Wall Street, and expand the social safety net. And with a Democratic congress behind him, he would probably go even farther.

How do I know this? Because I know Bernie, and he’s spent his entire career fighting for the core principle behind the New Deal: creating the type of society in which the middle-class can flourish.

This isn’t some radical socialist idea, either. It’s what guided American society from the 1930s until the 1980s. It’s what works. And as President, Bernie Sanders would make it our number one priority once again.


Jax Progressive's picture
Jax Progressive 7 years 49 weeks ago

Listening to your show re: Bernie in Wisconsin. There are many websites including the WaPo carrying this story online. Plus, the New Yorker, (satirist/comedian) Andy Borowitz)posted on Facebook along w ith Bernie's campaign. His speech is also available on You Tube, I believe - haven't visited that yet.

Thanks for all you do - I wish the entire country had access to your program. Actually, they do if they can go online. We moved from Jax where I had to listen on PC to Chicago station. Now we're in Ithaca NY, home of liberalism and several progressive radio stations.

Judy B.

Greg Kramer's picture
Greg Kramer 7 years 49 weeks ago


Outstanding article.

As a point of correction, the GOP did not held the reigns of politcal power for 2 decades when FDR was inaugarated. Wooodrow Wilson was president from 1913 - 1921. The House was also Democratic during Wilson's presidency.

agelbert's picture
agelbert 7 years 49 weeks ago

Nevertheless, the GOP DID have the power for two decades previous because of the horrendously racist, pro-oligarchy, pro-child labor, anti-union Supreme Court. That was the period of Justice Holmes, the Great Dissenter, who fought tooth and nail against the Empathy Deficit Disorder of his fellow Supreme Court Justices.

agelbert's picture
agelbert 7 years 49 weeks ago

This isn’t some radical socialist idea, either. It’s what guided American society from the 1930s until the 1980s. It’s what works. And as President, Bernie Sanders would make it our number one priority once again.


Agreed. In fact, the Supreme Court FDR was saddled with was just like the one President Sanders would have to deal with.


With our vast increase in popuation in the last century, it would be a reasonable argument to claim we needed, for example, 31 Supreme Court justices, not nine.

Of course the crooks running our fossil fuel fascist government would scream bloody murder. SO WHAT? The argument is sound. And we should use it before THEY do.

RFord's picture
RFord 7 years 49 weeks ago

Bernie's Ideas are not bad ideas. They are all very good ideas. I know conservatives will ask "Who's going to pay for making these ideas a reality?". Of course, we the taxpayers will. Those that earn more will pay more and those that earn less will pay less. Bernie has that part figured out. Many conservatives may claim to be good Christians but when it comes to helping the sick, hungry, and poor, they not only do nothing to help, but do more to hurt the sick, hungry , and poor. Jesus would be disgusted with todays conservatives. Bernie's more of what a Christian should be like than they are and he's Jewish!

Bernie can't accomplish any of his goals unless he has the help of like minded government officials. Bernie needs to add to his message that the people need to get out and vote a straight democratic ticket in all elections at the national, state, and local levels no matter how small that election is to get out from under conservative republican oppression. Seriously, this message needs to get out. I'm not sure that most people understand that an elected official with good ideas can do nothing unless a majority of like minded legislators are also elected that support those ideas.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 49 weeks ago

Excellent comments, guys! Thumbs-up to Thom as well.

Bernie's the only candidate who, if elected, will fight for us. I long for the day when we can get representation for our hard-earned tax dollars once again. Presently that money is being flushed down the commode. Oligarchy and corporate welfare is all we have to show for it.

The turnout for Bernie's appearances has been mighty impressive thus far. I'm grateful to have reason to hope, for the first time in decades. Go Bernie!

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 49 weeks ago

As Thom has already pointed out many times, the corpse media won't give Bernie the time of day. Doesn't matter..... I believe his economic message of truth is too powerful to be silenced, and the billionaires weapon of mass deception/distraction will ultimately prove useless.

The citizens are starving for a Statesman that doesn't speak with a forked tongue. I'm feeling the Bern!...Tees and bumper stickers on the way..... as well as spreading the good word as much as possible....I really don't think he can be stopped now.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 49 weeks ago

Aliceinwonderland: I want to add that I'm very confident Bernie won't fool us like Obama has.....Bernie will get in the White House and fight for us....he'll relentlessly speak truth to power, and fight every moment for the 99%! There won't be any free trade swindles under his watch.

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 49 weeks ago

Agree with wonderland on this one, she is dead on. I'm all for Bernie. Hillary is just another Bankster stooge and will say anything to get elected and like Obushama will dutifully do what her Bankster masters tell her to do. Though they do give her the freedom to give some crumbs to the 99%, stuff they could care less about.

Check out this documentary, Meet the Clintons:

I like how Bill Clinton is all smiles & chuckles walking to some guys funeral, but as soon he sees a camera filming him, he looks down and start wiping tears out of his eyes.

I also like how Hillary denied attending the 2006 Bilderberg meeting, lying through her teeth, even pretended she didn't know what that was.

And when asked what her favorite book to read was, she replied "the bible". Anyone who believes that is anything but just a sleazy attempt to win Christian voters is substantially brain dead.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 7 years 48 weeks ago

No doubt that FDR's policies were instrumental in changing the economic environment in this country but it only took five years after his death to stop labor unions in their tracks with the Taft-Hartley Act that remains unchallenged by Democrats until today, enact a national healthcare policy that put the for-profit private insurance companies in full control of our national healthcare yet another policy that still remains unchallenged though the Democrats have renamed it the ACA, and committing us to a very expensive forty year long Cold War against Russia who was seen by the oligarchs as an imminent threat to total unregulated Capitalist control of our economy ! No doubt that Reagan was instrumental in prolonging the destruction of our democratic values but, far from being a major instigator, he was just carrying out the next logic step to further secure the dominance of our wealthy oligarchic overlords !

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 48 weeks ago

Reply to RFord’s post #5 where he says: “Bernie’s more of what a Christian should be like than they are and he’s Jewish!”… Jesus was more of what a Christian should be like and he was Jewish too! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) And some of the least religious people I know have also been more what a Christian should be like than many Christians… that is, if empathy and compassion figure into the equation more than superficially!

Instant-RunOff, much as it pains me to say this, since our nasty little scuffle over nuclear power I’ve noticed there’s a lot more we seem to agree on than disagree. Just surfin’ the threads made this pretty obvious. I guess weirder things have been known to occur…

Getting back on topic, I keep hearing and reading how great Bernie’s campaign is going, how the number of people showing up at his events keeps swelling… without any endorsement from corporate media!!! Makes me giddy. Gives me hope that once people catch onto what a real statesman looks and sounds like, there'll be no turning back. These corporate-owned clowns will become obsolete as voters turn a deaf ear to their empty rhetoric. Bernie speaks truth to power as he always has, and his passion is contagious. After hearing the real thing, people might find it glaringly obvious just how hollow the corporate schtick is and how amazing the contrast. With things this desperate and expected to get worse, this is our time of need without a doubt. Bernie offers just the kind of leadership it takes to launch a real political revolution in this country. My husband and I will keep contributing to his campaign whenever we can… and buying his tee shirts! I reckon I’ll end up with a whole wardrobe of Bernie Sanders tee shirts by the time the election is over.

Failure is not an option, folks. We have to win this. The stakes are enormous. Not only must we put Bernie in the White House; we’ve gotta clean up Congress too. When Bernie is president, he’ll need a Congress he can work with, who won’t be hellbent on obstructing everything Bernie sets out to accomplish. No more empty-suit deadbeats taking up space in the Senate and House!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 48 weeks ago

This post, written by Alan McLemore, follows an article from Truthdig: The Fight Over Obamacare Was A Giant Political Charade; July 2, 2015. It was so damn good, I just had to re-post it here. It starts with him responding to a comment from another blogger.

Great comment, except for this: "You will need a lawyer, to get treatment approved even if you have coverage."

Bad news. I am a lawyer, and one of the things I have seen happen steadily since Reagan was elected has been the non-stop cutting back of the rights people have to sue corporations and, in particular, medical corporations. They did it by using corporatist media to tell lies, like the infamous million-dollar McDonald's hot-coffee case:

I used to practice medical-malpractice law, but quit after the cases dried up--because under present law, a lawyer must spend $50,000 or more to get the requisite expert witnesses, medical records, and other things necessary to prepare and try the case. This is true even if the case is "open and shut", which many are. This means that, in Texas (and now in most states), you are very unlikely to find a lawyer to help you unless you have at least a half-million dollars in damages. And now that pain-and-suffering sorts of "consequential" damages are very limited, that means an extremely serious injury--with tons of medical bills--is required. How serious? If you come in and tell me you lost half the fingers on your right hand, or lost half the sight in one eye or the hearing in one ear, I'll tell you "Sorry, not enough damages, good luck with your next doctor".

And in cases where medical-malpractice isn't involved: More and more, the "terms of service" you unthinkingly agree to in a transaction require you to "arbitrate" disputes. What this means is that you have to "try" your case before a panel of corporate lawyers who pass as "arbitrators". It's not cheap--and less than 5% of claimants prevail even if you spend the money.

It's an awful situation. All the more reason for BERNIE IN '16.

Yeah no shit. Literally do-or-die, folks.

cathrynm47's picture
cathrynm47 7 years 48 weeks ago

Mr. Hartmann: I just have to thank you for introducing me to Bernie Sanders. I used to listen to you in the Seattle area before we lost our progressive stations. Every Friday you would have Mr. Sanders on "Brunch with Bernie," and I used to ask myself, "who is this guy? He's wonderful. Let's get him for president." That has to be at least 8-9 years ago. Since then, I'd occasionally hear about Mr. Sanders in the news, but not much. Plus I lost track of where I could get your programs.

Now, I cannot be more excited about someone running for president. I'm almost 68 years old and I don't I have EVER voted for a candidate I was really excited about. This man has my heart, my soul, my vote, and so far, some of my very limited money. And you, in large part are responsible for that because I got hear his ideas and beliefs on your show. So thank you very, very much for that.

By the way, I live in a rural area with no TV or internet, other than the horrible satellite system that we have (internet only; limited and agonizingly slow bandwidth). However, again thanks to your web site, I was able to see that the local station in our town is carrying you from 9-12 every weekday. So, now I can return to the fold. Makes me very happy. --Sincerely, Cathrynm47

Truth2010 7 years 48 weeks ago

My fear and guess is that if Bernie manages to beat Hillary then extremist neoconservatives will send a nutjob like Sir Han sir Han to take care of business. My best guess is increase security big time.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 48 weeks ago

I am glad that Thom pointed out that Bill Clinton was key player in creating the 2008 crash.

Sunnyvale's picture
Sunnyvale 7 years 48 weeks ago

First, I never end the plege of allegiance with "...liberty and justice for all" because I do not like lying. I end it with "...liberty and justice for those who can afford it."

It angers some people that hear me say that but after they THINK about it for a few moments, they agree.

Now let's talk about our next president, Senator Bernie Sanders. Despite what the naysayers are trying to say about his chances--Example: Bernie Sanders will raise taxes to 90% for everyone--it smells like Faux Snooze who desperately do not want him to win. I never watch Faux because I have had one stroke and don't need another.

They never seem to understand that people can read body language to know when they are being lied to and with Faux they almost never tell the truth. Their people are either totally convinced of their lies or they have to race to the nearest rest room to vomit.

Now that Bernie is starting to showing in the polls, the Hillary camp is paying attention to him. The New York Times is joining in on the bash Bernie brigade. They still do not know how to differentiate between money raised and voter awareness. People two months ago that did not know what a Bernie Sanders was are now chomping at the bit so they can watch him destroy the Democratic Party's desire to get Hillary in the Oval Office.

I've been following the Senator for almost a decade. The first time I heard him talk I was hooked. He said what I wanted to hear in a manner I loved.

Hillary is owned by Wall Street and the banks. She is spending money that under normal circumstances would shoo her into POTUShood. But this time around money doesn't mean what it used to.

I just discovered this site from an acquaintance I met on Facebook. I owe him a big thank you.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 48 weeks ago

AMEN, Sunnyvale! Not one single statement you've made here that I can disagree with. Not one! Lucid, down-to-earth comments, and very refreshing. I hope you stick around; I'd love to read more of your take on things.

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