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Election 2008

To Be a Socialist in America

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A week from Sunday is the French where the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy is running against socialist Segolene Royal. And it's often said that "conservative" in France would probably considered liberal here in the U.S. Weekend America's John Moe wondered why high-profile socialist presidential candidates are so common in Europe, while he couldn't name one American off the top of his head.

Notes from Senior Reporter John Moe

About the only time most people see the names of socialist candidates for public office is when they see the actual ballot. I've often suspected that a great number of the votes that socialist candidates actually get are a result of people so disgusted with the mainstream selections that they'll vote for the most out-of-the-mainstream candidate they can find. But the recent election results in France, where the socialist candidate will finish no worse than second in the presidential race and might in fact win, made me wonder who these people were who ran for president as socialists in our country.

I kind of expected to meet ideologues who stridently denounced The Capitalist Oppressors from atop soapboxes and called for a worker's revolution or something: modern-day Lenins; the kind of people who, frankly, are hard to edit. But the guys I spoke with, Walter Brown of Socialist Party USA and Bill Van Auken of the Socialist Equality Party, were perfectly reasonable gentlemen, and really nice fellows. To them, running for president isn't really an effort to get elected. They're not waiting on some tide of anti-capitalist rage to sweep them into office. They just have some ideas on how things ought to be run that don't fit with the Republicans or Democrats and find that if people hear that you're running for the highest office in the land, they'll listen to what you have to say a bit more.

Regardless of whether or not you align yourself with socialist political philosophy, it's hard not to kind of admire the way they go about their efforts. Walt was nominated, somewhat unexpectedly, at his party's national convention and there had been no primaries or really any money spent before that convention happened. Bill was nominated by some of his colleagues, essentially during a discussion over coffee. They spent very little money, they met a lot of people, they didn't get rich or powerful in the process but they just felt like it was an important thing to do. It's sometimes easy to forget, in the midst of $25-million fundraising quarters by major candidates, that in theory the process of campaigning for the presidency is still pretty democratic.

  • Music Bridge:
    The Devil in Us (DUB)
    Artist: Black Devil Disco Club
    CD: Black Devil in Dub (Lo)
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