About 40 years ago, I read a book by the historian-activist James Weinstein, and my political outlook changed utterly, and for good. Its title, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925, doesn't sound like a catalyst of hope, much less of personal transformation. But at the time, I was recovering from a feverish romance with revolution. Weinstein's book was precisely what a recent refugee from the Che-adoring, Mao-quoting, Weathermanic archipelago badly needed.
There's something inevitable, as well as heartening, about the workers' occupation of Republic Windows and Doors that began on Dec. 5 and ended today in victory. After all the talk about the nation being ensnared in "the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression," laid-off employees at the small Chicago firm seized upon a tactic not widely used in the United States since Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House. During the late 1930s, thousands of workers -- in dozens of factories and a few department stores -- sat down on the job, forcing their employers to grant them union contracts and higher wages. It was the most dramatic moment in an organizational drive that made labor a powerful force in the American economy and a pillar of the Democratic coalition ever since.
Imagine the ideal democratic nominee for president. He's twice won election in Nebraska, one of the reddest of states, and is just as popular across the South and Midwest. He's a charismatic, energetic orator. He's also a stalwart progressive who has taken tough stands against corporate crime, to aid labor organizers, and to raise taxes on the wealthy. His marriage is loving and cooperative, and his three children long to emulate their father. Although a war veteran, he's an eloquent advocate of peaceful solutions to international conflicts. Most significantly, he's a devout churchgoer and lay minister who preaches that every true Christian has a duty to transform a nation and world plagued by the arrogance of wealth and the pain of inequality.