40 Years After His Death Did America Finally Elect Norman Thomas?

Forty years after his death he would never live to see the possibility of what would now seem like his almost prophetic words come to fruition.
The name Norman Thomas perhaps isn’t familiar to most Americans, outside of perhaps the ACLU, to which he founded the predecessor to, even to people in New York, who now have at least a school named after him or those attending Princeton, who have a library named after him. The six time candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, picking up where Eugene Debs left off at the time of his death in 1926, Thomas would defiantly proclaim, as it looked more and more like his dreams of a Socialist America would not be reached within his lifetime, “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.”

Not even the New Deal under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which greatly expanded the role of the Federal Government, or the Great Society under President Lyndon Johnson would seem to go far enough for the New York Socialist, even if they were steps in the right direction.

Yesterday though, it would seem that there quite possibly has been a flying leap in towards the future that Thomas dreamed of as, for the first time in history, the American people willingly elected a president who has openly spoke about the need for wealth redistribution.

With over 300 electoral college votes, even taking Virginia, the first time a Democrat has been capable of doing that in 44 year, Illinois Senator Barack Obama beat out Republican challenger Arizona Senator John McCain to end the eight year Diaspora that has kept the White House just out of the reach of his party. Rushing to begin the transitional process to ensure that there is an easy shift in power when he assumes office in January, the wild speculation has turned to what the Obama cabinet is going to look.

But perhaps the better question would be what will this Obama Presidency look like?

Though he compared himself to another New York Politician at least at one point during the Presidential Campaign, the late, great Al Smith, the former Governor and 1924 and 1928 Democratic Candidate for the White House, Senator Obama seems more prone, more likely, to take a page from Thomas’ book.


Barely even the President-Elect now for 24 hours it’s hard to necessarily say what will happen, especially if experience is used as the lamp to enlighten Americans. A flash in the pan United States Senator the people of Illinois elected an empty seat to the chamber four years ago when they trusted the young State Senator’s promises that he would be a strong voice for them in if they put their trust in him. With no experience, no record, no major legislation or anything of the such, just one speech he gave, he immediately began running for the next big thing, hoping the vetting process wouldn’t catch up on him.

Turns out it never quite did.

With every major story about who he was and what he stood for that contradicted the carefully honed media image put together by his image consultants, Senator Obama brushed by them with little to no question about himself any deeper than what had been crafted for the race. But sparks of the real Obama came out…. A “Spread the Wealth” Democrat with the believe that that wealth must be redistributed to ensure the person behind got their cut from the hard work of those more successful than themselves, whether they worked hard to get it or not…

In other words, under the banner of liberalism, under the name of liberalism, American’s elected a man with a track record of promoting a socialist agenda.

Four years….

Now, with at least four years to go, and control of the House and Senate for at least two of them, there is a distinct possibility that America will embark upon the socialist experiment once dreamed of by Thomas and Debs, brought about in the exact way that Thomas said that it would happen. It gives powerful poignancy to another statement Thomas would make, this time of himself, when referring to what had seemed like the lost cause of socialism in America, “I am not the champion of lost causes, but the champion of causes not yet won.”

There has to be a sincere hope that Senator Obama will do better or offer better than what it seems like he would be prone to, but the sheer level of indignation offered by his campaign during the course of the election towards anyone who seemed to bring these issues up or question his motives has to leave many wondering what is going to happen? Is Senator Obama, now President-Elect Obama going to take this country down a road in the mold of Democratic Socialism in order to try to fulfill the expectations placed on by his supporters?

He is on a tight rope in that sense. On one hand if he doesn’t do what these people believe he will be marked as a traitor and apathy will go up, leaving many of his voters to stay at home on election day in 2012. On the other hand to do it means he will lose any of the so called Obamacans, those Republicans who backed him, and any of the Conservatives who were serenaded by his sirens song.

There, in a very real sense, it isn’t an enviable position to be in, one of those grand paradoxes that seems to come to those who try to be everything to everybody and yet find they are incapable of being any of it to anybody. Then, once all the glitz and glamor is worn off and the honeymoon period is over, there will be many questions raised by those who turned a blind eye to the Junior Senator’s short comings and faults, feeling their direct effect on their lives and the urgency that it breeds.

Hopefully, by then, it won’t be too late.

But then just a few thoughts I suppose…


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