My generation does not have memory of any US presidential candidate speaking so straightforward against the greedy elites, while supporting the rights of the majority. Bernie Sanders frequently refers to Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) during his speeches, and this is another sign about his intentions, if he manage to get elected as the next US president.
There are at least two common characteristics with the FDR-era and the Sanders-era. The first important characteristic, is that both came out of a very difficult period for the United States, with the Great Depression of 1929, and, the major economic crisis of 2008 respectively. Both these crises had major impact globally, directly or indirectly. The second important characteristic, is that Bernie Sanders senses already the hostility of the establishment, which is shaped by the interests of the big banks and corporations. Similarly, FDR faced this hostility of the same establishment, especially after taking the presidency.
Back in 1933, when FDR got elected, he had to face the attack of the corporate establishment, which was trying to fight his initiatives to put the state in the front line for the restart of the US economy. Public relations was something new. Edward Bernays had admitted after decades that he was searching at that time for a "smoothest" term instead of "propaganda", to use it in favor of big corporations to sell their products, at times of peace. Corporations used public relations to present the private sector as a far better force than the state, towards the wealth and prosperity. In reality, they were only afraid that would lose significant profits from various programs, taken over by the state to create jobs.
FDR was aware of this type of propaganda by the corporate establishment and the associated political elite. A quote from a Roosevelt's speech is characteristic: “A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it 'Fascism,' sometimes 'Communism,' sometimes 'Regimentation,' sometimes 'Socialism.' But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.”
Despite its imperfections, Roosevelt's "New Deal" created millions of new jobs and new infrastructure for the benefit of all American citizens, boosted some sectors such as agriculture, strengthened social security and boosted the economy in general. The response of Roosevelt, "of course we spend money", to his opponents, captures the perception of his government, giving importance to the prosperity and relief of people and not to the strict austerity for the sake of economic indexes. Indeed, while in 1933 the national debt was 20% of GDP, by 1936 this figure almost doubled, but what mattered for Roosevelt was to relieve American citizens and give them hope and perspective.
Current model does not seem to be more successful, after all. On the contrary: the debt continuously rise, reaching record numbers, but the money go to the top instead of the bottom 99% who is getting poorer.
Nearly 80 years later, the same type of propaganda is being used by the much ruthless and powerful elite inside the dominant neoliberal doctrine, to demonize anyone who dares to speak about social policies in favor of the majority. But, remarkably, Bernie Sanders starts to change that. He speaks openly about Democratic Socialism, yet his popularity rises.
Under Bernie Sanders, the state will regain its power to rebuild the economy. It will start to function for the benefit of the majority, not for the benefit of the Wall Street mafia. And, most importantly, the United States can become an example, bequeathing the reborn social model to Europe and elsewhere, as it happened after WWII, thanks to the New Deal heritage.
Indeed, “Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce a plan for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker 'who wants or needs one,' embracing the kind of large-scale government works project that Democrats have shied away from in recent decades. Sanders's jobs guarantee would fund hundreds of projects throughout the United States aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education and other goals. ”
So, the central message now is: FDR 2.0 for a big victory in 2020!