During the 1930s, the Great Depression made many Americans, especially among the elite class, question the merits of capitalism. Progressives of that era thought the Soviet system might provide some answers. Membership in the American Communist Party grew almost tenfold during the Great Depression (from 6,933 members in 1929 to 66,000 in 1939). While America stopped short of handing the Executive keys to an outright communist, it did elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, the most blatantly socialist president in U.S. history so far.
The rise of the cult of Bernie Sanders indicates something similar is going on today as happened during the Depression of the 1930s. Democratic Socialists of America membership grew almost tenfold over the past decade, with around 5,500 members in 2009 to over 55,000 now. A recent Economist/YouGov poll finds 60% of Democrats under 30 support either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
Why the socialist surge? One factor is the absolutely dismal U.S. history and civics education throughout our nation. That's not to say the classes or teachers themselves are dismal – there are still many non-Marxist history teachers in public and private education across the U.S. But the cumulative time spent on U.S. history/civics in school is woefully inadequate to create a thriving electorate. Typically, before a student graduates from high school, they may have a couple years of U.S. history – one in middle school, one in high school – and maybe one year of government/civics. Remarkably, 82% of U.S. colleges don't require a single course in U.S. history or government to earn a degree. And then, even when it is taught, especially in college, it's frequently not the truth: like teaching that the U.S. committed acts in Vietnam almost as bad as things Hitler did (Bernie Sanders actually said this once to a group of ninth graders).
In his farewell address in 1989, President Reagan said: "An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?... We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection… If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."
The embrace of socialism by the Democratic Party is evidence that this "eradication of the American memory" that Reagan talked about has already happened.
The embrace of socialism by the Democratic Party is evidence that this "eradication of the American memory" that Reagan talked about has already happened. If we're not taught to appreciate the genius of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, it is so much easier to drift toward, and fall for, socialism.
Another factor explaining the modern socialist surge is the American university system. We take America's young people, largely starved of any real foundation in our constitution and history, and send them to college, ripe for reprogramming. For decades, our universities have been the training ground for the perpetuation of Marxism and zealous anti-American philosophy. Every day, millions of young, impressionable adults march into the lion's den like the pale prisoners of Ridley Scott's famous 1984 Macintosh ad, to receive their dose of Marxist indoctrination. America already has thousands of re-education camps – we call them colleges. And the twisted brilliance of this system is that we actually pay the Marxists to re-educate us.
Stark reminders of the effects of this indoctrination can be seen in a series of recently released videos of Bernie Sanders campaign field organizers. In these videos, several young, self-described Marxists discuss their dreams of communist revolution in the U.S. In one rant, a South Carolina field organizer talks reverently about how he learned the "truth" about the Soviet system from one of his college professors. The young man speaks glowingly about the former Soviet Union, as if it was some kind of golden era for humanity and something to aspire to now. America's impressionable students are similarly lied to every day about their nation by very convincing professors (coincidentally, many resemble Bernie Sanders).
So, our U.S. history and civics education is woefully inadequate and too-often tainted by the America-is-evil influence of Howard Zinn's absurd propaganda. And our universities are stocked with Zinn-like priests of the progressive-communist religion, daily molding disciples from the malleable minds of their captive audience. These are certainly serious factors helping create the revolutionary fantasies of Bernie's core supporters. But there is an even more dominant factor causing young adults to put their faith in socialism: the Second Great Depression.
The Second Great Depression is not economic. It is a spiritual depression resulting from erosion of the traditional family, lack of purpose, isolation, and the diminishing influence of religion. And the depression is exacerbated by the effects of technology and social media. The easy drug of tech/entertainment can temporarily numb the depression by distraction. Every time one's mind might veer into thinking about existence, the meaning of life, the state of one's own soul, just reach for that smartphone and scroll those pesky thoughts aside. But this distraction drug is a dark placebo, leaving people feeling even emptier. Our culture is surely the most vapidly distracted culture in world history. And it is also surely one of the most depressed.
Something must fill the spiritual void and, historically, socialism often rushes in.
Something must fill the spiritual void and, historically, socialism often rushes in. We saw it happen around the world, throughout the 20th century. A charismatic "prophet" of socialism comes along when people are hurting, touting the solutions to what people think are the biggest threats, and in short order tyranny makes itself at home.
Traditionally, the spiritual anchor for broad swaths of America has been religion. God provided meaning, identity, morality, and hope amidst uncertainty. Now our culture says you can't be sure of any of those things. It says we can't even know if those things exist (much less God). It says you must find your own truth, find your own meaning. Don't follow God – follow your heart. This is now one of the most common missives our culture aims at its youth. Follow your heart is one of the most dangerous lies our culture preaches. The Old Testament book of Jeremiah says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).
The follow your heart culture yields to feelings above all else. And no political philosophy caters to feelings more than socialism, especially the feeling of feeling sorry for yourself. Socialism provides the glass-half-empty view of America. It delineates clear villains – the rich and corporations! And it promises instant solutions. It will knock those villains down to size by seizing the means of production and the power of taxation. Forget praying to God for anything, just pull the lever for your local socialist in the voting booth and you'll get instant answers to your greatest needs. Got student debt from your years at re-education camp? Poof! Wiped away. Can't make ends meet with that minimum wage job? Poof! Here's double the money. Having apocalyptic nightmares about climate change? Poof! Green New Deal to the rescue. For young, depressed, spiritually famished socialists, Bernie is a Moses-figure, descending the mountain with his concise list of oppressions and solutions, ready to lead them to the Promised Land. They call it "revolution."
Ever wonder why Democratic Socialists, Bernie supporters, and affiliated groups like Antifa are so enraged? In the absence of God, pressure is put on his replacement to bring fulfillment. Socialism, and ushering in a Green New Deal, and achieving their vision of real justice, simply must work or else. Because there is no alternative for them. These young American socialists regularly frame the importance of these things in existential terms. They've put all their faith in the socialist religion and if they can't force it on everyone – to the streets!
The desperation young Americans feel today is real, but it's very different from the desperation felt by Americans their age during the first Great Depression. The current desperation is borne of affluence – gaining the whole world but losing your soul. It's like a version of survivor's guilt. Having your physical needs met in such abundance, that you become restless and miserable without a spiritual compass to steer you into serving humanity. It's truly mind-boggling that so many young Americans could be raised with a roof over their head, clothes on their back, never missing a meal, and a college education to boot, yet develop contempt for the nation that built such an environment for them. "Bernie Bros" doesn't quite capture the reality of this skewed, self-indulgent Democratic Socialist perspective – it's more like Bernie Brats.
Socialism has always thrived in this gap of hopelessness and despair, because it is people looking to government as God.
Socialism has always thrived in this gap of hopelessness and despair, because it is people looking to government as God. Yet, perhaps the easiest trend to spot in world history is that government makes a terrible, disastrous, and often blood-soaked substitute for God.
We are in the Second Great Depression, but it's not physical starvation this time – it's spiritual starvation. And that makes this Depression even more dangerous to America. A young generation of Americans may have to learn the hard way that socialism will never satisfy their hunger, it will only make it worse.
Be sure to watch the latest Glenn TV Special – Bernie's Radicals: The Fires of Revolution – available now on demand, exclusively at BlazeTV.com.