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Why We Should Reclaim Thomas Paine and FDR (w/ Harvey Kaye)

Nov 23, 2021

Prof. Harvey J. Kaye is the author of books like Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great, and most recently Take Hold Of Our History: Make America Radical Again. Running through his work is the argument that the social democratic left should draw more on the richness of the American radical tradition and take greater pride in the history of those who have struggled to achieve the promise of democratic equality. In this interview, we talk about why Kaye rejects the idea of leftist history as pure "debunking" of nationalist myths and sees it as important to create our own inspiring story about the path trodden by our ancestors. We talk about:

- Why Thomas Paine, without whom the American Revolution would probably not have happened, and who alienated the other Founding Fathers and made himself despised, is the one member of the Founding generation radicals can be proud of and should celebrate

- How we can take pride in the good parts of the New Deal without whitewashing FDR's indefensible decisions like Japanese internment

- How right-wingers like Reagan and Thatcher have successfully crafted inspiring (but false) historical narratives and how we can combat these with true ones

- Why Harvey has a certain grudging respect for Newt Gingrich 

- Why Bernie should have pitched democratic socialism as American rather than Scandinavian 

The clip of "Let America Be America Again" is performed by Danez Smith. 

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