Beyond the Reefs of Roast Beef
CHRIST & NEIGHBOR
Milwaukee has always been a town where left-wing candidates have had a fair chance to win office. Labor has been strong there. The anti-socialist and anti-Catholic policies of Prince Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany from 1871 to 1890, motivated large numbers of socialists and Roman Catholics to emigrate, and many of them wound up making beer in Milwaukee.
But even in Milwaukee, Socialist candidates have had problems. A leader of the Party there once explained the defeat of a Socialist candidate with a Polish name this way: “If we had had someone with a good American name like Schemmelpfennig, we could have won.”
Historians have been struggling for years to explain why, among the industrial nations of the West, only the U.S. has no democratic socialist party of national significance, nor even a party that could really be said to speak for the labor movement. The mere fact that the AFL-CIO had the audacity to endorse a candidate in the recent presidential primaries has given rise to cries of outrage and horror.
The Schemmelpfennig story suggests one of the standard explanations, at least as far as the failure of socialist parties in America is concerned. The lack of “good American names” in such movements has certainly been a drawback.
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