• Steven Heller

Democracy Has Been in Trouble Before

In February 1939—the same year the Nazis invaded Poland and officially began their war to destroy freedom in Europe, the Italians were conquering Northern Africa and the Japanese were seeking to build an empire in the Pacific—the United States faced its own threat to democracy at home. Racism, antisemitism, jingoism, fascism and a score of other oppressive, oligarchic and self-interests were mobilizing to attack the U.S. Constitution and American institutions. This was brilliantly covered in the February 1939 issue of Survey Graphic, a magazine devoted to sociological methods of addressing societies from a critical but not dogmatic perspective.

The social and political issues are sadly similar to those being debated today, and while the participants and details have somewhat changed, the messages of elites versus common man, power versus the powerless, and “America first” versus community of nations and humans has not.

I’ve written briefly about this very issue of the magazine before. The state of the Union seems to demand another brief reminder.

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