For Sanders and Socialism Too!: A Political Anthem for Abraham Lincoln Gets a Brooklyn Update for Bernie Sanders

“Bernie 2016” poster by Roberta Aviram. Image courtesy the artist and Armand Aviram.

Recently, while looking out the window of my apartment, I was transported, body and mind, into the past.

I was listening to a record of Civil War-era songs recorded in the early 1970s by a band called The Union Confederacy, which I’d recently purchased online. When the band’s version of “Lincoln and Liberty,” the former Illinois congressman’s campaign anthem in 1860, came on the stereo, I felt myself catapulted back into that tumultuous election season.

Abraham Lincoln was running for the presidency on the Republican ticket, hoping to convince the country—or at least a plurality of its white male voters—that the ownership of humans by other humans was wrong, and that slavery, therefore, ought not to be extended to the country’s new western territories. It was a radical suggestion, and there were whisperings that if Lincoln won the election, the South might even secede from the Union. Lincoln and the supporters of the campaign had to be willing to risk further inflaming the country’s sectional and ideological divisions in order to create a more just and equitable nation.

The song ended, and I was back in 2015. But a certain epiphany remained: I now understand what it had been like to support an insurgent politician proposing to align the reality of life in the United States just a little bit more with the ideals expressed in its founding charter, the Declaration of Independence. The key phrase from the Declaration requiring reaffirmation in 1860 was that “all men are created equal”; the one that ought to be dusted off today, I humbly suggest, comes two lines later: “[W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

Bernie Sanders, of course, has taken to calling this “political revolution.”

As my partner, Brahna, and I were planning to host a chili-and-beer fundraiser ($20 per plate) for Sanders a week after this time-traveling reverie occurred, I decided to adapt “Lincoln and Liberty” for everyone to sing at the gathering. It took about ten minutes. George, our cat, helped. Many of the verses barely needed to be changed, because so much of the rhetoric of Lincoln’s campaign applies to Bernie’s as well.

Hurrah for the choice of the nation!

Our senator so honest, so true;

We’ll vote for political revolution—

For Sanders and Socialism too!

We’ll go for the son of old Brooklyn—

Hero of the Green Mountains through;

The pride of Burlington so lucky—

For Sanders and Socialism too!

Our leader’s good aim is unerring,

The plutocrats’ monster he slew;

Then shout for the Equality-preferring—

For Sanders and Socialism too!

They’ll find what, by shouting and calling,

Our radical statesman can do;

For the People are everywhere calling

For Sanders and Socialism too!

Come all you true friends of the nation

Attend to humanity’s call

Oh aid of the poor’s liberation

And roll on the equality ball.

We’ll finish the temple of freedom

And make it capacious within

That all who seek shelter may find it

Whatever the hue of their skin.

Success to the old fashioned doctrine

That men are created all free

And down with the power of the despot

Wherever his stronghold may be.

Then up with our banner so glorious,

The star-spangled red-white-and-blue,

We’ll fight till our flag is victorious,

For Sanders and Socialism too!

Finally, at this past Saturday’s chili fundraiser, where we raised almost $400 for the campaign, everybody sang along to my friend John’s rendition:

Other than my beery and boorish (and baseless) description of some poor Sanders staffer as a “schmendrick” for failing to immediately grasp the import of the idea, I fail to see why this should not become the official campaign anthem of the Bernie Sanders campaign. As the historian and Lincoln biographer Eric Foner has written, Sanders does not need to appeal to Scandinavia for evidence of the righteousness of the radical egalitarian cause. “Socialism,” Foner writes in an open letter to Sanders, “refers not to a blueprint for a future society but to the need to rein in the excesses of capitalism, evident all around us, to empower ordinary people in a political system verging on plutocracy, and to develop policies that make opportunity real for the millions of Americans for whom it is not.”

That, after all, is just what another radical statesman was talking about more than a century and a half ago–as his anthem, and ours, amply attests.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great article! I see the similarities between the two, myself. (BTW, I think they may be roughly the same personality type: INTP, which is also my type, as well as Einstein’s. “Great minds think alike”…)

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