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The Last Socialist Mayor

StoryJune 21, 2004
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We speak with Frank Zeidler, the Mayor of Milwaukee from 1948-1960. He was the last in a string of 12 socialist mayors and was re-elected twice during the McCarthy era. In 1976, he was the Socialist Party candidate for president of the U.S. [includes transcript]

  • Frank Zeidler, the Mayor of Milwaukee from 1948-1960. He was the last in a string of 12 socialist mayors and was re-elected twice during the McCarthy era. In 1976, he was the Socialist Party candidate for president of the US.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you to Democracy Now!

FRANK ZEIDLER: Pleased to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about politics here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin that’s called a Battleground State and these two traditions. On the one hand, you’ve got McCarthy. On the other hand, you’ve got this, well, this history of Socialist Mayors. You’ve got fighting Bob LaFolla.

FRANK ZEIDLER: Yeah. Milwaukee has got a very interesting history in that respect because it was an industrial town and much of the industrial base here was based on immigrants from Germany and from Poland. And the persons from Germany, particularly the ones who came in 1848, were persons who had been engaged in The Liberal Revolution. For instance, the Milwaukee Turners is a historic society here that stems from persons who were engaged in the 1848 Revolution of Germany Liberal Revolution, which was an attempt to upset the German Monarchy and German Royalty and replace it with something like the American Democracy or French Democracy. That was one base for it. Another base for the Liberalism that Wisconsin has shown came from Norwegian immigrants. Of all the immigrants, they were probably the poorest. And they became the base of the La Folla Progressive Movement in the late 19th century and the first part of the 20th century. However, as some of these people prospered, they became conservative. And so Milwaukee and Wisconsin has been divided between these two elements. The persons who have become Conservative and the persons who still representative that Liberal tradition of persons of 1848 and the early Industrial Revolution. The question is "So what?" Well, at the present time the conservatives seemed, with the exception of the governor, seemed to be pretty much in control. But there’s still a broad element in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin of people who want a progressive addressing of the problems that the United States faces. Mr. Heitzer here is one of them. He reps part of that tradition.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you say about the state of the country today from this Battleground State of Wisconsin as the last Socialist Mayor here?

FRANK ZEIDLER: Well, my feeling of history — and it goes back quite a bit — the country is as divided as it has ever been, perhaps, almost since the Civil War. The division over the Bush Administration and its foreign policies, particularly its idea of pre-emptive war and its hostility to other countries, they were going to go it alone, it is ignoring of the United Nations until recently has caused a severe division in the country. And you go to different parts of the country and they’re either rabid bush fans or they’re very strongly opposed to him. He’s a polarizing figure and more than any other person that I can remember in my time. Even than Franklin Roosevelt who was something of a polarizing figure.

AMY GOODMAN: As a Socialist Candidate for President yourself in 1976, as a Presidential Candidate, do you have —- do you feel that John Kerry represents a real alternative and do you have a thought on this Green Party Convention and a Green Candidate against -—

FRANK ZEIDLER: Well, anybody represents an alternative to the Republican policy. And Kerry, he would not be as strong on the issues as I would be on a lot of them. But he — he would be an improvement.

AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that the Green Party —

FRANK ZEIDLER: However, the Socialist Party has its own candidate, one Walt Brown of Portland, Oregon. And Walt’s an interesting figure. He’s been very active in campaigning in Oregon. He gets votes. He’s an ex-Naval officer. But he is something of a near-Pacifist at the present time.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being on with our national broadcast today, broadcasting on over 220 radio and television stations around the country and at Frank Ziedler, the last Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee, was mayor from 1948 to 1960. That does it for today’s program.

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