It appears that Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, has a connection to the Socialist Party. No, she’s not a member–she wrote her senior thesis on the party’s history in New York City from 1900-1933.
A history major, Kagan traced the rise and fall of the Socialist Party in her hometown in a senior thesis titled “To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933.” But her professor, Sean Wilentz, told the Princetonian her interest was strictly historical, adding that his star student was “the furthest thing from a socialist.”
Parts of the thesis which have been widely quoted are:
“In our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism’s glories than of socialism’s greatness. Conformity overrides dissent; the desire to conserve has overwhelmed the urge to alter. Such a state of affairs cries out for explanation. Why, in a society by no means perfect, has a radical party never attained the status of a major political force? Why, in particular, did the socialist movement never become an alternative to the nation’s established parties?”(pp. 127)
“Through its own internal feuding, then, the SP exhausted itself forever and further reduced labor radicalism in New York to the position of marginality and insignificance from which it has never recovered. The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism’s decline, still wish to change America. Radicals have often succumbed to the devastating bane of sectarianism; it is easier, after all, to fight one’s fellows than it is to battle an entrenched and powerful foe. Yet if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope.” (pp. 129-130)
We’ll keep an eye out for the full thesis being made available. When it is, we’ll post it here. However, this little piece of information seems to jive well with Richard Winger’s assertion that Kagan would probably be a friend of ballot access reformers.