Last Friday, Comedian Bill Maher commented that America’s success during the post- WWII years was due to socialism in America. I could not agree more. America had the highest participation in labor unions along with an effective progressive tax system, we had a well-funded public education system and we invested in the infrastructure with the creation of the Interstate Highway system. One of the leaders of that time was Frank Zeidler, the last socialist mayor of any major American city.
Frank Zeidler was the mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1948 through 1960. During his tenure as mayor he more than doubled Milwaukee land mass and oversaw an explosion of Public and Private housing that coincided with the expansion of the city’s industrial economic output. Frank was also very fiscally conscious and kept the city out of debt for the majority of his time in office. With his transparent and fair leadership model, Zeidler was known as an honest politician who was guided by the common good of the citizens of Milwaukee.
This period of time was not an easy one, particularly for a Socialist. Zeidler’s term as mayor coincided with the red scare and the rise of McCarthyism. The suburban populations in most American metro areas were beginning to assert their power, often in ways that were detrimental to central city populations. Throughout these battles, which Zeidler mentions in his memoir “A Liberal in City Government,” Frank weathered the Storm. He is a shining example of how an American socialist can govern in a climate even less receptive to the concept of socialism than today. All of his achievements should be studied for the next platform we as socialist can put together to solve the problems we face today. And on that note, Frank Zeidler, I salute you!!