I would like to suggest something truly radical for American socialists to do today: Slowly read the Declaration of Independence aloud to ourselves. And then begin to realize that our task should be to reclaim that revolutionary spirit–to take it back from the reactionaries who hijacked it and distort its meaning, the capitalists who destroy it for their own profit, and from the ruling class that mouths its phrases but suppresses those who would act on its ideas and values. (Actually, this might not be a bad project for those of you living in other countries.)
Even more radical: We should honor those who led the American Revolution that came out of the Declaration. Yes, many were slaveowners. Yes, most were wealthy white males. But anachronistic value judgments from a 21st century perspective are irrelevant. They risked their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to create something that had never existed before: a government that actually rested on a form of popular sovereignty, and, ultimately, a Bill of Rights. I’ve read the biographies of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin. Whatever their faults, they had a deep historical consciousness, noble ideals, and the courage of their convictions. One of them was worth a hundred Obamas.
As democratic socialists, we should explicitly assert that we, not our rulers, are the heirs to what is best in the American historical tradition. A happy Independence Day to all.