Nathan Robinson in The Guardian:
It is often claimed that the United States differs from Europe in that it lacks a socialist tradition. The title question of Werner Sombart’s 1906 book Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? was answered nearly a century later by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Wolfe Marks’ It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States.
It is common to say that socialism “failed” here; this is true insofar as socialists never became a substantial force in American politics. But it overlooks the fact that we did, for a short time, have a socialist movement that positively thrived.
A century ago, when socialism was at its peak in this country, the Socialist party had 1,200 offices in 340 cities. There were two Socialist members of Congress, dozens of Socialist state legislators, and more than 130 Socialist mayors in over half of the US states. (The University of Washington has maps showing just how impressive socialism’s spread across the country was.) Socialist party successes were especially concentrated in the midwest, which makes Senator Tammy Duckworth’s comment that you can’t “go too far to the left and still win the midwest” somewhat ironic.