What’s a Democratic Socialist? Bernie Sanders Explains
Bernie Sanders laid out a forceful argument for democratic socialism, the largely misunderstood political philosophy to which the Vermont senator ascribes, in a long-awaited speech delivered at Georgetown University Thursday afternoon.
Sanders drew parallels between his own views and those of beloved figures like Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope Francis in an attempt to impress upon the audience that they are already familiar with his philosophy, whether or not they realize it.
Programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, the institution of the 40-hour work week, the abolishment of child labor, and the minimum wage, Sanders said, were all once denounced as socialist. “These programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class,” he said.
Sanders spoke of the fact that the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans own nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and cited figures that show median incomes for families and individuals have seen sharp declines over the last several decades.
He aligned himself with another vocal advocate for income equality, Pope Francis. “We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money,” Sanders said. “We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.”
“So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders told the auditorium full of students, who’d spent hours waiting in the rain to see the presidential hopeful speak. “It means what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that ‘this country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.'”
“My view of democratic socialism builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, their elderly citizens, the children, the sick and the poor. Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system that is corrupt, that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.”
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