Bernie Sanders, Defining and Defending Democratic Socialism


Gage Skidmore

Bernie Sanders at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, August 2019

Ivana Venema-Nunez, Reporter

Senator Bernie Sanders has garnered new attention after emerging as the solid front runner in the bank of democratic presidential candidates after the Nevada caucus.

But the Sander’s momentum has also sparked fear among many democrats and fuel for the GOP that a potential Sanders nomination will result in the re-election of Donald Trump.

Much of the angst centers around, Sander’s own “socialist” references.

Senator Sanders spoke at a small theatre at George Washington University to present his vision of, democratic socialism and to defend it against attacks the constant ‘socialist’ attacks from the Trump campaign.

“Let me be clear, I do understand that I and other progressives will face massive attacks from those who attempt to use the word ‘socialism’ as a slur,” he said, “but I should also tell you that I have faced and overcome these attacks for decades, and I am not the only one.”

Mr. Sanders affirmed that his vision of democratic socialism is not extreme but a pathway to economic rights citing the accomplishments of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.

“The president,” Sanders said,  “Believes in corporate socialism for the rich and powerful; I believe in a democratic socialism that works for the working families of this country.”

A 2019  New York Times article examines a democratic socialist—and the fact that there isn’t only one definition because of the the lumping of a two-party system.

Since our political atmosphere is divided into liberal and conservative there is no room for a “democratic socialist” party so, they usually side with the democratic party.

“His (Sen. Sanders)  practical program is a program that would be pretty comfortable within the confines of any European country,” said Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College. “As far as the policies he’s advocating, those are probably better viewed as social democratic — that’s what they would be in another place in which there are more left options.”

But “because we don’t have a social-democratic party in this country,” Professor Berman said, “the only way to indicate that you want to go further than the Democratic Party — that you are more critical of capitalism than the Democratic Party has been — has been to identify yourself as a democratic socialist.”

Communism is un-democratic (against democracy) and democratic socialists just don’t support capitalism which means the workers control the means of production.

Maria Svart, national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, told The New York Times last year. “Our ultimate goal really is for working people to run our society and run our workplaces and our economies.”

With a political tactic to defer attention to fear, Trump addressed the State of the Union with rhetoric that may be effective, attacking the self-proclaimed socialist movement.

“Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” the president said, adding, “Tonight, we resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Michael Kazin, an American historian, professor of history at Georgetown University and the author of several books that chronicle the history of the American left, said there had not been a visible socialistic movement since last century and saw Trumps tactic as clever.

“You really have not had a self-consciously socialist movement of any size and influence since the 1930s,” Kazin said, “Clearly this is an attempt to portray democrats as too radical for Americans and to connect them to Venezuela, which is, of course, a clever thing do since Venezuela is falling apart under an ostensibly socialist government.”

“To me, democratic socialism means democracy: It means creating a government that represents all of us, not just the wealthiest people in this country,” Senator Bernie Sanders said at an Iowa City, rally back in 2015.

“I will remind the American people that there are socialist programs out there that are some of the most popular programs in America,” he added, citing Social Security and Medicare, which taxpayers finance to assist older Americans and others.”

“When you go to your public library, when you call your Fire Department or the Police Department, what do you think you are calling?” Sanders said. “These are socialist institutions.”

No democratic presidential candidate, including Mr. Sanders, has advocated for communism ideology, but it’s a safe bet that President Trump and the GOP will continue to pounce on advocacy such as Medicare for all, a Sander’s benchmark, in an attempt to make the connection.