Bernie Sanders has long described himself as a democratic socialist, but as a senator from the progressive and lightly populated Vermont, it never made many ripples nationwide.
But with Sanders now surging and presenting a real threat to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, he is nearing a need to address the word that many Americans equate with something very un-American.
Now Sanders is planning to do just that. The candidate said on Sunday that he will be giving a major speech defining his belief in democratic socialism, a move that political followers see as an attempt to take the sting out of the S-word and better define his views.
Bernie Sanders has said that many Americans fail to understand that principles of socialism are already at work in programs like Medicare.
“I think there are a lot of people who, when they hear the word ‘socialist,’ get very, very nervous,” Sanders said at a campaign stop in Iowa (via the Associated Press).
“What we’re probably going to do to begin with is hold a major speech in the not-too-distant future to define exactly what I mean by democratic socialism. To me, democratic socialism means democracy. It means creating a government that represents all of us, not just the wealthiest people in the country,” Sanders added.
Sanders said he has some explaining and work in getting around the stigma that has existed for decades, but believes the address will help Americans understand how socialism is no longer a boogeyman. He noted that the public library, fire department or police department are all socialist institutions, and that socialist economic programs have been successfully introduced in other democratic nations.
Bernie Sanders has not endorsed the form of socialism most Americans associate with the Cold War and USSR, which includes things like government takeover of private industry. But he has painted the issue as one of fairness, saying that the political process and economy has too long been tilted toward the rich.
“What democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders said during a recent speech in New Hampshire (via the Washington Post), “is having a government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people, which is most often the case right now in this country.”
Sanders has taken that same ideal into his fundraising. After last week’s debate, his campaign drew in more than $3 million in just a few days, nearly all of it from small donations.
“Right now there are many pundits who believe that the only way a candidate can run a successful campaign is to have a super PAC, get down on one’s knees before the millionaires and billionaires — beg them for money,” Sanders said at a fundraising event in Los Angeles this week (via CNN). “And what we are showing is we can run a people-oriented campaign funded by the people.”
The message permeates through Sanders’ campaign speeches, and even social media, as he has struck a populist tone.
The speech could be coming at the right time for Bernie Sanders. After this week’s Democratic presidential debate, his message has been introduced to its widest audience yet. The majority of internet polls taken after the debate called Sanders the winner, despite most pundits saying Hillary Clinton came out on top, and Sanders gained more than 50,000 new followers across social media.
With the new surge in attention and his stature rising, Bernie Sanders has decided to define democratic socialism and take the punch out of what could become a potent line of attack against him. The timing could be important, with Sanders needing to continue rising in polls and support if he were to pose a real threat to Hillary Clinton.
[Image via Instagram/Bernie Sanders]