Bernie Sanders is losing ground in the polls, and political experts believe a much-awaited speech on socialism could be what Sanders needs to turn the tide against frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
After a late-summer surge by the Vermont Senator that put him within striking distance of Clinton, Sanders has seen his poll numbers slip as Clinton begins to cement support. But on Thursday, Sanders could have a significant chance to address what amounts to his biggest weakness among moderate voters: his self-identification as a democratic socialist.
The Sanders campaign has announced a major address on Thursday, which also happens to be the day Hillary Clinton will be making her own policy address, CNN noted. Sanders will speak at Georgetown University on ways to promote “economic and social justice.” The address will also touch on environmental issues and foreign policy, reports indicate.
— CNN (@CNN) November 18, 2015
As Bernie Sanders began to slide in polls, his campaign announced that the Democratic hopeful will eventually give an address on his self-professed socialism. The word itself has a stigma with many voters, who associate the word socialism with the Soviet Union and state-controlled industries.
But Sanders has explained that democratic socialism means simply a government that represents all interests, encompassing institutions like fire and police departments.
“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 has advocated for programs that fall within these beliefs, including free tuition at public colleges and universities and a single-payer health care system.
He has also joked about the socialist label itself.
“Does anyone here think I’m a strong adherent of the North Korean form of government?” he said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire (via the Washington Post). “That I want all of you to be wearing similar-colored pajamas?”
Thursday’s speech will likely follow along past statements Sanders has made on socialism by trying to make the concept more relatable to the common voter.
“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.”
Bernie Sanders has taken that approach in his own fundraising, using the Barack Obama model of seeking out a large number of small-money donors. He has spoken out against large PACs and vowed that he would not “beg for money” at the feet of millionaires and billionaires.
The speech could come at a very critical juncture for Bernie Sanders, who is losing ground to Hillary Clinton. After Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not be joining the race, Clinton has been building support. According to Pollster, which aggregates the results of all polls, Clinton has topped the 50 percent support mark regularly and is also growing her support in key early voting states.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) November 18, 2015
It will also be a key moment to show if Bernie Sanders can move his mostly grassroots support to a more widespread appeal that translates in the polls. To have a chance in the general election — or even a chance to give Hillary Clinton a run in Democratic primaries — Sanders will need to convince voters on his views on democratic socialism and help them get past the historic reluctance with the “S-word.”
[Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo]