In a presidential campaign that has sometimes been reminiscent of the movie Bulworth, Bernie Sanders’ socialism has frequently come under the spotlight. Although he has spoken about it frequently in the past, a full explanation of his position, and of his definition of “democratic socialism,” has been scheduled for a speech at Georgetown University this Thursday afternoon.
Bernie Sanders’ socialism speech has been highly anticipated by both supporters and detractors of Bernie Sanders. Socialism is still very much a loaded word in U.S. politics, and many pundits have been frankly amazed that Sanders could have come this far while espousing such a controversial political doctrine. Many GOP candidates and right wing commentators have made a great deal of hay over Bernie Sanders’ socialism, claiming that he is basically a communist in disguise, or using it to accuse him of anti-Americanism. This afternoon, Sanders has taken the opportunity to clarify and expand on his position.
According to the Guardian, Sanders took the stage to “raucous applause,” a testament to his popularity amongst young voters. Sanders began his speech by saying that America had “serious problems” before beginning to firmly position his socialism alongside the policies of former president and highly respected historical figure, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government… And this is what we have to do today.”
Sanders compared the situation in Roosevelt’s time with today, claiming that his brand of socialism would be about instituting government programs in an effort to create a full employment economy, provide easy and affordable access to healthcare and alleviate the condition of the working poor — all of which ideas have been fundamental pillars of his campaign thus far. He was quick to distance himself from more traditional definitions of socialism, stating that he did not believe in government ownership of the means of production. Bernie Sanders’ socialism has a further point of difference in that, unlike atheistic socialist movements of the past (and present), Sanders is more than happy to reference the pope.
“We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. 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.”
And like his fictional predecessor, Bulworth, Sanders has a lot to say about campaign finance. Bernie Sanders is scathing about Super PACs and the disclosure requirements surrounding campaign donations, contending that the system is basically rigged to allow “billionaires” to buy outcomes for themselves.
Bernie Sanders’ socialism speech also attempted to flip the idea of economic control. In frequent references to “the one percent,” Sanders pointed to the influence of lobbyists, claiming that their spending in order to influence regulation was, in fact, more against the principles of a free market than his own brand of socialism.
In deference to current events, Bernie Sanders’ socialism speech also included explanations of his own positions on the refugee crisis and the ISIS threat. Sanders is predictably in favour of the USA accepting more refugees, but unexpectedly hawkish about ISIS. Sanders announced that it was America’s duty to destroy ISIS, but emphasised that it was not the responsibility of the USA alone.
The initial reaction to Bernie Sanders’ socialism speech on social media has been overwhelmingly positive.
Sanders’ unique mixture of revolutionary rhetoric, common-sense populism, and refusal to accept money from big-business interests appears to have resonated powerfully with various sections of the community. You can watch parts of his speech and the ongoing Q&A in this video, or read Bernie Sanders‘ prepared remarks on Vox.
[Photo by Getty Images/Mark Wilson]