Why Bernie Sanders Wants You to Believe in Democratic Socialism

November 19th 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday, speaking about the ideology of democratic socialism and how that term has been misconstrued throughout U.S. history.

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He differentiated between democratic socialism and Cold War-era socialism, discussing a number of welfare programs and social services that were introduced by former presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson—such as social security and Medicare. He emphasized that, during their presidencies, many people described those programs as "socialist."

"That was then, and now is now," Sanders said. And it is partially because America has historically resisted democratic socialism that the country continues to struggle with income inequality, unemployment, and poverty, the candidate suggested.

Here are 10 quotes from Sanders' speech at Georgetown University.

1. "Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system which is corrupt—that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy."

In typical Sanders style, the candidate opened his speech about democratic socialism by describing the corruption and greed that he attributes to the private, financial sector of the U.S. economy.

2. "Young people who get caught possessing marijuana, they get police records... Wall Street doesn't get police records, they get raises in their salaries."

While the big banks and bankers in the U.S. were bailed out following the financial crisis of 2008—facing minimal penalties, even "after their greed and recklessness and illegal behavior led to their collapse." He explained why young people have struggled to find employment in the years after the Recession. He described how many people who are charged for non-violent drug offenses such as marijuana possession, face discrimination after they are incarcerated.

3. "This is not a radical idea. It is a conservative idea."

Sanders argued that democratic socialism is not a radical system but rather a conservative one that is effectively practiced in developed countries around the world.

4. "It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for young people who are unemployed than to lock them up and invest in jails and incarceration."

In his speech, Sanders again voiced his support for tuition-free public education for college students, stating that a college degree today should be considered "equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago."

5. "Democratic socialism means that if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty."

Sanders said that we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour over the next few years.

6. "Yes, innovation, entrepreneurialism, and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support."

Pushing back against politicians who argue that socialism impedes upon American economic principles, Sanders argued that financial reform under a democratic socialist system would still allow for economic success while limiting corruption and greed in the financial sector.

7. "People should not be using the political process to inject racism into the debate."

Sanders condemned recent, racially-charged comments conservative politicians have made about immigration and refugees. "If Donald Trump wants to open the doors to racism, it is our job to shut that door, and shut it tight," Sanders said.

8. "The United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime... but we cannot and should not do it alone."

Rather than unilaterally entering into a prolonged war against ISIS, Sanders said that the country should only engage in military attacks against threats in the Middle East and North Africa if it is in collaboration with our allies.

9. "The fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam."

Sanders also called on leaders from wealthy, Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia to do more to prevent terrorism in the region and to invest more of their resources in the fight against ISIS.

10. Accepting refugees is the moral thing to do, and accepting refugees is what America has always done.

In response to the attacks in Paris, some have suggested that the U.S. should reject Syrian refugees. Sanders condemned that response, arguing that we should welcome those fleeing terrorism, as is consistent with American values.

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