Bernie Sanders Delivers Anticipated Speech On Democratic Socialism



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Socialism is a dirty word for most Americans. But democratic socialist is a label Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wears proudly. On Thursday, he explained what it means to him.

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Bernie Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist. He's been using that label for decades. But Sanders is a contender in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. So today, he gave a big speech to explain what democratic socialism means to him. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In a packed auditorium at Georgetown University, Bernie Sanders drew heavily on the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president behind the New Deal.


BERNIE SANDERS: And by the way, almost everything he proposed, almost every program, every idea he introduced was called socialist.


SANDERS: I thought I would mention that just in passing.


KEITH: You see, Bernie Sanders was trying to de-weaponize socialism, a term that has been used in America with negative connotations for generations.


SANDERS: Real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt's vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved, and it is time we that we did.

KEITH: Sanders then went through a litany of proposals that are at the heart of his campaign - Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, a $15 minimum wage. These are ideas intended to help America's poor and middle class. But they don't exactly fit the dictionary definition of socialism.


SANDERS: So the next time that you hear me attacked as a socialist, like tomorrow...


SANDERS: ...Remember this. I don't believe government should take over, you know, the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.

KEITH: Toward the end, Sanders turned to foreign policy. In light of the attacks in Paris, in many ways this big speech about democratic socialism was overtaken by events. Sanders said he isn't a pacifist, but unilateral force should be a last resort.


SANDERS: Countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations with the strong support of their global partners.

KEITH: After the speech, Sanders took questions. And the first one was about socialism - why he keeps using the term even if it doesn't really fit what he's advocating.


SANDERS: When I use the word socialist - and I know some people are uncomfortable about it - I say that it is imperative that we create a political revolution, that millions of people get involved in the political process and that we create a government that works for all, not just the few.

KEITH: Sanders said people are angry. They're working and earning less. And he hopes that anger will fuel a revolution. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.