Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sanders defends socialism: "We are living, in many ways, in a socialist society right now"

Sanders in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders again defended on Wednesday's debate stage his embrace of Democratic socialism.

What he's saying: "Let's talk about Democratic socialism — not communism, Mr. Bloomberg, that's a cheap shot. Let's talk about what goes on in countries like Denmark, where Pete correctly pointed out, they have a much higher quality of life in many respects than we do."

  • He added: "We are living, in many ways, in a socialist society right now," Sanders said. "Problem is, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, we have socialism for the very rich, rugged individualism for the poor."

The big picture: Democratic insiders are queasy about whether a Democratic socialist at the top of their presidential ticket has a shot at being elected, Axios' Margaret Talev reported last week. Sanders is currently polling ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Go deeper: Sanders: There's a difference between "my socialism and Trump's socialism"

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Bernie Sanders' big socialism rebrand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bernie Sanders is trying to rebrand socialism in the U.S., but he'll have to overcome common fears about what the word means — fears the Trump campaign is watching and waiting to exploit.

Why it matters: Sanders may face a major challenge in convincing Americans in their 40s or older that there's a meaningful difference between what he supports, described as democratic socialism, and the authoritarian socialism that we've seen in regimes like Venezuela.

Clyburn: Sanders' "socialist" label will be "extra burden" in House races

Jim Clyburn with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that Sen. Bernie Sanders' identification as a democratic socialist may be an "extra burden" in down-ballot House races if he were to win the Democratic nomination.

Why it matters: Clyburn's comments echo fears from many establishment Democrats, who worry the House majority they won in 2018 by taking moderate seats carried by President Trump could be at risk with Sanders at the top of the ticket.

Debate night: Democrats fight for make-or-break moments in Nevada

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg defended his wealth to his Democratic competitors in his debate debut, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, a front-runner, faced comparisons to President Trump over his populist appeals, at the ninth Democratic debate in Las Vegas Wednesday just days before the Nevada caucuses.

The big picture: Sanders argued that Bloomberg's version of centrism won't produce the voter turnout needed to beat Trump. Bloomberg retorted that he doesn't think there's "any chance, whatsoever" of Sanders beating Trump and struck at the senator's Medicare for All plan.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy