Feb 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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

Sen. Bernie Sanders responded on "Fox News Sunday" to attacks from Joe Biden and others over his decision to label himself a "democratic socialist" and whether that can appeal to a broad electorate in November.

What he's saying: "In many respects, we are a socialist society today. ... Donald Trump, before he was president, as a private businessperson, he received $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury housing in New York. ... The difference between my socialism and Trump's socialism is I believe the government should help working families, not billionaires."

  • He continued: "I believe that health care is a human right. I believe we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour. I believe, in fact, that the rich must start paying their fair share of taxes when you have massive levels of income and wealth inequality."

Why it matters: Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, President Trump will seek to brand them as a "socialist" — a term that has historically had a stigma in the United States due to its association with the Soviet Union, but which is increasingly growing in popularity among young people and women.

Between the lines: As Sanders points out, there are different definitions of socialism. According to a Harris poll for "Axios on HBO," even the public has varying levels of agreement on what exactly constitutes a socialist political system:

  1. Universal health care: 76%
  2. Tuition-free education: 72%
  3. Living wage: 68%
  4. State-controlled economy: 66%
  5. State control and regulation of private property: 61%

Go deeper: Trump's political advisers are seeking to boost Bernie Sanders in the polls

Go deeper

Biden says he'll "work like hell" for Bernie if he wins the nomination

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Joe Biden continued to argue on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that the Democratic Party would have a harder time defeating President Trump if it nominates Bernie Sanders, who labels himself a democratic socialist, but stated that he would "work like hell" for the Vermont senator if he wins.

Why it matters: The divide between the moderate and progressive wing of the party has reignited debate over whether voters from each side would ultimately back the nominee against Trump.

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."

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.