CNN is holding so-called “Town Hall” events with the Democrat candidates for President, and they’re not going well… for anyone.
On Monday night, it was Senator Bernie Sanders’ turn on the CNN stage, and he got the question that everyone asks and no Democrat (or Socialist) ever actually answers. (Spoiler Alert – Bernie doesn’t really answer it either.)
Here’s the question from a young lady named Samantha:
Hi, Senator Sanders. So my father’s family left Soviet Russia in 1979 fleeing from some of the very same socialist policies that you seem eager to implement in this country. So my question is, how do you rectify your notion of democratic socialism with the failures of socialism in nearly every country that has tried it?
This question should really be asked of almost every one of the Democrat candidates. These policies haven’t worked anywhere, ever. They don’t even work in small, wealthy nations like Canada, the UK, Denmark, or Sweden. There is absolutely no way that a nation of our size could possibly make them work without crippling the global economy.
Anyway, Sanders takes the question, twists it inside out and pretends she actually asked something entirely different of him.
Thank you for asking that question. Is it your assumption that I supported or believe in authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union? I don’t and never have. And I opposed it.
I believe in a vigorous democracy. But you have asked me the question about democratic socialism. Fair question. And let me answer it.
I happen to believe that in the United States there is something fundamentally wrong when we have three families owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society, 160 million people. Something wrong when the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 92 percent. Something very wrong when 49 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent.
And something is equally wrong when we have a corrupt political system made even worse by this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision which allows billionaires to spend unlimited sums of money to elect candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful.
So answer number one, to your question. This is a radical idea. Maybe not everybody agrees. But I happen to believe we should have a government that represents working families and not just the 1 percent and powerful corporations. All right? That’s point number one.
Point number two. What do I mean when I talk about democratic socialism? It certainly is not the authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union and in other communist countries. This is what it means.
It means that we cherish, among other things, our Bill of Rights. And Franklin Roosevelt made this point — Chris, I don’t know if you remember — read about it, in 1944, in a State of the Union Address that never got a whole lot of attention, this is what he said basically. It was a very profound speech toward the end of World War II.
He said, you know, we’ve got a great Constitution. Bill of Rights protects your freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and all that stuff, great, but you know what it doesn’t protect? It doesn’t protect and guarantee you economic rights.
So, Samantha, let me be very honest with you. I believe in a democratic, civilized society, health care is a human right. Government should make that happen.
I believe that every young person in this country, regardless of his or her income, has the right to get all of the education they need. That’s why I have fought hard with some success to move toward making public colleges and universities tuition free and very substantially reduce student debt.
And I believe that there is something wrong in America today when you got millions of families paying 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads, and that millions of working-class families, young parents, cannot find quality and affordable childcare.
So I happen to believe that we have to address the issue of grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality, very, very rich getting much richer, middle-class struggling, 40 million people living in poverty. And what democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. In other words, government serves the needs of all people rather than just wealthy campaign contributors. That’s what that means to me.
You know what’s funny here? Sanders claims that he has always opposed “authoritarian communism.” That’s simply not the case.
Chris Cuomo, to his credit, actually reminds him that there is some very public video of Sanders supporting the Soviet Union (remember he vacationed there, with his wife, early in their marriage). Sanders plays this connection off, and Cuomo lets him.
But it’s not just his support of the USSR in the 1970s. Sanders also very stridently supported Fidel Castro in the late 1980s, and he was a proud friend of the Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez just a few short years ago. These are authoritarians – and Sanders supported them and their policies.
Don’t buy his spin. He’s an authoritarian too.