On paper, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is widely considered an independent politician, despite running as a Democratic candidate. Prior to formally entering politics, Sanders was a prominent activist heavily involved in the socialist movement; that ideology has greatly shaped his views, something he explicitly highlighted in a speech delivered at Georgetown University on Thursday. The many Bernie Sanders quotes about democratic socialism from his remarks provide better insight on Sanders' views as well as his own political inspiration. The Vermont senator quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt at length to kick off his speech, describing Roosevelt's assessment of how the Great Depression had ravaged the country.
Though somber in tone, Roosevelt provided millions with hope and a better chance at economic equality thanks to policies implemented that are still in place today, such as Social Security and the advent of a minimum wage. Sanders referenced the establishing of Medicare and Medicaid as similarly important moments that prove the benefits of democratic socialism. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the candidate's impassioned speech is the fact that there has already been a precedent for his political views. Sanders used past examples, current statistics, and his consistent voting record to highlight his views. He ended his speech detailing the ways in which he'd combat ISIS, which would involve more collaborative efforts with other countries.
On President Roosevelt's Ideas
During his lengthy speech, Sanders repeatedly evoked the many revolutionary ideas of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who helped transform the country by better providing for its citizens and establishing strict regulations to protect even the most vulnerable populations. It is Roosevelt's ideas that Sanders says have laid the groundwork for democratic socialism and proven that it's an effective ideology to follow. Sanders said:
Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was "socialist." The concept of the "minimum wage" was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as "socialist." Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as "socialist."
On Following Pope Francis' Lead
Sanders called upon one of the most prominent religious leaders in the world, Pope Francis, when introducing democratic socialism and how he can help make the country a more equal place if elected. Sanders said:
We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.
On The State Of The Nation
Sanders provided some sobering facts regarding economics, unemployment, and the prison system. All three issues are ones that Sanders is committed to combating. The presidential hopeful had this to say about the current state of the nation:
Nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American children, are living in poverty ... 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. ... Youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans.
As much as Sanders praised the efforts of visionary leaders like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he offered many criticisms of the current political system that has made it difficult for many to provide for their families and themselves. The presidential candidate implied that such inequality is counterintuitive to the American idea of freedom. Sanders said:
People are not truly free when they are unable to feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.
On Economic Equality
Economic equality was one of the primary points that Sanders highlighted when detailing what it means to be a democratic socialist. He not only referenced President Franklin D. Roosevelt but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for their efforts in economic rights as well. Sanders had this to say about providing for the middle class as well as all socioeconomic situations:
It's time we had democratic socialism for working families ... It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.
On Health Care And The Affordable Care Act
The only criticism Sanders has had of the Affordable Care Act is that it doesn't go far enough. Sanders' democratic socialist views call for health care for all citizens no matter their socio-economic status, something the presidential hopeful highlights repeatedly in his speech:
Health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege... The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go further. Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.
On What Public Education Really Means
Sanders has been an advocate for providing free college education to U.S. students for years, most notably highlighting those points in his proposed College for All Act. Once again, the ability for all who are interested to enter university is touched upon. Sanders says such a policy is intrinsic to his Democratic socialist views:
Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago — and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free.
On Making A Living Wage
Taking a page from Seattle's push to raise their minimum wage to $15, which Sanders has previously praised, the Democratic presidential hopeful had this to say about how fighting for a living wage factors into Democratic socialism:
Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy... That we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage — $15 an hour over the next few years.
On Climate Change And Green Policies
Democratic socialism goes hand in hand with Sanders' ongoing push towards green policies to combat the threat of global warming. Sanders details the importance of not only acknowledging climate change but its many consequences spanning from environmental to economic. Sanders said:
Democratic socialism means that we have government policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our kids and grandchildren.
On The Positives Of Being A Democratic Socialist
Sanders highlighted the positives of being a Democratic socialist, spinning potential attacks and criticisms into a promise to continue fighting for equality. It's worth noting that the Vermont senator mentions Black Lives Matter, a movement that the candidate has been actively working towards better understanding and advocating for. Sanders said:
The next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this: I don't believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal ... I don't believe in special treatment for the top 1 percent, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.
On Why He's Running For President
As Sanders transitioned into an impassioned second portion of his speech dealing with foreign policy and how he'd respond to combating ISIS if elected, the Democratic candidate had this to say about why he's running for president in the first place:
I'm not running for president because it's my turn, but because it's the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all... I'm not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America's strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious battles with no end in sight.