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Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism: We Want to Create an Economy That Works for All of Us

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After being questioned about the crisis in Venezuela, Senator Bernie Sanders defended his vision of democratic socialism. “I agree with what goes on in Canada and in Scandinavia: guaranteeing healthcare to all people as a human right. I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on Earth not to provide paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said. “I believe that every worker in this country deserves a living wage and that we expand the trade union movement.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as we continue to cover the Democratic debate in Houston, I’d like to turn to a moment when the Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was questioning Senator Bernie Sanders. But I wanted to first preface this by saying a lot of people know Univision, and they know that Univision has always been reporting extensively on the plight of immigrants in the United States. But a lot of folks who don’t know Spanish and follow Univision — who don’t follow Univision regularly don’t know that also Univision’s role in terms of reporting on Latin America has always been to bash socialist or progressive or populist governments in Latin America. So it’s no surprise to those of us who regularly watch Univision that Jorge Ramos would ask Bernie Sanders this question about Venezuela and democratic socialism.

JORGE RAMOS: Senator Sanders, one country where many immigrants are arriving from is Venezuela. A recent U.N. fact-finding mission found that thousands have been disappeared, tortured and killed by government forces in Venezuela. You admit that Venezuela does not have free elections, but still you refuse to call Nicolás Maduro un dictador, a dictator. Can you explain why? And what are the main differences between your kind of socialism and the one being imposed in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all, let me be very clear. Anybody who does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant. What we need now is international and regional cooperation for free elections in Venezuela so that the people of that country can make — can create their own future.

In terms of democratic socialism, to equate what goes on in Venezuela with what I believe is extremely unfair. I’ll tell you what I believe in terms of democratic socialism. I agree with what goes on in Canada and in Scandinavia: guaranteeing healthcare to all people as a human right. I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on Earth not to provide paid family and medical leave. I believe that every worker in this country deserves a living wage and that we expand the trade union movement.

I happen to believe also that what, to me, democratic socialism means is we deal with an issue we do not discuss enough, Jorge, not in the media and not in Congress. You’ve got three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of this country. You’ve got a handful of billionaires controlling what goes on in Wall Street, the insurance companies and in the media. Maybe, just maybe, what we should be doing is creating —

JORGE RAMOS: Thank you.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: — an economy that works for all of us, not 1%. That’s my understanding of democratic socialism.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Julian Brave NoiseCat, I wanted to ask you, this whole issue of — now a couple of debates now, the issue of democratic socialism being raised by the moderators to try to pin one or the other candidates on that issue?

JULIAN BRAVE NOISECAT: So, you know, I answer this question as — you know, I have bylines in both Jacobin and Dissent and subscribe to both of those magazines, which would be identified as left or socialist. You know, I have many friends who have gotten engaged in the Democratic Socialists of America. And generally speaking, I would say that there is, particularly among millennials, increasing interest in socialism, particularly because we lived through — you know, one of our formative experiences was, first, the recession and crisis of 2008, and then, of course, the campaign of Senator Sanders in 2016. So I think that, you know, socialism is a rising political force in this country.

But it is true that, you know, which kind of socialism we are fighting for, what our vision for a socialist movement might be, is a relevant sort of issue — right? — because there are, you know, troubling legacies of socialist regimes around the country. And I think that — you know, I was in Washington, D.C., actually, back in May, when Senator Sanders gave his speech on democratic socialism and made clear what he means when he embraces that term, and that he’s talking about the legacies of people like FDR. You know, he’s talking about the legacies of people who fight for universal human rights, the right to healthcare, the right to housing, economic and social rights. And I think that, you know, continuing to distinguish that this is exactly what the broader left, generally, and then what the socialist movement, in particular, is pushing for is an important thing. And, you know, I think it’s great that that kind of a message is getting shared on cable news. So, you know, the question might have been unfair, but I thought that the senator handled it well.

AMY GOODMAN: And very quickly, Julian Brave NoiseCat, on the issue of ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a whole group of members of the Gwich’in Steering Committee traveled to Washington to lobby for the drilling ban, as the House of Representatives voted to block President Trump from opening up ANWR to link oil and gas exploration. The significance of this?

JULIAN BRAVE NOISECAT: You know, so, last night, one of the big underlying questions is what the broader Democratic coalition is going to look like. And one thing that was very disappointing to me is that not a single candidate, not a diverse candidate, not one of the older candidates, not when we talked about immigration, brought up the reality of Native people in this country. And one of the big issues that we face is the degradation of our homelands. And the attack by the fossil fuel industry, by the Republican Party, on the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is one of those major issues. And, you know, I would be very hopeful that candidates would try to speak to those issues in the future and on the debate stage, moving forward.

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