2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview that he will do a better job explaining what people mean when they talk about socialism…democratic socialism.

Because adding “democratic” somehow makes socialism better? From New Hampshire Public Radio:

“I think what we have to do, and I will be doing it, is to do a better job maybe in explaining what we mean by socialism — democratic socialism. Obviously, my right-wing colleagues here want to paint that as authoritarianism and communism and Venezuela, and that’s nonsense.

“What I mean by democratic socialism is that I want a vibrant democracy. I find it interesting that people who criticize me are busy actively involved in voter suppression trying to keep people of color or low-income people from voting, because they don’t want a vibrant democracy. I do.

“Second of all, what it means, Rachel, is that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world we can provide a decent standard of living for all about people. That’s just the reality. That’s not Utopian dreaming; that is a reality. Health care for all can be done and we can save money in doing it. We can have a minimum wage which is a living wage, and I’m delighted to see that you know, right now, five states already passed fifteen dollars an hour minimum wage. The House of Representatives is gonna do it. We have got to do that.”

Republicans appear to be ramping up to make the term “socialism” one of their key weapons in the 2020 race. President Trump has repeatedly criticized socialism in his tweets and in speeches this year, and the term was repeatedly invoked at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC.

The term “socialism” is polarizing in U.S. politics — a slight majority of Democrats, 57 percent, said they had a positive view of socialism (however they define it) as of August 2018, according to Gallup. In that poll, Democrats were slightly more likely to view socialism positively than capitalism (47 percent). Meanwhile, Republicans were far more likely to view capitalism positively (71 percent to socialism’s 16 percent). Polls have also shown that socialism is particularly popular among younger voters.

While Sanders’ “socialist” brand may play well among primary voters, it could be tougher to sell among more moderate Democrats and centrist or right-leaning independent voters. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll provides some evidence of this: only 25 percent of Americans said they’d be enthusiastic or comfortable voting for a socialist, while 72 percent said they had reservations or were uncomfortable with the idea.


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