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Sanders Says Democratic Socialism Builds On Work Of FDR, LBJ And MLK

Carolyn Kaster
On Thursday, Sen. Sanders addressed the crowd gathered at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall in Washington, D.C., to explain what his brand of Democratic socialism could mean for America.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has evoked the policies of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal as the framework for his brand of Democratic socialism.

In a speech Thursday, Sanders addressed what it means to be a Democratic socialist in 2015.

Sanders spoke at the historic Gaston Hall at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to an enthusiastic, standing room only crowd. Many of the students had waited for hours in the rain to hear this speech.

Sanders noted that President Franklin Roosevelt had often been labeled as a socialist for supporting Social Security, the minimum wage, an end to child labor and the imposition of banking regulations after the Great Depression.

Sanders reminded the students that FDR, in his State of Union Address in 1944, proposed a "Second Bill of Rights" that called for economic security for all Americans.

"Real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt's vision 70 years ago, it is my vision today it is a vision that we have not yet achieved and it is time that we did."

"Real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt's vision 70 years ago, it is my vision today it is a vision that we have not yet achieved and it is time that we did," Sanders said.

Sanders also highlighted Lyndon Johnson's push to pass Medicare in the 1960s as an example of Democratic socialism.

“[Democratic socialism] builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that, ‘This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.’ It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders

The speech comes in the wake of growing concern about what it means when Sanders used the phrase to define his political views.  

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says Sanders' speech is an effort to link his current priorities to popular programs from the past.

“That's an important thing of Sanders whole campaign,” says Davis, “that he should not be viewed as a fringe candidate, but somebody who wants to bring American politics back to what was the center ground say between the 1930s and the 1960s.”

Davis says it's too early to determine if Sanders was successful in defusing the negative connotation of Democratic socialism in the minds of some voters.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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