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Bernie Sanders is described as a Democratic socialist. What does that mean?

Posted: 5:50 PM, Mar 05, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-05 23:08:47-05
Bernie Sanders AP IMAGE

PHOENIX — New construction, luxury apartments, the look and feel of a 21st-century economy. Signs of success are everywhere in Phoenix but there are also signs of struggle. Boarded up businesses, abandoned homes, the homeless.

"The status quo is not working," said Progress Now Arizona Director Emily Kirkland.

Kirkland is an unabashed Bernie Sanders supporter.

"I think young people are attracted to his long record of consistency on the issues and to his vision of creating a country that really works for all of us," Kirkland said.

Thousands of young Arizonans are drawn to Sanders' promise of Medicare for all, eliminating student loan debt, making the minimum wage a livable wage, and taking on the challenges of global warming.

VIDEO: Bernie Sanders speaks at rally in Phoenix

Sanders says he would pay for all of this with a wealth tax. An idea Kirkland supports.

"The reality is that we have the resources in this country to provide for each other. We are the richest country in the history of the world. So we are able to do this," Kirkland said.

"I'm not concerned about revolutionary. I'm not concerned about democratic socialism," Randy Perez of Living United for Change Arizona (LUCHA) said. "My concern is, do I trust this person? Are they authentic? Do they share my values and do they have the know-how to get the issues done for our community."

When it comes to Sanders, Perez and LUCHA are a solid yes. LUCHA endorsed Sanders for president early on. LUCHA hosts "Get Out the Vote" events, targeting the Latino community, where Sanders' message to fight income inequality resonates.

"The average American worker is only going to make $1.3 million in their lifetime," Perez said. "Michael Bloomberg spent $600 million with the snap of his fingers in three months on a vanity presidential campaign. The wealth gap we have in this country is so obscene, so horrifying, and leaving so many people out."

The number of young voters attracted to the Sanders message is not lost on economists like Jim Rounds. Rounds warns "social democrats" have no understanding of how the economy and society function.

In his view, "If the public embraces socialism through the presidential election, the economy will slip into a lasting recession starting the following day. The U.S. will become irrelevant within a decade."

Sanders' progressive policies have split the Democratic party. In the exit polls from Super Tuesday, Sanders did best with voters 18-29, who had a favorable view of socialism and support creating a single-payer health care system.

Joe Biden did best with voters 65 and older, African American voters, and voters who oppose both socialism and a single-payer healthcare system.

Super Tuesday results suggested Sanders' appeal did not expand beyond his base of support. Kirkland believes that can change.

"I think many people, including older people, do have questions," she said. "We're talking about approaching politics in a different way than it has been before. Ultimately what wins people over is personal stories. Everybody knows a health care story. Everybody knows somebody who is a struggling student.”