Bernie Sanders on Calling Obama a ‘Socialist’

  • submit to reddit

The word “socialist” has been tossed around by right-wing pundits and politicians unhappy with President Obama’s healthcare and economic policies, but does the charge stick? In this Moyers Moment from a 2012 episode of Moyers & Company, Bill asks Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, to explain what it means to be a socialist and assess if Obama is one.

Watch the full conversation between Bill and Senator Sanders.

  • submit to reddit

BillMoyers.com encourages conversation and debate around issues, events and ideas related to content on Moyers & Company and the BillMoyers.com website.

  • The editorial staff reserves the right to take down comments it deems inappropriate.
  • Profanity, personal attacks, hate speech, off-topic posts, advertisements and spam will not be tolerated.
  • Do not intentionally make false or misleading statements, impersonate someone else, break the law, or condone or encourage unlawful activity.

If your comments consistently or intentionally make this community a less civil and enjoyable place to be, you and your comments will be excluded from it.

We need your help with this. If you feel a post is not in line with the comment policy, please flag it so that we can take a look. Comments and questions about our policy are welcome. Please send an email to info@moyersmedia.com

Find out more about BillMoyers.com's privacy policy and terms of service.

  • Joan Mortenson

    If it weren’t for your program we would have never heard from Jill Stein running for President of the Green Party. Or about that national treasure, Bernie Sanders and his platform. Your TV program is my one “don’t miss” show of the week. You give a spotlight to things we never hear anyplace else. Thank you.l

  • Chris Edwards

    I met Bernie Sanders at a town hall meeting while traveling in Rutland, VT. He listens, one to one, to constituents and clearly cares about their concerns such as healthcare & their children’s education. He seems quite pragmatic, as socialists go — doesn’t call for the nationalization of the maple sugar industry or anything like that. Wish we had leaders like him here in Virginia :-)

  • Kathryn

    Would that it be more of our elected officials joined Bernie Sanders and Emanuel Cleaver in proclaiming it to be an honor, not an insult, to be called a progressive liberal. If a progressive liberal is one who cares about the right of all Americans to have their basic needs met and to have the opportunity to grow their livelihood to prosperity, then the term should be seen as a badge of honor and not a tattoo of stupidity. When I review the rankings of nations on issues of health, education, and even the ability to safely walk the streets of our communities, I dream that we in the United States could have what the Scandinavian democratic socialists have achieved. What happened to our country that this consigns me to the ranks of the treasonous to so many in our society?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jane.oleary1 Jane O’Leary

    Turns out I’m a socialist! :)

  • davey

    As an American living in one of the Scandinavian countries with his Scandinavian wife I completely agree with Bernie. Many Americans who are living over here who talk about the benefits of health care and education, etc.. (which we pay through taxes) and talk about this to their friends back in the States, their friends or relatives just don´t seem to get it. I had an uncle, bless his stubborn ole heart, refuse to hear what I said about the country where I have lived for over 20 yrs. What he thought was, as many do, the Communistic…Red scare…over-throw the government type of Socialism. Americans do not realize that there are many forms of socialism throughout the world that is practiced differently.

  • Lew

    Turns out I’m a socialist as well.

  • Anonymous

    These days people don’t listen to substance but rather like to stick to simple labels like socialist or muslim.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MKarnakz Gina de Miranda

    The countries in Europe that are DOING well are allegedly “socialist.” That would include Finland whose kids are beating the pants off of everybody scholastically. They have nice housing, FREE EXCELLENT MEDICAL CARE, good universities and stable societies. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT?

  • http://twitter.com/adjcorrea Arcadio de Jesus

    I am a Socialist too!!

  • Allin2012

    thank you……………………….

  • TravelBug57

    Turns out I’ve know for a while now that I’m a socialist in this country and this context. If I lived elsewhere, I might look like a centrist…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000340026682 Chuck Clark

    Having done my best to be a good “buddhist, hippie, Marine Sergeant” as I was called in the 60′s, I am proud to be a “democratic socialist.” …. and I’m still doing my best.

  • Allin2012

    On top of that, they make labels that start contradicting each other and you start to wonder where their thinking process is going.

  • catonine

    Many Republicans would probably say they don’t have the right to bear arms…

  • yochanan heimeyer

    Thank you again for the opportunity to express my opinion here in America where the God of our fathers has given us this freedom and the Polititions have not taken it away, we are truly blest. It does’nt require a lot of observation to see that in the course of almost four years, Pres. Obama has not only had the opportunity to bring us out of an economic disaster, but has perpetuated the disaster by expanding the deficit by trillions, and perpetuated the atmosphere of not creating jobs in the private sector by adding more economic restrictions and regulations. His thinking isn’t a business friendly endeavor, on the contrary, he thinks government has the understanding to invest the public monies, when in fact, they know nothing of how to invest. The Polititions are to run government not businesses. Harvard law school doesn,t provide what is needed, Harvard business school does. Need we say more. Pres. Obama is a nice guy. We don’t need nice guys, we need people who have experience and know how. He should understand at this point. that he isn’t capable of helping to create “private-sector” job
    On the other hand, Mr. Romney has had the experience of meeting payroll, understanding that every penny is important when it is coming out of your own company and not out of the publics pocket.
    This is a no-brainer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kbharrington Katherine Beach Harrington

    There is no THINKING involved with these people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MKarnakz Gina de Miranda

    Tell that to the Europeans who do bear arms.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MKarnakz Gina de Miranda

    How true

  • http://www.facebook.com/MKarnakz Gina de Miranda

    WHAT? Mr. Romney has made a career of moving money offshore so that taxes won’t be taken out of it. I would say that his money came right out of our pockets. His dad was a millionaire. Romney is a Bush protege and not a “self-made” man…PUHLEEZE do your damn homework.

  • susan

    Pres. Obama has put forth solutions and compromises, one after another, only to have the Republican-controlled House reject and dismiss them regardless of what effect this had on the average American or the country as a whole. The Republican/Tea Party has had one and only one agenda, “make Obama a one-term president” with no regard for what is best of the USA or its people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/akardoff Alan D Kardoff

    I am a socialist, too.

  • Andy Hinson

    Michael Harrington, a great leader in the Socialist movement said that it is impossible for society, any society to carry out liberal reform ..to “allocate social costs properly” without its being able to assert a decisive interest (representing the people as I understand) over the huge corporations. That would mean a continuing ever-present danger of inefficiency, poor government service etc. But he went on to say that would be ..”infinitely preferred to the one incurred by leaving the corporate structure in its present form”. Even so, the public corporation like that of the TVA or worker’s cooperatives each with both the right financing and responsibility to elected representatives of the people, with all the problems this entails still is a right step in the best direction. I think this is a good answer and i wish it would be brought up again when socialism a much abused word, is talked about as an alternative view offering possibly better solutions is brought up. The idea of socialism, its definition has nothing anti-democratic about it nor something to fear as an ultimate evil idea. In fact we have more to fear from the entrenchment of power that i exists inside our society by the power elite that sit inside the boardrooms of the huge corporations.

  • Somerset Son

    N-O-T-H-I-N-G!

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.h.baugh Linda Heer Baugh

    Honey, what Mr. Romney did was reduce or eliminate payroll by laying off workers, closing plants, and sending jobs oversears. He built no business, he was playing with money, period.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lyn.morris.3781 Lyn Morris

    In America, the Red Scare is so present that no one knows anything but the propaganda. Many people also can’t differentiate between HCR & single-payor. Immigrants like me may know the difference but we don’t collectively refute the claims as we should. I am also proud progressive Liberal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000161307936 Lauren S. Kahn

    Then I guess I’m a socialist too because I believe in shared responsibility for community problems. By the way, I would gladly support a tax increase for a universal payer health plan and I am on Medicare. What I really don’t get about some of the Tea Party is many of them holding up signs “Protect my Medicare” as they oppose health care for others.

    When you have no case, you throw around words such as “socialism”.

  • Invested

    And those same non-thinking people are dismantling the role of public education to promote critical thinking skills….

  • http://www.facebook.com/gene.bivins Gene Bivins

    The Republicans in Congress have been blocking the American Jobs Act for a year now. Why isn’t it their fault and not the President’s?

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.clintonbutts Amy Clinton Butts

    That’s the way I see the situation, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ned-Smith/100000172127034 Ned Smith

    It was enlightening and energizing to see Bernie Sanders on the Bill Moyers Show tonight but as I watched I couldn’t help but feel that eloquent, expressive and convincing as he is, he will never be able to get a significant grass roots movement going by himself. I couldn’t help but wonder about the Occupy Wall St. movement that appeared to be “for one brief shining moment” the spark that could get a real fire going but now seems to have faded out. Did Wall St. buy out the Occupiers? Or was it all just a puerile bid for attention

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ned-Smith/100000172127034 Ned Smith

    “Elected officials joined Bernie Sanders”? When the pigs can fly and Wall St. goes straight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/taylor.gregg.50 Taylor Gregg

    What Mr. Romney lacks is some sort of vision beyond “meeting a payroll” that is needed to run a country. To date he hasn’t shown that he can do anything beyond the payroll, and that isn’t nearly enough to get my (independent) vote. The thought that somebody of his mindset could become president scares

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ned-Smith/100000172127034 Ned Smith

    As one “”buddhist, hippie, Marine Sergeant” to another, Semper Fi my friend but we both know we’re pissing in the wind

  • Snowdoll

    And I wish someone would do something – or at least start talking about TEMP AGENCIES!!!!!!! I hate them ! Especially when the company that is “hiring” the temps owns the temp agency that they are hiring their own temps from… pls explain the purpose?? And what is the purpose of keeping a person a temp for a YEAR + ??? At obscene wages… Why is it that an auto factory worker temp can be a temp employee – treated as a 2nd class citizen within that factory – and make only $8.50 an hour – and when they work 7 days a week can’t even get double time because the TEMP AGENCY Is earning THEIR double time?? And……….. what’s more – Who can even LIVE on $8.50 an hour??? AND…………. Why does a cereal company pay ITS employees $16 and hour – a Potato chip company pays their TEMPS $16.25 and hour – but a temp in an auto factory can only make $8.50/hr??? A GLOBAL COMPANY Mind you – a fortune 500 company ….. I am so loathe with temp agencies…… (puke!)

  • Anonymous

    And in Oregon…

  • daoisticrealism

    I would like to see Senator Sanders and the Green Party prez and vice in another party not called the “green” party. Please someone create a party with a better name. How about the “Middle” party.

  • Markus

    they don’t have the military bill of the US. There is nothing wrong with investing the money where the need is. Europe is far better off, then pictured by people who do not understand the benefit of social systems.

  • http://www.facebook.com/markus.wiedemeier Markus Wiedemeier

    I never miss a show of Bill Moyers. His selection of the real news are too important and stimulating my mind.

  • Anonymous

    What’s wrong with “Green” party?

  • Jim

    Well, I for one am opposed to socialism not because of some sort of “Red scare” mentality, but because I believe it is a fundamentally flawed idea that ultimately does not work. Granted it can work to a large extent on a microscale–that is, smaller populations like those of the Scandinavian countries, but it admittedly fails in larger countries. It’s failing in France now, and never really did yield fantastic results for them anyhow. All over Europe, many of the more socialized nations are experiencing greater difficulties than the U.S. right now. Germany is leading the EU right now, economically speaking, and interestingly enough has been gradually moving away from socialism for sometime now. For instance, they have privatized their formerly public sector postal service and telecommunications. The result in the former case was a turn around from hundreds of millions of dollars being lost each year to about $1 billion being made each year.

    I could go on for quite a while as to why socialism is not a long-term sustainable model, especially for a large country, but those are just a few basic facts. I also want to note that I share many of the concerns that Bernie Sanders mentioned in this interview; I simply disagree that socialism is a proper way to address those concerns. But this common perception that conservatives do not care about the working class citizen or about justice issues in general is a myth–I am proof of that fact as are many of my friends. The divergence is not between our concerns so much as what we believe to be the proper way to address those concerns. Where I disagree with Sanders is where he draws a sharp dichotomy between favoring big business and favoring the working class citizens out there. I believe legislation that is best for the one is ultimately best for the other. I believe history, and my travels worldwide have demonstrated this. I do believe that government should enforce regulations on big business to see to it that the working class are not exploited–but to stifle big business is to stifle employment opportunities, growth opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, etc. In short, it only serves to stifle development at large and, on the microscale, keep food of the tables in the long run.

  • Anonymous

    Bernie, I wish it were not so, but you will never convince a majority of Americans that social democracy means politicians who work on behalf of the people who work for a living; who work to ensure the health of the environment that sustains them; and who fight for the fair distribution of wealth. I came to political consciousness during the McCarthy era, so I’ve witnessed three generations of Americans victimized by the politics of fear, and the focus of that fear were the Soviet communists — every American’s nightmare image of a “socialist.”

    Moreover, thanks to that ongoing propaganda campaign, “socialism” means liberals — the exact centre of the political spectrum — plus everything to the left of them. Most Americans don’t know the difference between Hitler and Stalin, much less the difference between Marx and Lenin. Indeed, Americans are proud of the fact that there is no left wing at all to the American political spectrum.

    Where are the senior high school courses that lay out the basics of political theory and ask students to debate the merits and shortcomings of various political positions along the whole of the political spectrum? Where are the American university programs in history, economics, or business that actually require their majors to take courses in marxist economic or political theory? Indeed, on how many campuses can one find a specialist in marxism? For most Americans, Marx is the anti-christ.

    Indeed, there is a massive number of Americans who are strenuously opposed to students getting an education in anything that might challenge the religion of ruthlessly competitive capitalism — and it really shows in the way Americans worship the wealthy and will vote for their interests instead of their own.

    Where, Bernie, are you gonna start with these folks?

  • sokolowmus

    It’s nice to say you share Bernie’s concerns. What really matters, though, is to support legislation that helps address those concerns. conservatives have been using the “stifling business” excuse forever to deny workers decent wages, fight universal healthcare, and oppose any govt. programs that help working people, while applauding govt. programs that help wealthy corporations who don’t need the help.

  • Lynn Hudson

    I thought we were going to get to ask Sen. Sanders questions today. I guess I missed it. I wish he would run for President, but I guess with Congess the way it is, he wouldn’t be able to get anything done either. Bernie Sanders and Bill Moyers, you’re my heroes.

  • Gray

    Is Obama a Socialist? Except for the “affordable health care act” his record shows nothing clear. However, by considering his mentors, it is clear that Obama is an anti-coloniast-anti-american. Obama must be thinking that bringing the American economy down a few notches will give hope to the common people of the world. Bernie Sanders, do you really think the eventual rise of banana republic dictators will do anything for the common man? But that is Obama’s strategy. Go and see for yourself D’Souza’s 2016 and you will get it in Obama’s own words and shown by his own foreign policy record.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kxwaal Kyle Mark Waal

    you depress me. obama is a filthy capitalist pig.