Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders explained on Friday why he’s not insulted when people call him a socialist.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, laughed when he was asked by “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert why he wouldn’t take the words “liberal” and “socialist” to be insults.
“I prefer the term, actually, to be a progressive and I’ll tell you why,” he said. Using Denmark as an example, Sanders said that social-democratic countries had better health care, child care and higher education systems than those in the United States.
“What you have is a society where government — as I believe it should in this country, radical idea though it may be — should actually represent working people and the middle class rather than large campaign donors,” Sanders said.
When asked what his vision for America would look like in “concrete terms,” Sanders spoke about what he saw as a “moral outrage” in the United States.
“In concrete terms, what it means is that it is a moral outrage that the top one-tenth of 1 percent today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” he said. “That is the outrage and that has gotta change.”
That outrage at income inequality, Sanders said, is why he does not have a Super PAC, which would allow corporations, unions and other groups to give unlimited donations.
“I don’t have a Super PAC, I’m one of the few presidential candidates that does not, because frankly, I do not support the agenda of corporate America or the billionaire class. I don’t want their money,” he said.
Sanders has surged ahead of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and Iowa, though polls this early in a presidential contest can be poor predictors of the eventual outcome. Asked why voters who think Clinton has a better shot of defeating a Republican should support him, Sanders made the case that he would match up better against a Republican in the general election.
“If you look at the polls of me running against Republicans, despite the fact that still in this country 20, 30, 40 percent of the people don’t know who I am or what I am fighting for, we do almost as well and in some cases better than Hillary Clinton does today, and that will only get better in the future,” he said.
“Republicans win when the voter turnout is low,” Sanders continued. “I think the kinds of crowds and the excitement that we are generating with young people, with working people, will result in very large voter turnouts to get the White House, and not only get the White House, recapture the Senate and do well in the House.”
Sanders, who was first elected to Congress in 1990 and is its longest-serving independent, also rejected the suggestion that he was making a populist appeal similar to that of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
“I think that what Trump is doing is appealing to the baser instincts among us, xenophobia and, frankly, racism,” he said. “I think that is disgraceful and not something we should be doing in this country in 2015.”
The Vermont senator, who at times has had a tense relationship with those in the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke about his vision for a more inclusive America.
“What I am talking about is a vision that goes beyond telling us that we have to hate a group of people,” he said. “What I am talking about is saying that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, there are extraordinary things that we can do when people come together, black and white, and gay and straight, and demand that government start working for all of us and not just the few.”
Sanders, who has dismissed frivolous questions from reporters during his campaign, also played along with a lighter segment on the show where he stood in front of a camera and said whether he is for or against certain issues. Among those he weighed in on were rainy-day Mondays (he is against them) and kissing on the first date (he supports it sometimes).