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Can Democratic Socialism Pass the Electability Test? It Already Has

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Reprinted from The Nation

Long before Bernie Sanders, socialists were winning elections -- and debates about the direction of the United States.

From flickr.com/photos/37996583933@N01/19621585273/: Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders
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No one who has paid attention to the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is unaware that democratic socialists have won elections in Denmark. Bernie Sanders has made the point abundantly clear in interviews, speeches, and debates -- to the amusement of pundits and the frustration of at least some of his supporters.

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It's just that, well, let's let Anderson Cooper spell things out.

After explaining in the first Democratic debate that "democratic socialism is about saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent... own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent," and suggesting that taxation of some of that wealth would free the United States to provide "healthcare to all people as a right...medical and family paid leave," Sanders said, "Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people."

It was at this point that Cooper interrupted with what has become a reasonably standard response to Sanders's referencing of Scandinavian social democracies: "Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that's what I'm trying to get at."

The point is well taken. Denmark is much smaller than the United States. And, frankly, larger countries that have elected democratic socialist governments -- Germany, Britain, France, Australia, Sweden -- are different in their own ways from the United States.

Democratic socialists have been elected to the Senate and the House, as state legislators and as big-city mayors.

So what of "electability here"?

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When Sanders delivered his much-anticipated address on democratic socialism at Georgetown University Thursday, he linked his vision to that of a repeatedly-elected Democratic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did not identify as a democratic socialist but who borrowed freely from the platforms of his Socialist Party rival, Norman Thomas. In particular, Sanders connected his contemporary vision to the one outlined by FDR in the 32nd president's 1944 appeal for a "Second Bill of Rights" that would guarantee:

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