Student whose family fled Soviet Russia confronts Bernie: How does your plan beat ‘failures of socialism in nearly every country that has tried it?’

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Sen. Bernie Sanders was confronted by a student about how he champions democratic socialism in the face of the  “failures of socialism” worldwide.

At a CNN town hall in Manchester, N.H. Monday, Harvard student Samantha Frenkel-Popell asked the 2020 presidential candidate to “rectify” his support of democratic socialism, explaining that her father’s family fled Soviet Russia decades ago.

“My father’s family left Soviet Russia in 1979 fleeing from some of the very same socialist policies that you seem eager to implement in this country,” the college sophomore said. “How do you rectify your notion of democratic socialism with the failures of socialism in nearly every country that has tried it?”

“Thank you for asking that question,” Sanders said after applause. “Is it your assumption that I supported or believe in authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union? I don’t. I never have, and I opposed it. I believe in a vigorous democracy.”

“You asked me about democratic socialism. Fair question and let me answer,” the Vermont senator continued, saying he believes there is “something fundamentally wrong” when “we have three families owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society, 160 million people.”

“Something wrong when the top one percent owns more wealth than the bottom 92 percent. Something very wrong when 49 percent of all new income today is going to the top one percent,” he added. “And something is equally wrong when we have a corrupt political system made worse by this disastrous citizen’s united Supreme Court decision that allows billionaires to spend unlimited sums of money to elect candidates that represent the wealthy.”

Sanders touted his support for universal health care and free tuition in public colleges and universities, while reiterating that his support of democratic socialism is “certainly not the authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union.”

“I believe that in a democratic, civilized society, health care is a human right,” Sanders said. “Government should make that happen.”

“What democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure,” he added. “In other words, government serves the needs of all people rather than just wealthy campaign contributors. That’s what it means to me.”

But it seems to have meant something different to the presidential contender in the not so distant past when he all but raved about communism. Back in 1986, Sanders even praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in a speech at the University of Vermont as he recalled his excitement as he led the Cuban Revolution.

“I remember, for some reason or another, being very excited when Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba. I was a kid and I remember that. It just seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against the rich ugly people,” he said, adding how he had a sick feeling watching President John F. Kennedy condemn communism in Cuba.

A series of newly re-shared videos uncovered by The Reagan Battalion show the Vermont senator’s ideology and support of the rise of communism and socialism.

A 1985 video showed Sanders berating a reporter for referring to Nicaragua’s communist dictator Daniel Ortega as a communist and a Marxist.

Sanders praised claimed Castro “educated the kids, gave them healthcare, [and] totally transformed the society” in a 1985 interview in which he admitted “the word socialism does not frighten me.”

He also claimed Ortega was an “impressive guy” and lamented that the message from the communist dictators was not getting out to the American people.

“The point that I try to make to many of the people that I spoke to is they’re getting killed in the American media,” Sanders said. “My point to Ortega is they are not getting their message of what they’re trying to do out to the American people. There’s just no question about that.”

The 2020 presidential hopeful also praised Moscow after a 1988 trip, touting programs that he claimed “go far beyond what we do in” America.

“I think it’s also fair to point out that when we were in Moscow, for example, I think most of the people here also were extremely impressed by the public transportation system,” he said at the time. “The stations themselves were absolutely beautiful, including many works of art, chandeliers that were beautiful. It was a very effective system. Also, I was impressed by the youth programs that they have. Their palaces of culture for the young people, a whole variety of programs for young people, and cultural programs, which go far beyond what we do in this country.”

Sanders has come under criticism for his support of socialist ideas and though he attempted to clarify during the town hall Monday that he is “opposed” to the “authoritarian communism” like that which existed in the former Soviet Union, the progressive lawmaker has had a history of comments that seem to contradict that.

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