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Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis I & Socialism in Philadelphia

SocialismPHILADELPHIA – A now famous 2011 Pew Research poll found that America’s younger population differs greatly than past generations in regards to the notion of socialism.

“Today, it has become much easier to talk about socialism,” said Dustin Guastella, co-chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Socialists of America. “Some of the older folks in our organization have said it was much harder to do in the ’80s and ’90s. Nowadays, a lot of young people see it as a more positive term.”

Millennials grew up in the post-Cold War era, where red scare tactics have mostly dissipated but some remnants of this culture have stuck.

“Until a majority of folks in this country are mature enough politically to say, ‘So what? Most democratic capitalist societies have such programs and in those countries, socialism isn’t a dirty word,’ the United States will remain the most inegalitarian of the major capitalist democracies,” said Joseph M. Schwartz, a DSA member and political science professor at Temple University.

Following the economic collapse of 2008, many young people started to look more critically at the American economic and social structure. Through outlets such as the Occupy Movement, socialism has been discussed as a social and economic system while the same fear-based rhetoric has seemingly been reassigned to America’s ‘new’ greatest threat, terrorism.

“I view those things as indicators that people are getting more and more frustrated with the status quo,” said Liz Henderson, co-chair of the Philadelphia DSA, “and more and more frustrated with … you do everything right and we have this American Dream and it just seems like a dream deferred now for a whole lot of people.”

Later this year, Pope Francis I will visit Philadelphia. Many conservative pundits, such as Rush Limbaugh, have spoken out against Francis’ critiques of capitalism.

Next year, the Democratic National Convention will descend on the city. Outside of Vice President Joe Biden, it seems that Hillary Clinton’s biggest hurdle to the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee will be independent Vermont Senator and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

On July 1, Sanders held his largest rally to date in Madison, Wisconsin attracting 9,600 people to the 10,231-seat Alliant Energy Center.

According to the Washington Post, Sanders raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours after he announced he candidacy, topping every other candidate who reported their first 24-hour totals. He doubled that number over the next three days according to the Huffington Post.

The Philadelphia DSA is planning a grassroots event in September to bring attention to the Sanders campaign.

“The general idea is to get a panel of people together and talk about Bernie Sanders to one, educate people about, ‘Hey look Bernie Sanders is running, who is he, what does he care about?” Henderson said. “And then two, to also engage activists. There really needs to be a movement from people on the ground.”

This story was originally produced for, a division of the Temple University School of Media & Communication’s Journalism Department. It can be found published here.

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