US Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has long been a vocal proponent of the Scandinavian welfare model. The Vermont senator, who has been surging in the polls to close in on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has spoken often about his admiration for Denmark's social system.
The self-defined ‘democratic socialist' did so again in Tuesday's debate when asked by moderator Anderson Cooper if Americans would ever be willing to support a socialist for president.
“When you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we're not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are going to have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth,” 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,” the senator continued.
Cooper was quick to point out that comparisons to Denmark might not be that simple.
“Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people,” the CNN host said.
Sanders clarified that he rejects the “casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little”.
“I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires,” he said.
When Clinton took the mic, she agreed with Sanders about the problem of inequality in the United States but distanced herself from his comparisons to Scandinavia.
“But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it's our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn't run amok and doesn't cause the kind of inequities we're seeing in our economic system,” the Democratic front-runner said.
David S. Miller, a spokesman for Democrats Abroad Denmark, told The Local that the candidates' sparring over Denmark revealed some differences between the two most likely Democratic presidential candidates.
“Bernie Sanders has used Sweden, Norway and particularly Denmark as examples of societies with a good work/life balance, maternity leave, single payer (government paid) health care for all, free tuition at universities, etc., although he doesn't support the past twenty years' xenophobia in Denmark,” Miller said.
“Hillary Clinton to a somewhat lesser degree also supports many of the same aspects of Danish society, but for instance doesn't feel that the children of the very rich should have free tuition at public universities,” he added.
The Democrats' next debate will be on November 14th.