Socialism vs. capitalism on trial in heated Sanders-Zupan debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., met face-to-face with Republican challenger Lawrence Zupan on Monday in what proved to be one of the most intense debates of the election season.

When the two U.S. Senate candidates met at noon in VPR’s studios, Zupan did not waste the opportunity to attack Sanders on his political philosophies, especially regarding socialism.

Tensions rose during an exchange about Sanders’ personal earnings from his recent book, “Our Revolution,” and peaked when Zupan argued that the incumbent senator’s core beliefs were un-American.

“Senator Sanders’ reinvention of the word revolution to describe post-Marxist ideas where government takes over everything and, in its infinite wisdom, redistributes to everybody else is not revolutionary at all — it’s regressionary,” Zupan said. “The United States of America has fed, housed, clothed, in freedom, more people than any other country in the history of the world.”

He added that “top-down government control” has caused “more lack, want, suffering, depression, stifling of the human spirit, and death than any other system in the history of the world,” and referred to the collapsed county of Venezuela as an example.

“This Venezuelan system is what Senator Sanders wants to bring to the shores of the blessed country of the United States of America,” Zupan said.

Sanders responded by distinguishing which examples of socialism represent his own vision.

“You are equating what I have to say with Venezuela, which is a failed economy,” Sanders replied. “Why don’t you equate it with what goes on in Denmark and Sweden, which provide health care to all people as a right, which provides free public education through medical school and graduate school, which has a tax system which is fair and progressive, which emphasizes environmental protection, [and] which has early childhood education which would be the envy of the world.”

Vermont’s junior senator especially rejected the insinuation from Zupan that he espouses the authoritarianism common to socialist nations past and present.

“So please do not give us this nonsense, Vermonters know me a little bit better than that. They know I do not believe in authoritarianism,” he said. “In fact, I am fighting right now and running around this country to oppose Republican efforts to suppress the vote, to make it harder for poor people or people of color to vote. I have spent my entire life trying to revitalize democracy.”

Zupan disputed that Denmark and Sweden are socialist countries, saying their fundamental economies are capitalists systems. He further said that they get their military support and medical technologies from the U.S.

Later on, Sanders attacked Zupan on the issue of abortion. He repeatedly asserted that Zupan must not support a women’s right to choose.

“Many of my conservative colleagues talk about getting the government off the backs of the people — they want to deregulate everything,” he said. “But when it comes to a woman’s right to control her own body, they think that big government and federal government should be right in there telling women in this country whether they can control their own body.”

Zupan didn’t explicitly lay out his views on abortion, but he did call it the law of the land and he added that he would fight to see that women get more equal representation in what he described as male-dominated medical research.

Sanders likewise was on the defense when Zupan pushed for him to say whether abortion is morally acceptable when the baby is halfway out of the mother’s body. Sanders did not answer.

On veterans issues, Zupan attacked Sanders for his lack of progress with the VA medical system while serving as chair of the United States Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“When you were the chairman of the VA, you couldn’t even fix the system that was allowing veterans — 21 million people — to suffer and wait for 120 days on waiting-lines,” Zupan said. “And yet you want to design and control a system of health care for 326 million Americans when you’ve never even shown that you can design and control anything? I don’t know how you are gonna do it.”

Sanders was quick to defend his efforts: “Go out and talk to the veterans in the state of Vermont and all over this country and they will tell you that they are very supportive of the VA. And they are vigorously opposed to any effort on the part of the Trump Administration or anybody else to privatize the VA. I’m very proud I’ve added $5 billion more to make sure that the VA has the doctors and the nurses.”

When Sanders asked Zupan if he would cut social services, the challenger replied that instead he would push to eliminate $160 billion in fraud and abuse, which he said occurs with those programs each year.

Public feedback

On Twitter, Bernie fans and critics were going at it. One Bernie critic suggested he needs to do more debates.

A Sanders supporter called the exchange “fireworks.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of VPR/PBS video

11 thoughts on “Socialism vs. capitalism on trial in heated Sanders-Zupan debate

  1. Would like to see one of these debates in three panel format to watch the facial expressions and body lingo real time. There were some eyeball exchanges barely caught that I found interesting. The “moderator” obviously had some loaded questions ready.

  2. Bernie is like the Carnival huckster selling snake oil. Pay close attention to his hands not what he says.
    His hands are in your pockets as his words soothe your ears with free offers. Who could refuse his evil spell?

    Or maybe he is like the deer tick sucking the life out of you one drop of blood at a time while you hardly notice him burrowing in and only causing an itch, then rash, then the crippling disease of Progressive Socialism.

  3. Bernie cares only about himself. His “policies” are not based on any type of reality. Not surprising though, Bernie has never accomplished anything (other than leeching from others)

  4. All you commenters have to vote existing Democrats and Progs out of office.
    They will never give up on their Bernie-style socialism, including the carbon tax, because it is THEIR way to stay in power.
    Having lots of government programs that dole out money to favored groups is their reason for being.
    Those groups will be thankful, and vote Democrat forever.

    This carbon tax has absolutely nothing to do with GW.
    Vermont could disappear, and whatever went on still will go on.

    The carbon tax would set in motion the mother of all government boondoggles that would last for decades.
    Vermont’s way of life would become unrecognizable.
    The regimentation and coercion would be off the charts, all as determined by a nameless bureaucracy.

    Vermonters have been subjected to about 15 years of expensive energy programs to save the world.
    Their ineffectiveness has been proven by INCREASING CO2 emissions.
    The state must get out of the energy business.

    Any tax, including a carbon tax, passing through the hands of government suffers from “the sticky fingers syndrome”, 2 dollars go in, about 1.5 dollars come out.
    The difference stays to feed the growing government bureaucracy.

    The key word missing in this discussion is UNILATERAL
    VT’s government imposing on Vermonters a unilateral carbon tax is like shooting them in the feet.
    If the carbon tax were nationwide, I would support it.

    The carbon tax would:
    – Impose a $10/ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100/ton in 2027.
    – Generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019, about $520 million in 2027.
    – Be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers.

    Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9 c/gal of gasoline in 2018, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
    Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58 c/gal of propane and $1.02/gal of heating oil and diesel fuel in 2027.

  5. I would like to know what has happened to all of the conservative Vermonters? Vermont has always been a Republican state since the 1800’s accept for the 4 Democrat governors we had. I know we had a lot of new comers in the state but I wish they all left their baggage where they came from. Ask someone that was around when Bernie was elected mayor of Burlington how that happened. I cringe every time I hear his name mentioned on national news!

  6. Bernie is all hot air. He has no recognizable accomplishments in Congress. All he does is rail against everything with no fixes that the average Vermonter or US citizen can support. He can link any popularity he has garnered to the fact that he is able to mesmerize his “followers” with free education, free medical, you name it. Other dubious leaders (I am being kind) throughout history have been able to sell the citizens a bill of goods that ended up costing millions their lives and their country. There is nothing free! Take Bernie with a grain of salt…

    As the saying goes, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Bernie continues to grow his wealth exponentially even though he makes $174K per year, all the result of capitalism which he disdains.

    Nuff said.

  7. I watched the debate and was very impressed by Lawrence Zupan. Bernie as usual had nothing to offer, just his tiered old stump speech about the 1%, its like listening to a recording in loop mode, year after year after year. How this man gets reelected time after time is a mystery to me.

    Good job Lawrence, I think you could beat this guy if enough people see you debate him between now and the election. Finally someone who can expose him for what he is, I hope you have time.

  8. Hey Bernie, you should pay attention to the words of wisdom offered by the late, great Margerate Thatcher “eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

  9. I can’t wait until the day that I do not have to see or listen to Bernie Sanders lecture me with the same crap he’s been saying since his Liberty Union post communist days. The man has enriched himself and his family at the cost of peoples hopes that are in the same situation today as they were when he started using them (known as useful idiots) to climb his way to wealth and celebrity. How ignorant does a person have to be to not see that this man has done nothing for the average person or the country? We will undoubtedly have to endure 6 more years of Bernie’s self promotion tour because of zombie voters who will blindly vote for him again only to gain nothing from it.

  10. Bernie ” Soapbox” Sanders, met face-to-face with Republican challenger Lawrence Zupan
    It seemed to me the Ol’Bernster got a little-flustered by most of the question Mr.Zupan tossed
    at him…….

    Ole ” Soap Box ” excuse for not being within the state was due to the fact he was running for
    ” President Of These United States ” talk about skating the issue, blowing your own horn to
    show your relevance…….NO Shame !!

    Then ” Socialist ” Sanders even had an answer that all the failing socialist countries he tried to
    pluck out a few that are still above water …..Not Good Bernie.

    I hope we see another debate when Sanders’ hands are flailing he’s in his rhetoric mode because
    all he’s done is great, just ask him !! ………………… Hey, what has he done ??

    Oh yeah, he mentioned his book on the bestseller list, Bernie blow, blow, blow your horn !!

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