WASHINGTON – The label "Democratic Socialist" has attracted a wave of attention across the country over the past few years, especially among younger voters. But what exactly does it mean? And how does it compare to the socialism we've seen throughout history?
Socialism is a system where the government controls production and how goods are distributed to the people.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders describes his brand of Democratic Socialism as a continuation of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt worked to achieve during his time in office.
Here's how Sen. Sanders (I-VT) described it during a town hall on CNN. "Having in a civilized society the understanding that we can make sure that all of our people live in security and in dignity. Healthcare is a human right, all people should have healthcare. You can't get ahead in this country, in this world, unless you have a decent education."
While the Democratic Socialists of America declined CBN's request for an interview, many Democrats say they have a cleared-eyed understanding of what Sanders wants to achieve.
"I understand it as an ideal, idealized or aspiration form of socialism where you have that same government system of control, but the government should be democratically elected so it's a softer form of socialism, but there's an inherent contradiction there," explains Ryan Pougiales, senior political analyst with Third Way during an interview with CBN News.
"Socialism itself is defined by control, control by the state over the economy and who gets what, but then the democratic element butts up against it because democracy is meant to be about freedom," Pougiales says.
Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank, has been critical of Sanders.
"We're deeply concerned about his politics, specifically the specter of Democratic Socialism which hangs over everything he does," Pougiales says.
Sanders says Democratic Socialism offers economic equality, but Joel Griffith with The Heritage Foundation says his trillion dollar programs will be a burden on middle class Americans.
"If you look at France for instance, it's a partially socialized economy. Their payroll tax is at 54%. That's the type of tax burden we're talking about here in the United States if we want to actually enact those left-leaning, radically progressive policies," Griffith tells CBN News.
Also, many Democrats have grave concerns about Sanders' impact on congressional candidates on the ballot this year.
"We want to see somebody on the ticket that will allow us to expand our numbers, not having to run some kind of a rear guard campaign in order to keep from being tarnished with a label," Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) said during a recent interview on CNN.
Some GOP candidates took advantage of Sanders' front-runner status to label their Democratic opponents "Bernie Bros."
"If Sanders is the nominee in 2020 they'll be stuck with the Sanders agenda rather than being able to run on those kind of common sense, kitchen table suite of issues that won them their elections in 2018," Pougiales explains.
Still, the idea of socialism as an alternative to capitalism in the US is expected to stick around beyond Bernie Sanders.
That's because polling shows young adults ages 18 to 34 tend to like it.