Shortly after he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981, Sanders told a room full of charity workers, “I don’t believe in charities,” because only the government should provide social services to the needy.
He traveled to Nicaragua in 1985 to meet Sandinista leaders, who had installed a socialist government after overthrowing an American-backed dictator. Sanders attended the sixth-anniversary celebration of the Sandinistas’ revolution and praised Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega.
In 1988, he visited the USSR, three years before it collapsed. After his trip, Sanders praised the Soviets’ social and cultural programs, saying American leaders had much to learn from the communist system. In 1989, Sanders traveled to Cuba to seek a meeting with Fidel Castro—though he ended up settling for the mayor of Havana.
Today, Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist” and has become a millionaire. He favors single-payer health care, free public college for all, and a $15 minimum wage. And he has distanced himself from some of his former positions in support of the Sandinistas and Castro, pointing instead to Nordic countries as examples to follow.
But one thing has remained constant as Sanders has shifted his focus from Nicaragua, Cuba, and the USSR to Denmark, Finland, and Sweden: In all of these countries, he’s misled his followers about the political and economic realities on the ground.