Signaling that he's not prepared to concede the language of "family values" to sanctimonious social conservative scolds, Bernie Sanders on Thursday unveiled his own "family values agenda," centered on a series of proposals to guarantee paid family and medical leave.
Noting that the United States lags other wealthy, industrialized nations in paid leave policies -- indeed, the country ranks last on family policies -- the Vermont senator and 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful called for the U.S. to catch up with the rest of the world.
“Last place is no place for America. It is time to join the rest of the industrialized world by showing the people of this country that we are not just a nation that talks about family values but that we are a nation that is prepared to live up to these ideals," Sanders said in a statement.
Accordingly, the democratic socialist introduced the Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act, legislation that would ensure 10 days of paid vacation annually for employees who have been with the same employer for at least a year. Other elements of Sanders' "family values agenda" include 12 weeks of paid parental leave and at least seven paid sick days a year.
It's an agenda that evokes the Scandinavian-style social democracy Sanders has heralded throughout his five decades in politics. After launching his 2016 bid this spring, Sanders signaled that his campaign forcefully advocate for such a social welfare state; when ABC News' George Stephanopoulos told Sanders that he could envision Republican attack ads arguing that the senator wanted to make America more like Scandinavia, Sanders responded, "That's right. And what's wrong with that?
"What's wrong," Sanders continued, "when you have more income and wealth equality? What's wrong when they have a stronger middle class in many ways than we do, higher minimum wage than we do, and they are stronger on the environment than we do?"
Similarly, Sanders now defies those who constantly hector about "family values" to make their case against paid leave policies geared toward promoting family stability. While the chances that, say, Marco Rubio will come around on such issues are between "zero" and "negative 1,000 percent," Sanders' proposals nevertheless expose the moral bankruptcy of a "values" agenda built on denying women and LGBT families rights -- as opposed to actually strengthening families in all their forms.