03:20 - Source: CNN
Bernie Sanders: GOP debate was 'really painful'

Story highlights

Sanders says there was silence at the debate on race and health issues

The Vermont senator says the middle class is doing better in some socialist countries

(CNN) —  

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday defended his views about socialism after coming under fire at the Republican debate.

The Vermont senator, a self-described Democratic socialist, brushed aside charges from GOP candidates that his policies are too extreme and said the middle class in some socialist countries is fairing better than in America.

“I know for Governor (Bobby) Jindal, it is easy to try to frighten people, but I think if you look at some of the real success stories, there’s in many of these countries, there’s a lot that we can learn,” Sanders said on CNN’s “New Day.”

The U.S. should entertain policies that will guarantee healthcare and make college more affordable like some smaller, European countries.

“I think, yes, the United States of America is a much larger and much more complicated society, a much more diverse society,” Sanders said. “But there are things we can learn from other governments which have programs that represent working people.”

READ: Sanders slams income inequality

Sanders also chided the Republican candidates for dodging what he sees as key issues at their debate.

“What was really remarkable is the degree to which they avoided the major issues facing the American people,” he said.

“If you listen to the debate, you would not know that most of the people in our country – not all, but most people – in fact do believe we need comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship,” Sanders added. “That’s the majority opinion and there was virtually no Republican on that stage who agreed with that.”

The GOP contenders also failed to discuss paid family leave policies, climate change and race and poverty issues, Sanders said.

“I didn’t hear a word about the need to address the fact that 40% of African-American kids in this country are living in poverty,” he said. “Nor did I hear a word about racial justice in this country.”