Sanders's speechwriter on democratic socialism: Voters want plans, not labels

A speechwriter for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Sanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally MORE’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign pushed back against criticism of the 2020 candidate’s support of democratic socialism, saying voters care more about plans not labels.

“Senator Sanders will be judged on the agenda he is pushing,” David Sirota told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti on Wednesday.

“People are looking not necessarily at labels, they are looking at exactly what you are going to do,” he added.

Sanders doubled down on his support for democratic socialism on Wednesday.

During a speech at George Washington University, Sanders criticized Trump, accusing him of being a corporate socialist and aligning himself with authoritarian leaders in Saudi Arabia and Russia.

“While President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE and his fellow oligarchs attack us for our support of democratic socialism, they don’t really oppose all forms of socialism,” he said. “They may hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires.”

Sirota told Hill.TV that Sanders’ forceful address was aimed at clearing up some of the misconceptions over Sanders’ stance on the philosophy, which was once considered taboo but has started to gain mainstream acceptance. 

“There’s a lot out there about what is democratic socialism — Bernie Sanders has called himself a democratic socialist for many, many years,” he said. “The idea is to make clear what exactly that means.”

While some of his fellow Democratic contenders like Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally Sanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally Warren introduces universal child care legislation MORE (D-Mass.) have sought to distance themselves being characterized as a socialist, Sanders has leaned into the label and cast it as a continuation of certain welfare policies created under former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

“Today in the second decade of the 21st century, we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion,” he said in Wednesday's speech.

—Tess Bonn