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

A speechwriter for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic 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 TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally 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 WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports 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