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

A speechwriter for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Democrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits 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 TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food 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 WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case 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