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

A speechwriter for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Top aide Jeff Weaver lays out Sanders's path to victory 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 TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump 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 WarrenTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall In shift, top CEOs say shareholder value not top goal 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