Progressive commentator calls Sanders embrace of democratic socialism ‘tactical mistake’

Progressive commentator David Pakman criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) embrace of democratic socialism, calling the move a “strategic and tactical mistake.”

Pakman, who is a radio host of “The David Pakman Show,” said even though he voted for Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary, the 2020 Democratic contender is not going about communicating his message in the right way.

“There’s no reason to be doing this sort of self-inflicted damage,” he told Hill.TV during an interview that aired on Friday.

“And I understand the argument — either way they’re going to call it socialist why not embrace the label — the reason not to embrace the label is that social democracy is capitalism, it’s well-regulated capitalism not socialism,” he continued.

“I do think it’s a strategic and tactical mistake,” he added.

Pakman went on to highlight the similarities between Sanders and his chief rival on the left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has repeatedly referred to herself as a capitalist, while calling for more regulations to combat social and economic inequality.

“He [Sanders] may be a socialist and Elizabeth Warren is a capitalist but on policy they’ve come very, very close,” he said, adding that both contenders are closer to social democracy than anything else.

Pakman’s comments come after Sanders delivered a speech last week defending his signature, and at times controversial, political ideology.

During a recent address at George Washington University, Sanders attempted to provide clarity on his brand of socialism, stressing his policies are a continuation of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

The Hill has reached out to the Sanders campaign for comment.

“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. “This is the unfinished business of the Democratic Party and the vision we must accomplish.”

Americans attitudes towards socialism have shifted in recent years. 

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 57 percent of Democratic voters have a favorable view of socialism, compared to 47 percent of those with a positive view of capitalism.

—Tess Bonn