Buttigieg: The word 'socialism' has lost its meaning

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (D) on Sunday dismissed President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE's efforts to portray Democratic policy pitches as "socialism," arguing that the term no longer carries negative connotations.

“I think he's clinging to a rhetorical strategy that was very powerful when he was coming of age 50 years ago, but it's just a little bit different right now," Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor who has launched an exploratory committee to run for president, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Today, I think a word like that is the beginning of a debate, not the end of the debate," he added.

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Trump has in recent weeks attempted to tie Democrats and their more progressive ideas to socialism, and pointed to the state of affairs in Venezuela as a potential consequence. During last week's State of the Union address, he pledged that "America will never be a socialist country."

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Kamala Harris calls for new investigation into Kavanaugh allegations MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez endorses challenger to Democrat Lipinski in Illinois race The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? The Memo: Times correction gives GOP lifeline in latest Kavanaugh controversy MORE (D-N.Y.), two leading voices in the Democratic caucus, both identify as democratic socialists.

Buttigieg, who is 37, said someone close to his age is unlikely to reject a policy proposal simply because a critic calls it socialist.

"If someone my age or younger is weighing a policy idea, and somebody comes along and says, you can't do that, it's socialist, I think our answer is going to be, OK, is it a good idea or is it not?" he said.

"So, I think the word has mostly lost its meaning," Buttigieg added. "And it's certainly lost its ability to be used as a kill switch on debate."