Buttigieg: The word 'socialism' has lost its meaning

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (D) on Sunday dismissed President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' 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 Sanders'Medicare for All': The hype v. Maryland's reality Biden says he supports paying campaign staff minimum wage Biden's lead narrows in early voting states: poll MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Trump's risky bid for attention Conservative former NFL player says Trump met with him to discuss 'black America' Louisiana police officer fired after saying on Facebook that Ocasio-Cortez 'needs a round' 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."