Buttigieg: The word 'socialism' has lost its meaning

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (D) on Sunday dismissed President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDem lawmaker rips opposition to Amazon going into New York: 'Now we're protesting jobs' Reporter says majority appears to favor progressive tax plans Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union 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."