Buttigieg: The word 'socialism' has lost its meaning

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (D) on Sunday dismissed President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report 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) SandersOvernight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Ex-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWarren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 Ocasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff' Ocasio-Cortez releases 'Green New Deal' short film 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."