2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate

2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate
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MIAMI — Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday battled over socialism ahead of the first presidential debate, the latest sign that contenders are grappling over the future direction of the party and the message they believe is best suited to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE in the general election.

Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K Democrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos MORE (D) walked through the spin room at the Ziff Ballet Opera House, telling reporters that embracing socialism is a surefire general election loser for Democrats.

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“That’s a tough hill to climb in Ohio, in Michigan, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin,” Hickenlooper said. “These are states where they care about jobs and are very cautious about this thing called socialism. They get anxious about that.”

Hickenlooper was asked directly if socialism is a winning strategy for the party.

“No,” he responded. “The word socialism by itself has a lot of baggage in this country and especially in swing states ... it’s not a winning solution and I continue to say you don’t need massive government expansion to change this country.”

 

As Hickenlooper addressed reporters from the floor of the elegant opera house in downtown Miami, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic Biden lets Trump be Trump Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects MORE (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, was in the adjacent room giving an interview to MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt.

Sanders gave an impassioned defense of democratic socialism, telling Hunt that he’ll explain to voters why it shouldn’t be viewed as outside the mainstream. 

“I’ll take care of the label, first by telling the American people what I believe,” Sanders said.

“To me, what democratic socialism is about, is saying health care is a human right. If you work 40 hours a week you should earn a living wage. Education is a human right, and by the way, we’re going to have a tax system that is fair ... we are going to ask the wealthiest and large corporations to pay their fair share and start paying taxes.” 

Sanders this week unveiled a plan to pay off $1.6 trillion in student loan debt.

Progressives have also embraced “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, which critics such as Hickenlooper have described as “massive government expansions.”

Hickenlooper and Sanders will share the debate stage on Thursday night, the second night of debates. 

Hickenlooper and two other low-polling candidates, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 MORE (Colo.) and former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (Md.), have warned the party against embracing Medicare for All and other so-called socialist policies.