‘Of course we can afford it…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Presidential-hopeful Democrats have argued Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.—who is already a strong frontrunner in the 2020 election—is a weak candidate because he embraces socialist policies.
“I think ‘socialist’ is a word that someone who wants to beat Trump should consider carefully before embracing,” one senior adviser to a rival campaign told The Hill.
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the same argument against Sanders in 2016, when Sanders began to close the gap in the primary.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was the first to make this distinction between her and Sanders.
“The people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist,” Harris said at a campaign event in New Hampshire after being asked if she would need to come out as a democratic socialist to win the key primary state.
“I believe that what voters do want is they want to know that whoever is going to lead understands that in America today, not everyone has an equal opportunity and access to a path to success,” she continued.
Ironically, Harris is one of several candidates who has embraced Sanders’ “Medicare for All”—a radical piece of legislation that would saddle all Americans with government-run health care from the flawed system that routinely has its coffers raided for Congressional spending initiatives.
But Harris claimed “Medicare for All” isn’t actually a socialist idea.
“No, no. It’s about providing health care to all people,” Harris told NBC News’s Kasie Hunt last week after being asked if Sanders’ healthcare policy was equivalent to socialism.
“It’s about understanding that access to affordable health care should not be a privilege, it should be a right. It’s about understanding that in a democracy, and the way we have constructed our democracy, we at least in concept have said that your access to public education, public health or public safety should not be a function of how much money you have,” Harris said.
At another campaign stop in New Hampshire, Harris directly told reporters that she is “not a democratic socialist.”
Harris has dodged questions about the recently-proposed Green New Deal, as well. Harris joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., in vouching for the legislation, put out by the office of self-identified democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-N.Y., earlier this month.
Harris defended the unrealistic legislation in an interview with CNN’s John King last week, arguing that the all-encompassing plan addresses an “existential threat to us as human beings.”
“There’s no question we have to be practical. But being practical also recognizes that climate change is an existential threat to us as human beings,” Harris said. “Being practical recognizes that greenhouse gas emissions are threat to our air, and threatening our planet. And that it is well within our capacity as human beings to change our behaviors in a way that we can reduce its effect. That’s practical. Of course we can afford it.”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas—who staged a failed Senate campaign to oust Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last year—has also distanced himself from Sanders’ socialist label, declaring himself a “capitalist.”
“I don’t see how we’re able to meet any of the fundamental challenges that we have as a country without, in part, harnessing the power of the market,” O’Rourke told reporters in El Paso, Texas.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who—despite holding one of the most extreme voting records in Congress—has positioned herself as a centrist–moderate in the field, said she thinks Sanders’ ideas, including “Medicare for All” are “unrealistic.”
“I’m just looking for something that will work now,” she said during a CNN town hall last week.
Sanders’s allies continue to defend him, saying Democrats’ attacks on his socialist policies won’t deter his campaign, which already financially surpasses the other candidates’.
“He’s clearly a Democrat, and the party has grown enormously because of his efforts,” Larry Cohen, the chairman of Our Revolution, the political organization that supported Sanders in 2016, told The Hill. “And his real brand is that he doesn’t just speak to Democrats. He speaks to literally millions of people that are unaffiliated. And he’s really talking about what we should aim for and where we can build a consensus.”