CBS late-night host Stephen Colbert asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) Tuesday if campaigning under a "socialist" banner was wise given progressive candidates' recent primary losses.
In many contentious primary elections around the country, candidates supported by Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York congressional candidate and fellow democratic socialist, lost to candidates supported by Democratic leadership. In an exchange flagged by the Washington Examiner, Colbert asked Sanders why he identifies as a socialist given its negative associations.
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"Why do you need to call yourself socialist?" Colbert said. "Because that’s freighted with so much negativity in the United States."
"I’m just saying that, like, people are very excited about Ocasio-Cortez," Colbert continued. "But the people she campaigned for did not win their primaries. Only half the people you have campaigned for have won their primaries so far. So maybe there’s a little, there’s a little taint to socialism that turns people off."
Sanders denied there's any "taint" to socialism in the United States.
"I don't really think so," Sanders said. "I think the real issue is that the ideas we have been talking about, almost without exception, Stephen, are now ideas that are mainstream ideas that are supported by the vast majority of American people."
Sanders went on to state many of the policies he and Ocasio-Cortez support, such as the federal government providing free health care and college for all. The senator has become a leader among Democrats–despite his decision to remain an independent–after his run against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and her subsequent loss to Donald Trump.