Former staffer for freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) Waleed Shahid said that people labeling themselves as capitalists is becoming more "fringe" than calling themselves socialists.
"I think Bernie Sanders really opened the debate for democratic socialism in this country. So it's not as fringe as you might think. In fact, what's becoming fringe is if you call yourself a capitalist openly," he said during a Sunday MSNBC Headliners feature on the rise of progressive Democrats in the 2018 midterms following Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) 2016 presidential run.
Openness to socialism has become a flagship issue among 2020 Democratic candidates, with some many candidates adopting socialist-influenced positions such as "Medicare for all" and Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal. Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) supported Medicare for all during a CNN town hall in February. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and many others have spoken in favor of the Green New Deal.
Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D), who had been a successful businessman before running for political office, refused to "label" himself as a capitalist during an interview in March on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
When host Joe Scarborough asked Hickenlooper if he considered himself a capitalist and does capitalism work, the former governor would not answer. Scarborough repeated the question several times, before Hickenlooper responded.
"Well, I think, I don't look at myself with a label," Hickenlooper said. "And I certainly think that small business is part of the solution. I think right now the way capitalism is working in the United States, it's not doing what it once did."
Hickenlooper added that he doesn't think capitalism is providing opportunities for middle class and poor people, suggesting that lawmakers need to explore other options.
"And I think as a country we need to step back and look at that and say, how do we get America back to place it was where if you worked hard enough no matter where you started on the economic ladder, you would have a chance to go ahead and create your own version of the American dream?" he said.