Former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colo.) on Wednesday said Democratic presidential candidates need to "distance" themselves from socialism if they want to defeat President Donald Trump next year.
Hickenlooper, who is part of the crowded field of over 20 Democrats trying to defeat Trump, appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his campaign and his strategy for defeating Trump if he is the Democratic nominee. He said he didn't believe socialism was the "answer" to defeating Trump, prompting Maddow to ask him why he identified socialism as the alternative.
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"The Republicans have tried to define the Democratic Party as a socialist party. Are you just saying that Bernie Sanders would be a bad nominee?" Maddow asked.
"No, I think that many of my colleagues are promoting large expansions of government, and I don't think we're going to succeed in addressing climate change if, within that legislation, we're guaranteeing federal jobs for everyone," Hickenlooper said. "I don't think we're going to get to universal health care if it includes taking 160 million people and taking them off their private insurance which many of them don't want to lose."
The comment about the federal jobs guarantee refers to the Green New Deal resolution, which was released by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) back in February. Hickenlooper has touted his open opposition to the Green New Deal, since he's the only Democrat in the field to do so.
Hickenlooper said Democrats need to stay "focused" before talking about his record of being a progressive "pragmatist." He continued, "At a certain point if we're going to win in Ohio and Michigan and North Carolina, we going to need someone who is a progressive but a pragmatic. And maybe a dreamer, but also a doer, but someone who can show they've gotten stuff done."
Maddow questioned his logic.
"You know though if you were the Democratic presidential nominee this year, that with all of your pragmatism and all of your record of working across the aisle, Donald Trump will run against you and the entire Republican Party will run against you as a socialist," Maddow said. "You've just used that to disparage some of your candidates running on the same side as you on the Democratic side, but that will be the moniker they put on everybody no matter what you do, so why play into that by saying socialism is the problem?"
Hickenlooper pushed back by saying he isn't playing into Trump's hands, but instead he is laying out "real solutions."
"I don't think those solutions include large expansions in government," he said. "If we're not careful, if we don't distance ourselves from socialism, I think we're going to allow—we're going to turn the election over, a victory over to the worst president in the history of this country."
Maddow was incredulous, but Hickenlooper reiterated his point that pragmatism is superior to socialism.