Obama 2012 Campaign Manager: Embracing Socialist Label Is 'Harmful to Democrats'

September 12, 2018

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign manager, said on Wednesday that it is "harmful" to the party when Democrats embrace the socialist label.

"I think it's really bad politics and harmful to Democrats," Messina said. "Democrats need to focus on bread and basket issues to make the economy better, not labeling ourselves socialists or communists or anything else. We've got to stay focused on what makes people's lives better, and this is a side show."

Axios reporter Alexi McCammond said Republicans weaponize the move by some Democrats to embrace the socialist movement.

"I think they are, though. The Democratic leaders here in Washington are pushing for the people, which is a pretty run-of-the-mill, you know, kitchen table issues thing," McCammond said. "I think we are seeing how Republicans are weaponizing this democratic socialist movement, to your point. That is something Democrats will be worried about."

PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor added that people might take issue with the socialist label but agree with the policies that come with it.

"I covered Bernie Sanders, and while people might have had issues with the term 'socialist,' a lot of people, when you looked at what they believe in–health care for all, free college tuition, actual equality, shrinking the gap between poor people and rich people–they agreed with that," Alcindor said.

Messina said that while he agreed with Alcindor's point, the same thought process didn't apply to independent voters.

"I agree with that. But you're talking about Democrats. We're talking about independent voters who are going to decide these battleground states. The term 'socialist' is a term that is not helpful to the candidates in the race of their lives," Messina said.

A Gallup poll conducted in August showed a majority of Democrats have a more positive view of socialism than capitalism. The poll showed 57 percent view socialism in a positive light against just 47 percent who view capitalism positively.

A number of prominent voices on the left have celebrated democratic socialist candidates who have won primaries this year, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York's 14th Congressional District. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said in July that Ocasio-Cortez is "the future of the party."