Now that Bernie Sanders has entered the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, other contenders are rapidly trying to distance themselves from the word “socialism,” even if they embraced it just a few short days ago.
It’s an odd phenomenon: Democratic voters have recently warmed to the term “socialism,” acccording to the Gallup polling company, and Sanders has easily outraised his Democratic opponents, hauling in more than a million dollars in his first day, and more than $6 million in his first 24 hours.
“Previously, Senator Kamala Harris of California had claimed the biggest early fund-raising haul that had been made public, with $1.5 million in 24 hours. In comparison, Mr. Sanders’s campaign said its fund-raising in the first 24 hours came to $5.9 million,” The New York Times reports.
But Democrats like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) are quickly finding ways to distance themselves from Bernie’s and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) particular brand of governance, especially as they begin the process of pressing the flesh in early primary states like New Hampshire.
“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 told reporters Tuesday, as she began her first trip through the first-in-the-nation 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 quickly added that she opposes things like wage inequality, but didn’t elaborate on whether that would involve a comprehensive wealth-redistribution scheme, or a top-down reformatting of America’s economic systems, a la Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” (though Harris has expressed support for the GND before, just not since details of the plan became public).
Democrat Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has reportedly positioned herself as the most viable alternative to socialist-leaning Democrats — a unique, if risky position that could end up pulling Klobuchar away from the pack.
During a townhall event earlier this week, Klobuchar was very clear that she would have no problem turning down socialist solutions to what she believes are complex problems. She has spoken out against the now-increasingly unpopular Medicare-for-all plan, and refused to promise an audience member that she would make public university education free, even though other Democrats are united on that front.
Talking about policy solutions and legislative compromise, though, runs a real risk in a crowded Democratic field, where contenders are rushing to promise the most to the most people. Although Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) don’t identify as “Democratic socialists,” they’re still actively courting Ocasio-Cortez’s demographic, with promises to pull down border walls, enact restrictive legislation on industry in the name of “climate change,” and promising major expansions to welfare programs.
Sanders, of course, promises the most of all. The now two-time Democratic presidential candidate is, surprisingly, considered a front-runner, having championed policies that are now popular among Democratic voters.