Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg explains to CNN's Jake Tapper why Trump's red baiting over socialism doesn't work so well these days.
February 10, 2019

CNN's Jake Tapper asked Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg about Trump's red-baiting during his State of the Union address last week, proclaiming that "America will never be a socialist country," and whether he was "worried at all that that might be an effective attack against Democrats?"

As Mayor Pete explained, that line of attack has lost its punch now that the cold war is over, and after watching Republicans attack a conservative health care plan first enacted by a Republican governor as "socialism" for the last nine years or so:

BUTTIGIEG: I think he's clinging to a rhetorical strategy that was very powerful when he was coming of age fifty years ago, but it's just a little bit different right now. If you grew up during that cold war period, then you saw a time in politics when the word socialism could be used to end an argument.

Today I think a word like that is the beginning of the debate, not the end of the debate. Look, America is committed to democracy, and we're essentially a market-based economy. But you can no longer simply kill off a line of discussion about a policy by saying that it's socialist. If someone my age or younger is weighing a policy idea and somebody comes along and says you can't do that, it's socialist, I think our answer is going to be, okay, is it a good idea or is it not?

And that word has also lost its power, especially when you think about the way it was applied to characterize, for example, the ACA, an idea that --

TAPPER: The Affordable Care Act.

BUTTIGIEG: The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, invented by a conservative think tank, relying on market principles, implemented first by a Republican governor, and they said that was socialism. So I think the word has mostly lost its meaning, and it's certainly lost its ability to be used as a kill switch on debate.

That won't stop Republicans, Trump and their allies over on State-Run TV, a.k.a. Fox "News" from trying to use the word to bludgeon Democrats, but he's right, for the rest of the country, they've weakened their own attacks by labeling what used to be conservative ideas as "socialism." If Trump and Republicans really want to continue along this line of attack, Democrats need to make them explain why they don't want to get rid of Social Security and the VA.

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