Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper spoke out against socialism during this weekend’s California Democratic Party Convention, and it did not go over very well with the largely left-leaning crowd.
The former Colorado governor issued a warning about adopting socialist policies for the 2020 presidential race, one that led to boos from activists in the crowd. As The Hill reported, Hickenlooper said that candidates must be willing to advocate for progressive goals without endorsing socialism outright.
The report noted that some delegates met the statement with boos, which Hickenlooper likely anticipated. The former governor was known for crafting moderate positions in order to work with the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, then taking a harder shift to the left after the state House and Senate were taken over by Democrats. Colorado has become a swing state that Democrats won in each of the last three presidential elections, but is still largely a purple state.
Hickenlooper said he feared the damage that could come with allowing Republicans to paint Democrats as socialists, which is still a major black mark with voters.
“If we don’t draw a clear distinction between Democrats and our candidates and socialism, the Republicans will paint us into a corner that we can’t get out of,” Hickenlooper told The Hill after the speech.
“Massive government expansions may not be strictly speaking socialism, but trust me: Republicans will make it seem like socialism. In places like Ohio and Michigan and North Carolina and Wisconsin, places we have to win to beat Trump, we’ll be starting out ten yards behind.”
Hickenlooper has frequently spoken out against socialism in public statements, distancing himself from other candidates like Bernie Sanders who openly embraced the position of Democratic Socialism. The reaction was not so abrasive in other instances when Hickenlooper spoke before supporters at campaign rallies.
BTW, @Hickenlooper’s “socialism is not the answer” line isn’t new. He said the same thing, unprompted, two Sundays ago on ABC. For better or worse, swiping the party’s left-most wing is part of his strategy.https://t.co/rzLF1ABK86
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 2, 2019
Joe Biden, who like Hickenlooper has a record of being a centrist and has warned against shifting too far to the left, also said that defeating Donald Trump should be every candidate’s top priority.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) June 1, 2019
The reaction may not do much to affect the former Colorado governor’s position in the race. Hickenlooper has languished near the bottom of presidential polls, registering less than 1 percent support on most polls. Much of the coverage surrounding the 2020 Democratic primary has centered on a conflict between centrists and progressives. Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have tried to push the party leftward, while Biden and others have called for finding common ground between Democrats and Republicans.