Matthews Presses Clinton On The Distinction Between a “Progressive Democrat” and a “Socialist”

There was a curious moment recently in an interview with Hillary Clinton that might interest our political science and philosophy majors. Chris Matthews asked Clinton on MSNBC what a socialist is and the difference between a socialist and a Democrat. Clinton appeared unable or unwilling to answer that question. Given the fact that the Clinton campaign has referred regularly to Bernie Sanders being a socialist and distinguishing Clinton as a “progressive Democrat,” it would seem a fair question. It is not like asking for the difference between a “raven and a writing desk”, but it received the same unclear response.

Matthews gave Clinton a fairly friendly interview and asked this reasonable question for a distinction between the two main rivals for the Democratic nomination. Clinton responded by saying that he should ask Sanders which is a bit odd since she is obviously half of the comparative question. When Matthews refused to backdown and asked “You see, I’m asking you,” Clinton simply replied, “I’m not one.” That makes the issue more confused. When Matthews pressed again, Clinton responded:

“I can tell you what I am, I am a progressive Democrat … who likes to get things done,” Clinton said. “And who believes that we’re better off in this country when we’re trying to solve problems together. Getting people to work together. There will always be strong feelings and I respect that, from, you know, the far right, the far left, libertarians, whoever it might be, we need to get people working together.”

Clearly, saying that you “believe that we’re better off in this country when we’re trying to solve problems together” is hardly a distinction with socialists. Indeed, socialists view themselves as the ultimate example of “working together.”

Notably, the Clinton campaign could have anticipated this question since last July Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz struggled with the same question:

So what is the difference? This blog has a high number of folks from the political science and philosophy areas. Is there an easy distinction?

On one side of the spectrum of socialists, you can have those who want to control the means of production, as in old school Democratic Socialists. Sanders has indicated that he is not one of those advocating such controls. Moreover, there are Libertarian Socialists who prefer less government and more empowerment of workers. Modern Democratic socialists often define themselves in terms that might not easily distinguish themselves from other mainstream political parties. They generally support regulation of the capitalist economy and mitigating the harsh elements of capitalism through welfare programs. Both Clinton and Sanders have spoken of greater regulation of Wall Street and better social programs to help the lower and middle classes. Yet, one calls herself a “progressive democrat” and another calls himself a “socialist.”

For his part, Sanders seems quite comfortable in addressing such definitional issues and appears to follow the more modern usage of socialism in the political system. Roughly a year ago, he stated on MSNBC:

“Let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me,. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that, ‘This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.’ It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.”

He added “The next time you hear me attacked as a socialist – like tomorrow – remember this: I don’t believe that government should take over the grocery store down the street, or control the means of production. But I believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.”

Here is one of his definitional moments:

Without unleashing a partisan pile on, is there a good definition of socialist today in the political system? It is clearly not the old school, control of the means of production approach. Sanders seems to define it in a way that comes close to the view of progressive Democrats in their own self-definition. What do you think?

72 thoughts on “Matthews Presses Clinton On The Distinction Between a “Progressive Democrat” and a “Socialist”

  1. No socialists, no monopolists. Fair square. No welfare for anyone. That means Congressmen and Congresswomen who now get free medical care. No subsidies for religion, education, or food sources. No taxes. Each on their own. No more leashes for dogs.

  2. BarkinDog,

    Let’s check history. America achieved “exceptionalism” through innovation stemming from freedom and free enterprise without interference by government. We can know the empirical evidence of past practices beginning in 1789. America achieved global hegemony by WWII. Since the advent of collectivism and women’s suffrage, the world has diminished American affluence and influence, achieving parity or superiority.

    The global monster of communism has finally crept into America, subsuming it. With the nullification of “natural born citizen,” the American Presidency has been globalized. One World Government assumed full operational mode in the shadows. Incoherent “stimulus,” Quantitative Easing, hyper-printing of worthless dollars, corporate bail-outs and every form of redistribution of wealth have led to a phantom fiscal status comprised of unpayable debt and obligations. Bernie Madoff would be proud of America’s current budgetary Frankenstein. HIs cousins built it.

    The founding documents were nullified beginning with Lincoln’s “Reign of Terror.” God knows why Democrats don’t finish the act by voiding and removing the Preamble, Constitution and Bill of Rights, and declaring universally that the Communist Manifesto holds dominion in America.

    Central Planning
    Control of the Means of Production
    Social Engineering
    Redistribution of Wealth

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

    Let’s ask William Durant, Henry Ford, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Ayn Rand et al. if there is any semblance of free America remaining on the planet. Oh! Did I forget Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Mason, Marshall et al.? Let’s ask them too.

    Communism subsumed America long ago.

  3. Bernie Sanders “Redistributed Wealth” to Friends and Family
    And isn’t that what “public service is all about”?
    January 8, 2016
    Daniel Greenfield

    What good is being a Socialist if you can’t steal from taxpayers to give to your pals? As this Lachlan Markay report at Free Beacon documents, Bernie Sanders found all sorts of ways to redistribute wealth to friends and family. And isn’t that what “public service is all about”?

    According to Jane O’Meara Sanders, the senator’s wife, Sanders’ House campaigns paid her more than $90,000 for consulting and ad placement services from 2002 to 2004. She pocketed about $30,000 of that money.

    Her daughter Carina Driscoll, Sanders’ stepdaughter, also drew a salary from the campaign. She was paid more than $65,000 between 2000 and 2004, according to her mother.

    After working for the campaign, the senator’s wife would come under scrutiny for expenditures at Burlington College, where she was hired as president in 2004. While she led the school, it paid six-figure sums to her daughter and the son of a family friend.

    Leopold served with Sanders in the Burlington city government—as mayor, Sanders appointed Leopold city treasurer—before becoming embroiled in scandal involving millions of dollars in payments to a Burlington telecommunications company.

    Sen. Sanders has described Leopold as so close a friend as to be considered “family.”

    There’s more there involving her controversial time at Burlington College. Bernie Sanders spends a lot of time talking about banks. But leftists like him view the taxpayers as a giant piggy bank they can steal from for their own benefit.

  4. I think it all comes down to force. If an individual cannot keep what they earn by force, or if an individual cannot control and own their property in absolute by force, or if an individual cannot freely exercise their fundamental rights by force, then they are victims of socialism and/or democratic progressivism/socialism. Socialists and progressive democrats must utilize force, a priori, to finance grandiose ideologies. They use force to extract wealth, control property and to restrict the free exercise of rights. Most importantly, they manipulate legal jargon as a means to circumvent or to reinterpret Constitutional provisions in a way that allows same.

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