By Justin Chermol
The audience at the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco over the weekend booed presidential candidate John Hickenlooper on stage for attacking socialism. But Hickenlooper says the voters need to understand his legacy before they turn a blind-eye.
The former Colorado governor told Cheddar that his speech that denounced socialism was a way "to demonstrate to the people of California that, 'hey, I'm the one guy who's actually done all the things that everyone's talking about.'"
Hickenlooper's role in Colorado is perhaps best highlighted by his pioneering role as the governor of the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Within the state, he's known for policies that reduced teen abortions and passed universal background checks despite strong opposition from the NRA. This "pragmatic progressive" agenda can win in 2020, Hickenlooper said.
"If we're gonna be really serious about beating Donald Trump, we've gotta win in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina," he said. "[Those voters] don't want to see a bunch of ads about how these crazy socialists are coming their way, which the Republicans will do."
The theme of the San Francisco summit was "Blue Wave Rolling," a metaphor for the Democratic Party's major victory in the 2018 midterm elections, and an effort to keep the momentum going into a presidential election year that Democrats hope will be galvanizing for the party's base.
But the "blue wave" could be rolling further left. In a recent Gallup poll, 57 percent of Democrats view socialism positively with 47 percent viewing capitalism positively, which is down from 56 percent in 2016.
When polling is broken down by demographics, it's clear younger voters view socialism more favorably than their parents, with 51 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 responding positively.
At his speech during the state convention, Hickenlooper said to the crowd, "socialism is not the answer."
"We shouldn't try to tackle climate change by guaranteeing every American a government job," Hickenlooper said, addressing his climate strategy.
His stump speech was met with loud boos and frustration from the crowd. Yet, speaking to Cheddar after his remarks, Hickenlooper remained positive about the fate of the party, and his plan to pass bipartisan legislation. His proposal wholly differs from those of Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have both proposed a tax on America's highest earners in order to pay for things like Medicare-for-All or a Green New Deal.
"I think that the Democratic party is a big tent, and I've always loved that," Hickenlooper said. "But, I do think it's important that we draw a clear line and differentiate ourselves that we're not socialists, that we're not supporting massive expansions of government."