It seemed like a simple enough question, but for Hillary Clinton it proved to be an uncomfortable one, during her interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday.
Most of the interview with Matthews consisted of softballs that Clinton handled with ease. Then came the question that also should have been easy to answer, but caused the Democratic presidential frontrunner to go into dodge mode:
Matthews: Now Bernie (Sanders) calls himself a socialist. Nobody uses it as a derogatory term any more, he loves to have that label. He’s never ran as a Democrat, he runs against Democrats up there in Vermont. You’re a Democrat. I’d say you’re a pretty typical Democrat in the tradition of the Democratic Party, and Humphrey and the rest of them. Scoop, not even Scoop, Mondale and the rest of the, you’re somewhere in there. What’s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat? Is that a question you want to answer or would you rather not politically?
Clinton: Well, you’d have to ask…
Matthews: See, I’m asking you. You’re a Democrat, he’s a socialist. Would you like somebody to call you a socialist? I wouldn’t want someone calling me a socialist.
Clinton: I’m not one.
Matthews: Okay, What’s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat?
Clinton: I can tell you what I am. I’m a progressive Democrat who likes to get things done and who believes that we are 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, but we need to get people working together. We’ve got to get the economy fixed, we’ve got to get all of our problems, you know, really tackled and that’s what I want to do.
Matthews said he thought he knew what the difference was, and mentioned that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wouldn’t answer the question either when he asked her back in July. He attributed her refusal to answer the question to the need to keep the center-left and the left together in order to win the election.
The reason that Clinton and Wasserman Schultz have struggled to define the difference between a socialist and a Democrat is that based on current policies, there is little or no difference between the two and the Democrats are loath to admit it because it would surely sink their chances to win the White House in 2016.