How Hard Is this ‘What’s the Difference between Democrats and Socialists’ Question?

by Patrick Brennan

Chuck Todd asked Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz this morning what the difference is between a Democrat and a socialist — a question she refused to answer when Chris Matthews asked her it out of the blue on Thursday. Now with a few days to prepare . . . Wasserman Schultz still won’t answer it. 

The question came up because there is a self-declared socialist in the Democratic race, and Matthews was, reasonably enough, probing Wasserman Schultz on how prominent a spot he’ll get at the Democratic convention, assuming he doesn’t win the nomination. Chris Matthews had a textbook answer:

He seems to be right about the political reasoning — Wasserman Schultz doesn’t want to offend Democrats who are self-described socialists. But in refusing to explain the difference (on most points, there is one, and Matthews is right about it), Wasserman Schultz is refusing to address the extremists in her own party. Yes, in the United States, believing in out-and-out nationalizing health care, or higher education, or whatever, would be make one both a socialist and an extremist. The original line of questioning may seem like a semantic one, but it’s a real question for Democrats, and for Hillary Clinton: How far left do you want your party to go?

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