By this time, Chris Matthews must be panicked. When he asked DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to explain the difference between Democrats and socialists, the MSNBC host expressed considerable angst that the party’s leading officer couldn’t do so. “I used to think there was a big difference,” Matthews lamented at the time.
Fast forward five months. Matthews posed the question to the party’s leading candidate for its presidential nomination, and … Hillary Clinton couldn’t explain it either. Who else can Matthews ask? Joe Manchin, please pick up the red courtesy phone:
Newsbusters has the transcript, and one can sense Matthews’ frustration at the end:
MATTHEWS: OK, last question, we’re running out of time. I want to try to help you for this audience tonight, our audience, locate yourself politically in this country. Now, we have Trump out there and we have Bernie out here. Now, Bernie calls himself a socialist. Nobody uses a derogatory term anymore. 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 would say you’re a pretty typical Democrat, in the traditional Democratic Party. And Humphry and the rest of them. Scoop [Jackson], not even Scoop, I’d say Rondale, you’re somewhere in there. What’s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat. Is that a question you want to answer or you’d rather not, politically.
CLINTON: Well, you’d have to –
MATTHEWS: Well, 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 like somebody calling me a socialist.
CLINTON: But I’m not one. I mean, I’m not one.
MATTHEWS: What’s the difference between a socialist and a Democrat. That’s the question.
CLINTON: I can tell you what I am. I am a Progressive Democrat.
MATTHEWS: How is that deferent than a socialist?
CLINTON: 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. 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: I think the difference is, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz wouldn’t answer the question either when I asked her. Because I know politically you have to keep together the center-left and the left has to work together. I know all of that.
To the extent that Hillary answered this at all, the response appears to be that Democrats are socialists who sometimes and temporarily compromise to add accomplishments to the resumé. That argument, as incoherently made as it is, seems to annoy Matthews, who abruptly changes the subject.
Matthews still hasn’t gotten an answer to his question: what’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist? The actual answer is there isn’t a difference any more, but no one wants to admit it. I’d be surprised if Matthews ever asks this question again in public, or at least if he asks it before the general election in November.
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