GOFFSTOWN — While former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks often about his disdain for negative attacks on his opponents, the Rocky Mountain governor turned Democratic presidential candidate laid out an economic platform on Friday that seemed to take direct aim at fellow 2020 contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for his democratic socialist agenda.
While Sanders was not name-checked in the prepared remarks Hickenlooper delivered while announcing a six point economic development plan at Saint Anselm College, the two-term governor launched multiple attacks on socialism, branding the idea “no better today than it was 100 years ago” and invoking the dictatorship of the Soviet Union.
“You have to hand it to the GOP for achieving the near-impossible,” said Hickenlooper. “Just years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, their greedy mismanagement has revived the lure of socialism for a whole generation of Americans. Who would have imagined the Koch Brothers and Donald Trump could help resuscitate the discredited ideas of Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin?”
The apparent references to Sanders didn’t stop there, with Hickelooper going on to criticize elected officials in Washington who would “demonize the private sector to score political points,” and branding universal healthcare and guaranteed jobs, two policies supported by Sanders, as hazardous to the American people.
“These are certainly big ideas; they are also not good ideas,” said Hickenlooper. “They would bloat the federal government. They would massively raise taxes. They would depress economic growth. And let me assure you, in the end, they would hurt working people.”
The Sanders campaign did not return a request for comment.
Hickenlooper denies attacking any Democrats, and went on to praise Sanders for his ability to “paint a visionary picture” about progressive policies like healthcare reform and student debt.”
“Do I respect him? Absolutely,” said Hickenlooper of Sanders. “Do I respect his supporters? Absolutely. I’m not going to demonize him or go out and attack him. I’m going to put out the reasons why I think this is a better place to go. And we might get to the same place, but it might take 20 years — 10 years, maybe eight years.”
A former beer brewery owner who rose to political office by way of his successful small business, Hickenlooper describes himself as a “pragmatic progressive” and pointed to his own pathway from laid-off geologist to successful brewpub mogul as an example as the sort of entrepreneurship he hopes to foster in the White House.
In his newly announced National Strategy for Working America, Hickenlooper laid out a detailed set of policy proposals aimed at better supporting and training working Americans.
The provisions included progressive pet policies like raising the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, but also more moderate proposals like the refinancing of student debt and a public healthcare option that stop far short tuition free-college and Medicare-for-all that’s fueled the campaigns of Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“We reject the idea we can improve health care by demonizing the private sector and turning health care over to the government,” said Hickenlooper. “Today, over 150 million Americans get private, employer-provided coverage, and the majority are satisfied with it. It would be a fierce and needless battle to take that away from them.”
Pragmatic progressive or not, Hickelooper’s visit to the Granite State drew harsh words from the Republican National Committee, who labeled the two-term governor as a “2020 wannabe.”
“From his support of the progressive pipe dream known as the Green New Deal that would kill jobs and hike taxes, to his bougie flying preferences that have landed him in hot water, to his soft-on-crime record. Hickenlooper is the wrong man to be lecturing on jobs but the right man if you need to get pardoned for murder,” said RNC Spokesperson Nina McLaughlin, in reference to Hickenlooper’s 2018 pardon of Promise Y. Lee, who pleaded guilty in 1975 to a second-degree murder he committed while he was 15 years old.