National Press Club

Hickenlooper tells Dems to reject socialist label

June 14, 2019 | By Wes Pippert | PippertW@missouri.edu

National Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak moderated a Club Newsmaker featuring former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

National Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak moderated a Club Newsmaker featuring former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Photo/Image: Alan Kotok

Taking aim at fellow Democratic presidential candidates, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the National Press Club on Thursday that Democrats must reject any socialist label. Otherwise they will be helping President Donald Trump, he said.

Hickenlooper, in his appearance at a Headliners Newsmaker, targeted only Bernie Sanders by name before he took on Trump.

"In fact,the Democratic field has not only failed to oppose Senator Sanders' agenda, but they actually rushed to embrace it," Hickenlooper said. "Democrats must say loudly and clearly that we are not socialists. If we do not, we will end up helping to reelect the worst president in our country's history."

He said: "The only way to defeat Donald Trump and to achieve big progressive goals is to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to modern democracy."

As for impeachment, Hickenlooper said he favored starting an inquiry, but added, "I'm not so foolish as to believe [Senate Majority leader Mitch] McConnell would ever allow it to take place."

The former businessman who served two terms each as Denver mayor and Colorado governor used a prepared speech and teleprompter. But he also demonstrated quick comebacks.

During the question and answer period, when Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak asked why he was running for president instead of the Senate which has a Republican incumbent in Colorado, Hickenlooper quipped, "If the Senate is so good, why are all those senators trying to get out of it?”

Hickenlooper, who has made the cut to be eligible for the first Democratic debate in a few days, said "fighting with the Democratic National Committee [about the criteria for eligibility for the debate, based on polls and fund raising] is like fighting with the weather."

As for his low standing in the polls, Hickenlooper said most voters right now are not paying attention but he predicted they would in a few months. "My problem is not what I'm selling," Hickenlooper said, "but how to get that [message] to the buyers."

When a reporter asked later whether he was related to the late Sen. Bourke B. Hickenlooper, R-IA, John Hickenlooper said, "How many Hickenloopers do you think there are? Sen. Hickenlooper was my grandfather's first cousin."

When someone asked about how he would appeal to youth voters, Hickenlooper quickly retorted, "Not to mention eliminating college (student loan) debt, and making college free," positions he has espoused.

Several times referring to himself as a pragmatist, Hickenlooper said his "collaborative approach" has achieved near universal health care coverage in Colorado. He said the state's public awareness campaign cut the teen pregnancy rate by 54 percent and the teen abortion rate by 64 percent.

He said that in his travels, the consistent concerns he encounters are about health care and climate change. "A majority of Americans don't think they'll be better off in a decade," he said, adding, "This has never happened before."

Hickenlooper said Trump's foreign policy is "isolationist and reckless." He said China has been "stealing" on international agreement "and we can't let that continue," Hickenlooper said, "That doesn't mean we turn away. We need constant connection."