Hickenlooper: "I'm happy to say I'm a capitalist," but labels divide Democrats

Hickenlooper "happy to say" he's a capitalist

Last Updated Mar 10, 2019 4:03 PM EDT

After being repeatedly asked whether he identified as a capitalist, former Colorado governor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper demurred and said Democrats are a "big tent" party. 

"Once you get back into these labels — am I a capitalist? Am I a socialist? How much of a capitalist am I versus how much of a socialist? — that becomes kind of silly, doesn't it?" Hickenlooper said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Pressed again if he was uncomfortable answering the question, the former mayor of Denver pledged to be a capitalist but stressed he believed labels divide both the country and his party. 

"I'm happy to say I'm a capitalist, but I think at a certain point the labels do nothing but divide us," he added. 

Hickenlooper threw his hat into the 2020 ring last week, announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination and attracting more than $1 million in campaign donations within 48 hours.

With most Democratic presidential candidates vouching enthusiastic support for ambitious progressive proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have accused the Democratic Party of embracing fringe platforms and flirting with socialism

Even former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is mulling an independent bid for the White House, warned that Democrats risk loosing to Mr. Trump again in 2020 if they nominate a "far-left" candidate.

A recent progressive proposal derided by Schultz and Republicans as too extreme is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up large technology companies, which she told CBS News is designed to create a "level playing field" in the industry. 

Although he noted he did not want to make a "blanket statement" about all tech giants, Hickenlooper said he supports policies that increase competitiveness in industries and spur growth among small businesses.

"We have to make sure that we have a competitive system whereby little guys feel they've got an honest, decent chance to succeed," he said. 

Hickenlooper was criticized on Friday by Schultz for not explicitly identifying himself as "a proud capitalist" during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." In a tweet, the coffee mogul said the former Colorado governor's refusal to "openly support capitalism" proved that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had taken control of the Democratic Party. 

After his "Face the Nation" appearance, Hickenlooper pushed back on Schultz's criticism and his "divisive focus on labels." 

"Howard, comments like this make it easier for Trump to win," he wrote on Twitter Sunday. "Rather than this ridiculous, divisive focus on labels, we need to be discussing how to actually make the economy work for everyone."