Article originally published in the Tallahassee Democrat
By Robert Weiner and Ben Lasky
Lost in Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis' "monkey this thing up" remark was another term meant to mislead voters: calling Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum's ideas a "socialist agenda."
Unlike some on the left, Gillum does not identify as a socialist. On Aug. 29's "MTP Daily" on MSNBC, Gillum said, "I'm a Democrat. I ran as a Democrat, I am a Democrat. And frankly, the values that I hold are consistent with the values of the Democratic Party."
Ayanna Pressley, the September 4 Massachusetts upset victor over 10-term congressman Michael Capuano, also did not say "socialist" in promoting a bold progressive platform.
Gillum and Pressley are smart not to embrace the socialist label. A July Harris and Hill TV poll found 76 percent of respondents said they would not vote for a socialist candidate.
This isn't a new issue in Florida. Sen. Claude Pepper failed to win a third term in 1950, partly because his opponent, George Smathers, gave him the nickname "Red Pepper" for his liberal beliefs like universal health care.
When most people hear the word socialist, they picture the hammer and sickle. Republicans will advertise this fear.
Even among Democrats, it's one of the reasons Bernie Sanders didn't win the nomination. In reality, Democratic socialists aren't in favor of socialism's authoritarianism. Socialism implies a state control over your mind.