“There is a big difference between calling someone a Socialist, and someone self identifying as a Socialist and presenting a Socialist platform.”
The difference only matters to independents, and Sanders won heavily with them. Republicans don’t care about the difference, they are a lost cause. Establishment Dems wouldn’t have cared because they would have voted for him anyway.
Half of Trump’s platform (ending NAFTA, ripping up trade pacts) would have been pilloried as “anti-business” coming out of Sanders’ mouth, but Trump bet on it working with Rust-belt blue collar voters, and it did. If Sanders had been his opponent instead of Clinton, it would have taken his appeal out at the knees.
Clinton 2016 was Kerry 2004. She was McCain 2008. She was Romney 2012. She was the “safe bet” when they should have gone for the gold.