WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats clapped back at President Trump Wednesday for suggesting that a wave of socialism was spreading across the country.
A day after Trump used his State of the Union speech to knock socialism, leading Democrats said they took the remark as a veiled swipe at them and their party.
“It was such a demagogic approach,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who was among those scowling or sitting on their hands during the comments. “The scowling was, 'Mr. President, get real.'”
Trump drew ire from the other side of the aisle when he warned of a new political bogeyman in American politics.
“In the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” Trump said, as Republicans rose to their feet and cheered him on, chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
"America was founded on liberty and independence — and not government coercion, domination and control,” he said. “We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."
Trump tied his remarks to the political crisis in Venezuela, but critics said he was merely unveiling his 2020 reelection strategy to saddle Democrats with an unpopular label.
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
Several lawmakers, including freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), identify as democratic socialists. Republicans have made them their favorite targets, saying the liberal Democrats are too radical for mainstream America.
Ocasio-Cortez seemed to take a little satisfaction in Trump’s attack.
“I thought it was great,” she told Fox News shortly after the speech. “I think he’s scared.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, later told MSNBC, that Trump raised socialism and Venezuela because he's losing.
“I think he sees himself losing on the issues, he sees himself losing on the wall in the southern border, and he needs to grasp at an ad hominem attack,” she said. “What we need to realize is happening is this is an issue of authoritarian regime versus democracy. In order for him to try to dissuade or throw people off the scent of the trail, he has to really make and confuse the public.”
But voters should not be confused about where the Democratic party stands, her colleagues said.
“The House Democratic caucus supports a well-regulated, free-market economy that is also anchored in a robust social safety net, including Social Security and Medicare,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic conference in the House.
“Democrats support what I would term compassionate capitalism, that is based upon an emphasis of the well-being of working families, middle-class folks, senior citizens, the poor, the sick, and the afflicted," Jeffries said.
He contrasted that stance with what he called Trump's “crony capitalism.”
“Exhibit A is the reckless tax cuts where 83 percent of the benefit went to the wealthiest 1% in the United States of America,” Jeffries said. “We don't support crony capitalism. We do support compassionate capitalism that looks out for everyday Americans.”
Hoyer was more dismissive.
“There's no issue about socialism, that we want to leave the free market capitalist system. I don't think that's an issue in the Congress. I don't mean that everybody has 100 percent agreement," Hoyer said. "It's a demagogic attempt to rile up his base — Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, et al."
The far right has repeatedly raised cries of "socialism," often as a way to denigrate the Affordable Care Act and other policies of the Obama administration. Several announced presidential candidates back Medicare for all — a concept some Republicans have attacked as socialism.
Hoyer added that Democrats scowled not because they were unhappy that Trump panned socialism, but because the entire issue was bogus. "No one wanted to pretend it was a real kind of state of the union address," he said. “It was a campaign rally for the most part.”
Trump didn't say who was pushing a call to socialism, but Trump was likely referring to Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. The congresswoman, however, said soon after her primary election win that she was not trying to push any such ideology on her colleagues in Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez and Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, both newly-elected members of the House, are both members of the Democratic Socialists of America. The group is not a formal political party, but advocates an openly democratic socialist presence, according to its website.
(ny daily news)