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February 23, 2019

We’re not socialists, Democratic leaders say in response to Trump state of the union speech

February 6, 2019
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., bottom right, and other female lawmakers cheer as President Donald Trump mentions the record number of women serving in Congress during his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol. (Alex Wong / Getty Images / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — No, Democrats are not socialists, or about to become socialists, top party leaders said Wednesday after President Donald Trump raised it as an issue in his state of the union address.

“In the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” Trump said.

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“America was founded on liberty and independence — and not government coercion, domination and control,” Trump said, linking his remarks to the crisis in Venezuela. “We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Asked about the claim Wednesday — and the fact that some Democrats scowled or sat on their hands during the comments, Democratic leaders scoffed at Trump.

“It was such a demagogic approach,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “The scowling was, ‘Mr. President, get real.'”

But they also focused on the substance of the charge.

“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.

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 Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have called themselves Democratic Socialists. Ocasio-Cortez, however, said soon after her primary election win that she was not trying to push any such ideology on her colleagues in Congress.

Asked about Trump’s remarks after the speech, the freshman representing the Bronx and Queens told Fox News: “I thought it was great. I think he’s scared.”

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Elaborating further on MSNBC, she said 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.”

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