President Donald Trump’s impassioned vow that “America will never be a socialist country” drew cheers and applause from all but a few exceptions during his State of the Union address.
Although no names were mentioned, it was clear to many that the president’s declaration Tuesday was a reminder for progressive lawmakers in the House chamber such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who did not join in on the standing ovation or even applaud the comment.
The rebuke came as Trump spoke about the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, condemning the regime of Nicolas Maduro which is imploding after years of socialist policies and corruption have led to food shortages and skyrocketing inflation. Last month amid escalating protests, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself acting president.
“Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela, and its new interim president, Juan Guaido,” Trump said Tuesday. “We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.
“Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” the president continued, as boos were heard from Republicans in the chamber.
“America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination and control. We are born free, and we will stay free,” Trump declared, prompting another standing ovation and cheers that quickly turned to “USA” chants in the House chamber.
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” the president said in a pointed rebuke as Republicans continued the chants and many Democrats remained seated.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did offer her supportive applause but there was no concession from self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez who had remained almost expressionless during much of Trump’s address.
“I thought it was great. I think he’s scared,” the freshman New York lawmaker told Fox News in an interview later.
The expression on Sanders’ face was also clearly not one of support for Trump’s remarks as he did not join the rest of his colleagues in agreement with the president’s declaration.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 6, 2019
The Vermont Independent and self-described Democratic socialist spoke out against the Venezuelan crisis, admitting the “economy is a disaster” in a statement last month but warned that the U.S. “must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, who also did not join in many of the cheers during Trump’s address, spoke out against the decision to back Guaidó in a tweet last month. The far-left Minnesota Democratic freshman accused the administration of waging a coup in Venezuela and that Trump was attempting “to install a far-right opposition.”
A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 25, 2019
The situation in Venezuela leaves far-left progressive Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez in an uncomfortable position as they try to push their socialist policies as the regime faces collapse from the same ideology. In an interview with MSNBC following the State of the Union, Ocasio-Cortez said Trump’s attack on socialism was because he is “losing on the issues.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 6, 2019
“I think that he needs to do it because he feels like — he feels himself losing on the issues,” she said. “Every single policy proposal that we have adopted and presented to the American public has been overwhelmingly popular, even some with a majority of Republican voters supporting what we’re talking about.”
“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 and this is his way of doing it,” she added. “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. And I think that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.”