ANALYSIS | President Donald Trump is vowing to rid the Western Hemisphere of socialist governments, but the early days of his push appear as much about his own re-election fight than anything happening in Central and South America.
“The twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere,” Trump said to applause from an audience of Venezuelan-Americans Monday in Miami. “And, frankly, in many, many places around the world. The days of socialism and communism are numbered - not only in Venezuela, but in Nicaragua and in Cuba, as well.”
Trump was at Florida International University to try and pressure Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro to give up his grip on the country, and to give a boost to Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader that the United States and other world powers have recognized as the country’s interim president. Trump also warned Venezuelan military leaders he is poised to cut off access to funds they have stashed around the world unless they drop support for Maduro.
But the more Trump spoke Monday, the more he made clear his audience was not just governments and peoples in Central and South America, but audiences at home, as well. Here are three takeaways from the White House’s anti-socialism push, which began in earnest with Trump’s Feb. 5 State of the Union address.
“The tyrannical socialist government nationalized private industries and took over private businesses,” Trump said of the Maduro government. “They engaged in massive wealth confiscation, shut down free markets, suppressed free speech, and set up a relentless propaganda machine, rigged elections, used the government to persecute their political opponents, and destroyed the impartial rule of law.
“Socialism, by its very nature, does not respect borders. It does not respect boundaries or the sovereign rights of its citizens or its neighbors,” he said. “It's always seeking to expand, to encroach, and to subjugate others to its will.”
Borders. Free markets. Rigged elections. Wealth confiscation. All are issues the president has used to attack Democrats at home and fire up his conservative base.
“There are those trying to implement socialism right here in the United States,” Trump said during a Feb. 11 campaign rally in El Paso, Texas. “So I again say to you — and I say it for the world to hear — America will never be a socialist country,” he said to applause.”
Watch: Trump and Beto O'Rourke strike contrasting messages in dueling Texas rallies
Three days after Trump’s warning about a perceived push for socialism at home and four days before he vowed to end it across the Western Hemisphere, the Republican National Committee provided some help in the messaging realm.
The organization, which coordinates closely with the White House, blasted out an email with this subject line: “The Democrat’s Burgeoning Love Affair With Socialism”. Several of the bullet points below showed just how Trump and the RNC intend to fire up the conservative base by warning of Democratic plans to turn America socialist.
“In just the last few years, Washington Democrats have developed a passionate love affair with socialism, highlighted by their adoration of the Green New Deal and single-payer health care,” the RNC wrote. It added, “2020 presidential candidates and prominent Democrats have cosponsored the resolution or expressed their love for the plan.”
The deal proposes sweeping changes to the U.S. economy to — in large part — combat climate change.
The RNC also pounced on self-described “democratic socialist” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ announcement he is running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for a second time.
“Bernie Sanders is going to force Democrats to lurch further to the left,” RNC President Ronna McDaniel told Fox News this week. “You’re already trying to see candidates out-Bernie Bernie. And the American people have to look at these radical ideas that they’re proposing.”
White House and RNC officials are eager to try tying the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to Sanders and his far-left proposals. But some are not taking the bait.
Crazy Bernie has just entered the race. I wish him well!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2019
“I am not a democratic socialist,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., told reporters Tuesday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has distanced herself from the party’s progressive wing and its calls for a “Medicare for all” healthcare system. “It could be a possibility in the future,” she said recently. “I’m just looking at something that will work now.”
But warnings about a perceived push for socialist policies at home already is a major part of the Trump team’s and RNC’s 2020 messaging plans.
“Socialism promises unity, but it delivers hatred and it delivers division,” Trump said Monday. “Socialism is a sad and discredited ideology rooted in the total ignorance of history and human nature, which is why socialism, eventually, must always give rise to tyranny, which it does.”