President Trump vowed during his State of the Union address Tuesday night that “America will never be a socialist country,” in an apparent rebuke to self-described Democratic socialist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that drew loud cheers and a standing ovation from Republicans in the House chamber, as well as supportive applause from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
President Trump cited the economic decline and civil disorder in Venezuela as a cautionary tale, after his administration last week imposed sweeping sanctions against the regime of Nicolas Maduro.
The country’s government in recent years limited citizens’ access to foreign currency, implemented substantial subsidies and price controls on food and other items, and fell victim to sweeping corruption — before effectively collapsing last month.
“Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela, and its new interim president, Juan Guaido,” President Trump began. “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,” President Trump continued, prompting boos 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.”
Then, after a prolonged chant of “USA” broke out, President Trump concluded, “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
The effective collapse of Venezuela has forced some far-left progressive Democrats into an awkward position. In a series of social media posts in January, Senator Sanders — who is considering another run for the White House — acknowledged that “the economy is a disaster” in Venezuela, but he largely blamed the Maduro government for conducting what he called a “violent crackdown” on dissidents and the rule of law.
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