Trump divides Democrats with warning of creeping socialism | TheHill – The Hill

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House begins search for person who leaked president’s schedule: report O’Rourke to headline counter-Trump rally at border Trump touts Kim summit: North Korea will become economic ‘rocket’ MORE hadn’t had much success dividing Democrats until he found a word that would provoke very different responses from different members of the party during his State of the Union address: socialism. 

Trump’s warning of creeping socialism in the United States, deftly mentioned after a section of the speech on the unfolding political crisis in Venezuela, created an immediate public split among Democrats that was caught on live television.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats prove once more they have thrown bipartisanship aside Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems DCCC official praises Abrams’ upcoming Dem response: ‘She showed what’s possible in Georgia’ MORE (N.Y.) and Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Lawmakers pay tribute to John Dingell’s legacy on health care | White House denies officials are sabotaging ObamaCare | FDA wants meeting with Juul, Altria execs on youth vaping Lawmakers push to award Aretha Franklin the Congressional Gold Medal Dem duo poses test for Trump, GOP MORE (Mich.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDems wary of killing off filibuster McConnell tees up Barr nomination for next week Senate panel approves Barr nomination MORE (W.Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOn The Money: Lawmakers closing in on border deal | Dems build case for Trump tax returns | Trump, Xi won’t meet before trade deadline | Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony Lawmakers say they’re closing in on border deal to prevent shutdown Senators optimistic about reaching funding deal MORE (Mont.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownFormer Klobuchar staffers complain of mistreatment, temper: report The Hill’s Morning Report — Lawmakers: We are closing on a deal Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump official says agency would not have supported family separations | 2020 Dems walk fine line on ‘Medicare for all’ | Advocates skeptical of Trump AIDS pledge | Johnson and Johnson to show drug prices on TV MORE (Ohio) were among the lawmakers who stood with Republicans to applaud Trump when he pledged that the United States would never slide into socialism.

But other Democrats weren’t so happy about Trump’s choice of words — which was clearly meant to put them on the spot.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHannity decries Green New Deal as ‘economically guaranteed-to-be-devastating’ The Hill’s Morning Report — Lawmakers: We are closing on a deal Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump official says agency would not have supported family separations | 2020 Dems walk fine line on ‘Medicare for all’ | Advocates skeptical of Trump AIDS pledge | Johnson and Johnson to show drug prices on TV MORE (I-Vt.), who labels himself as a democratic socialist, stayed rooted in his seat, as did Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerVirginia lawmakers call for Fairfax to resign after woman accuses him of rape Booker, Gillibrand, Warren call on Fairfax to resign after rape allegation Former Klobuchar staffers complain of mistreatment, temper: report MORE (D-N.J.).

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWhite House blasts Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: ‘Central planning disaster’ Hillicon Valley: Feds looking into Bezos claims about National Enquirer | Amazon reconsidering New York City HQ2 move | Sprint sues AT&T over 5G marketing claims On The Money: Negotiators discussing border funding lower than Trump’s demand | Amazon reconsiders HQ2 move to New York City | Early IRS numbers point to smaller average refunds MORE (D-N.Y.), another leading democratic socialist, smiled in response to Trump’s remark but stayed seated. 

She later argued that Trump’s attack is a sign her growing success.

“I think it was great. I think he’s scared,” she told HuffPost. “He sees that everything is closing in on him. And he knows he’s losing the battle of public opinion when it comes to the actual substantive proposals that we’re advancing to the public.”

The different reactions reflect a battle within the Democratic Party that Trump and Republicans are eager to exploit.

Progressive policies are on the rise within the party.

Sanders electrified liberals with his surprisingly strong challenge to former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNunes accuses Schiff of secret coordination with anti-Trump researcher Election analyst says Trump does not need 50 percent of the vote to win in 2020 Pollster says appeal of women candidates to woman voters is overestimated MORE in the Democratic primary in 2016, and Ocasio-Cortez is the political star of the day.

Both candidates favor a single payer health care system that would provide “Medicare for all,” free college tuition and much higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy.

But some of the liberal policies make other Democrats uncomfortable — and that gave Trump’s attack line some teeth.

“I want proposals that work for people. I think it’s important to have people have skin in the game in health care so it isn’t all utilized. I think it’s important that people have skin in the game when they go to college,” Tester said, when asked about applauding Trump’s vow that the nation will never slide into socialism. 

At the same time, Tester acknowledged that middle-class families are paying too much for health care and to send their kids to college. 

“It’s all about finding the sweet spot that works for the country,” he said. 

Brown, one of the senators who stood with Tester, opposes Medicare for all and has argued in favor of more incremental policies that would expand health care.

He’s seen as a possible 2020 contender along with Booker, who is already in the race, and Sanders, who has yet to announce a decision.

The Sanders Medicare for All legislation, introduced in the previous Congress, attracted 16 Democratic co-sponsors, including several presidential candidates such as Booker, Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandVirginia lawmakers call for Fairfax to resign after woman accuses him of rape Booker, Gillibrand, Warren call on Fairfax to resign after rape allegation McAuliffe calls for Fairfax’s resignation after second sexual assault allegation MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker, Gillibrand, Warren call on Fairfax to resign after rape allegation Former Klobuchar staffers complain of mistreatment, temper: report Election analyst says Dems will fall in line with any 2020 nominee the party elects MORE (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBooker, Gillibrand, Warren call on Fairfax to resign after rape allegation Former Klobuchar staffers complain of mistreatment, temper: report Warren looks to move past ancestry controversy with 2020 announcement MORE (Mass.). 

Harris made headlines in late January by calling for the elimination of private health insurance and the adoption of Medicare for all during a CNN town hall event — a step too far for other Democrats. 

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems wary of killing off filibuster Dems accused of MeToo hypocrisy in Virginia Top GOP senator briefs Trump on border negotiations MORE (Ill.) cautioned that private health insurance is “a massive part of the American economy” and “it would take a mighty transition” to move away from it.

Durbin noted, however, that he and many Democrats support a “Medicare-type plan, a not-for-profit public plan that is available to everyone” such as the so-called public option that was proposed as a competitor to private health plans when the Senate debated the Affordable Care Act in 2009. 

Republicans have seized on Trump’s arguments to attack Democrats.

“Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried and we’re not going to try it in this country,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate’s 30-hour per nominee fake debate rule hobbles departments, agencies, and district courts Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab Trump plan a big step forward in lowering drug costs MORE (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor this week. 

But Durbin warned that Trump and McConnell are using a dangerous tactic 

“Every authoritarian regime of the last century has prefaced their grab for power by saying you’ve got to stop the left. Sometimes they call it socialist, sometimes they call it communist,” he said.

Durbin said Trump’s line at the State of the Union was “part of President Trump’s script and it troubles me.” 

Sen. Doug Jones (D), who faces a tough reelection in Alabama next year, also stood up to applaud Trump’s rejection of socialism. 

“I think it’s true. It’s a true statement, it’s not going to happen. It’s that simple, nobody wants it to happen,” he said of Trump’s pledge that the nation will never become socialist. 

Jones dismissed Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to tax the nation’s very highest income earners at 70 percent of their top-bracket income. 

“There’s a lot of talk about things like that. I think we need to look at practical issues when it comes to tax and things like that and I’m not sure how practical that is,” he said. 

A poll from The Hill found that 59 percent of respondents backed a 70 percent marginal rate on income above $10 million, underlining support for some of the liberal policies that make some Democratic centrists uncomfortable.

Harris, asked on “The View” about Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas, including a 70 percent tax rate, said, “I think that she is challenging the status quo, I think that’s fantastic.”

Booker in an interview praised the Green New Deal, another proposal pushed by Ocasio-Cortez.

It states that the federal government’s duty is to achieve “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions, create “millions of good, high-wage jobs” and invest in infrastructure and industry to “sustainably” meet the challenges of the new century. 

“There are a lot of people out there pushing back against the Green New Deal, saying it is impractical, it is too expensive, it is all of this. If we used to govern our dreams that way, we would have never gone to the moon. God, that’s impractical,” Booker said. 

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoBooker, Gillibrand, Warren call on Fairfax to resign after rape allegation Second woman accuses Va. lieutenant gov of sexual assault Tulsi Gabbard officially launches 2020 campaign MORE (D-Hawaii), who did not stand up to validate Trump’s applause line, says that “socialism” isn’t a bad word if it means providing people access to affordable health care and a comfortable living.  

She said Medicare could be considered “socialized medicine.” 

“If it’s socialism to want to have a progressive tax code that doesn’t just give the richest people more goodies, if it’s socialism to want health care as a right and not a privilege, then that’s where our country should be heading,” she said. 

But she argued “all this labeling and trying to put people in little boxes” is a scare tactic.

“It’s really what you do that helps the majority of our people” that is important, she said.  

Some polling shows that Americans are warming up to the idea of socialism, at least compared to a decade ago.

A Gallup poll published in August showed that 57 percent of Democratic respondents said they viewed socialism positively while 47 percent viewed capitalism positively. 

When Gallup asked the question in 2010, 53 percent of polled Democrats said they had a positive view of socialism and 53 percent said they had a positive view of capitalism.  

More than one in four Democrats, 26 percent, now say socialism means “equal standing for everybody, all equal in all rights, equal in distribution,” according to Gallup polling results published in October. 

When Gallup last asked people about their understanding of the word socialism in 1949, only 12 percent of people viewed the term as synonymous with equality while 34 percent viewed it more negatively as “everything controlled by government.” 

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