President Trump drew a clear line Tuesday night between his party's policies and the creeping socialism some see on the left, declaring at the State of the Union "America will never be a Socialist country" as many nonplussed Democrats appeared to shift uncomfortably in their seats.
The vow from Trump, whose speech was delayed a week amid a partial government shutdown, came as Democrats have proposed an evolving agenda of "Medicare-for-all," free college tuition, minimum wage increases and even guaranteed basic income. Trump cited the ongoing disaster in Venezuela, where socialist policies have wrought "abject poverty and despair," and pledged to maintain free-market economics in the U.S.
“America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination and control," he said to Republican applause. "We are born free and we will stay free.”
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a Socialist country,” Trump added as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat stone-faced behind him.
Viewers at home were treated to a tight shot of a frowning Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed Socialist and modern-day godfather of a movement that has produced a host of far-left young Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D- N.Y., who also was shown expressionless. Other Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, applauded the line.
Sanders would tweet following the speech: “Trump said tonight, ‘We are born free, and we will stay free.’ I say to Trump: People are not truly free when they can’t afford health care, prescription drugs, or a place to live. People are not free when they cannot retire with dignity or feed their families.”
The socialism storyline was just one of several dividing lines Trump highlighted in a speech that simultaneously called for bipartisanship and unity.
Trump pledged to pursue his signature project, the wall on the Mexican border, saying: "I will build it."
"I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country," Trump said, in a speech that variously referred to both "walls" and "barriers" at the border.
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