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WestVirginiaRebel

Trump divides Democrats with warning of creeping socialism

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President Trump 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 Schumer (N.Y.) and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (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 Sanders (I-Vt.), who labels himself as a democratic socialist, stayed rooted in his seat, as did Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (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 Clinton 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. 

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Divide and conquer?

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