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Trump picks a new villain — socialists

President Donald Trump has proved himself adroit at creating villains to serve as his political foils. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he introduced a new one: socialists. Right after his calls to support the overthrow of Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, and condemning the “socialist policies” that have reduced the country “into a state of abject poverty and despair”, he made a quick segue to the home front. “Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” the President said, adding, “Tonight, we resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” Tuesday night’s speech contained more than a few suggestions of what Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign could look like. The President dwelt on the economy, pointing to the low unemployment rate, continuing growth and the tax cut passed by the last Republican Congress. He spoke of trying to reduce prescription drug costs and battling HIV, perhaps with an eye to the kinds of suburban women voters, who deserted Republicans in the midterm elections. And for his hard-core followers, he argued for the border wall. The threat of socialism was something new. But it could become the kind of rhetorical touchstone of his re-election campaign that sounding the alarm about “criminal illegal aliens” was in 2016. Confronting Democrats If it does, it could provide Mr. Trump with a potentially effective weapon in confronting an increasingly aggressive and more liberal Democratic Party, defining it through attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who describe themselves as democratic socialists, and other members of the party pushing progressive policies like a 70% tax rate and “Medicare for all”. The President’s economic advisers began sounding the socialist alarm in the fall in a 72-page report criticising what they described as the socialist ideas of leading Democrats. The word “socialism” appeared 144 times — on average, twice a page. The report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism”, did not prescribe any action but was meant to serve as a warning about the destructive economic policies Mr. Trump believes Democrats would inflict on the U.S. Invoking Lenin and Mao Policies like tuition-free college were mentioned in the same ominous tone as the policies of Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. The report suggested that Democratic policies emulating Venezuela would cause the American economy to shrink by 40%, just as Mr. Trump did on Tuesday night. Yet, there is no evidence of any growing public angst about socialism sweeping the U.S. As a political philosophy and organising tool, it took modest root in the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but never gained widespread appeal. Eugene Debs, a labour leader from Terre Haute, Indiana, was a five-time candidate for President, never to great effect, peaking at 6% of the vote in 1916. “You really have not had a self-consciously socialist movement of any size and influence since the 1930s,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University. “Clearly this is an attempt to portray Democrats as too radical for Americans…” But the supposed threat of creeping socialism have become favourite talking points for conservatives like the TV personality Sean Hannity of Fox News, who tells his viewers that far-left socialism had taken over the Democratic Party. Mr. Trump is now firmly aligned with that view.NY Times

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/trump-picks-a-new-villain-socialists/article26209264.ece

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