Donald Trump drew a line in the sand against socialism in his State of the Union speech, which previewed what is sure to be a favorite attack against whomever the Democrats nominate to run against him in 2020.
“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.
It’s an easy sell to his Republican base, but what about the rest of the country? The sad fact is that attitudes toward socialism and capitalism have dramatically changed over the early part of the 21st century, with socialism actually being favored by those 18-29 and Democrats in general rejecting capitalism in record numbers.
According to a Gallup poll published Monday, a majority of Democrats no longer hold a positive view of capitalism, while nearly 60 percent of them feel good about socialism. More than 70 percent of Republicans, on the other hand, see capitalism positively, while only 16 percent of them have a positive view of socialism.
The positive view of socialism among Democrats, and those who lean Democrat, actually dropped a point from 58 percent in 2016. But in those same two years, positive feelings about capitalism plummetted from 56 to 47 percent.
Faith in the invisible hand of the market weakened most among young Americans. While 57 percent of those between ages 18 and 29 viewed capitalism positively in 2016, only 45 percent felt the same way in 2018.
Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted after Trump’s attack on socialism, “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.”
What does “truly free” mean? Anything the socialists say it means. How people are “truly free” when they are totally dependent on government to survive is a good trick that the socialists never quite get around to explaining.
Forget the millenials and Generation Xers who love socialism. They have the lowest turnout rate of any age group. Their votes will not make a big difference in the 2020 general election.
Instead, the 2020 presidential contest will be a “base” election. Whichever candidate can excite more of their base and get them to the polls will win. And Trump’s call to defend capitalism will resonate very strongly with his base. The fact that Republicans are far more excited about capitalism than Democrats are about socialism could also be a difference maker.
Despite growing acceptance of socialism among the young, a political tipping point has not yet been reached. Trump’s attacks on socialism, made a lot easier by pointing to the chaos in Venezuela, could very well give him a decisive advantage in 2020.