As CPAC Condemns Socialism, Dems in Congress Protect Castro

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is dedicated to fighting socialism, with the motto "America v. Socialism." Speaker after speaker has warned against big government control and the totalitarian tendencies of socialism. The contrast could not have been clearer in Congress on Thursday when Democrats prevented a Republican measure condemning Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for his remarks praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, told OANN that CPAC's theme "this year really does revolve around socialism, in large part because that is the threat to American safety, security, and prosperity today — this growing false notion that somehow socialism is good for people." Speaker after speaker echoed his concerns.

"One of the things that differentiate Bernie Sanders from others is that he actually acknowledges he's a socialist. He's far from the only one in the United States Senate, sadly enough. But, look, socialism is about the idea that government is there not just to protect life, liberty, and property. No, it's not just there for them, to make sure that we don't hurt each other or take each other's stuff," Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) declared on the main stage. "No, for them, socialism and government are something that work hand in hand to guide you from cradle to grave — to provide for your every need. But the problem with that is, a government that promises to provide everything for you can take everything away from you. And in our common human experience, that is what happens."

Vice President Mike Pence turned to Venezuela in his remarks at CPAC. "Venezuela was once the second-wealthiest country in our hemisphere, but in the wake of more than a decade of a socialist dictatorship, almost five million people of that country have fled to neighboring lands to escape the deprivation and the poverty," he said. He recalled visiting with Venezuelan families in Colombia. "I met a grandmother who told me that she'd left that country with her four grandchildren in her arms because it had gotten so bad in her small town that her grandchildren had to rise at 4 in the morning to get a ticket to stand in line to buy a piece of bread in the afternoon.

"Socialistic and dictatorial policies tear down countries, their infrastructure and their citizens. And it really takes away from them that hope," Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) warned. She said Americans must champion "faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity" to combat socialism and support the American dream.

Yet House Democrats refused to listen. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a nephew of Fidel Castro's first wife, has strongly condemned the late dictator's regime and condemned Sanders' infamous comments on 60 Minutes. Sanders insisted that "it's unfair to simply say everything is bad" about the Castro regime because it supposedly provided health care and literacy programs for its people. Sanders, now the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, doubled down on these remarks in a debate this week while insisting that he opposes authoritarianism.

"It really makes a difference when those you murder at the firing squad can read & write," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) quipped in response.

Diaz-Balart argued that Sanders' comments were "blatantly false." He condemned the "racist, terrorist, murderous Castro regime in Cuba." He mentioned former Cuban political prisoners who are now his constituents in Florida. "You see, for years, the Cuban regime has been on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of other terrorist states, terrorist organizations, and violence around the world and in this hemisphere."

"So that is why I filed a resolution that condemns the blatantly false comments of Democratic Socialist candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. This resolution also rejects the false claims that Cuba's health care, education, and literacy rates have improved as a result of the Castro regime — the Castro dictatorship," Diaz-Balart explained. Cuba's infant mortality rate was low, and its life expectancy and literacy rates were high before the Castro regime.

Democrats defeated the resolution by a procedural vote along party lines, 224-189.

"Dems have moved so far left and are so afraid of their socialist base that they can't even condemn a murderous communist regime anymore," Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House minority whip, tweeted.

"Communism has given the world some of the most brutal & murderous dictators who rule their people with an iron fist. America fought multiple wars to stop the expansion of communism & socialism, but now the Democratic left has fully embraced it," Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) tweeted.

The contrast between Trump and the conservatives at CPAC condemning socialism and House Democrats defending Sanders' Castro comments could not be clearer.

Tyler O'Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.