President Donald Trump lambasted socialism during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, prompting cheers and chants of “USA, USA” from Republicans in the chamber. But at least one lawmaker didn’t seem too pleased by the diss: Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont.
After criticizing embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro’s “socialist policies” as being the cause of the South American country’s “abject poverty and despair,” Trump said he was “alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism” in the United States — a statement that prompted some boos from his audience.
The president continued: “America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination and control. We are born free and we will stay free.”
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” he added after a pause.
Cheers and applause erupted in the room as network cameras zoomed in on Sanders’ face. The 77-year-old senator, who has described himself as a democratic socialist, appeared to frown, his lips tightly pursed.
Sanders, who issued a rebuttal to Trump’s SOTU address, later pushed back against Trump’s remarks.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter.
The senator has described democratic socialism as a system of government that “works for all and not just the very wealthy.”
“[Democratic socialism] builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans,” the senator said during a 2015 speech at Georgetown University. “And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that, ‘This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.’ It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.”
“Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt,” Sanders continued.
An August Gallup poll found that 57 percent of Democrats view socialism favorably, compared to 47 percent who view capitalism positively.
The same poll found that just 17 percent of Republicans have a positive view of socialism, compared to 71 percent who viewed capitalism in a favorable light.