Democrats Grapple With Impact of ‘Socialist’ Label

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Jinhui Chen is a 47-year-old immigrant from China who says he went through the steps to become a U.S. citizen last year so he could vote for Donald Trump.  

Chen came to this country 21 years ago as a student at the University of Cincinnati. He went on to study at Northwestern University before earning his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Michigan. He settled down, married a U.S. citizen, and had two sons, now ages 11 and 16. He was living the American dream, without going through the formality that would grant him all the rights of citizenship.

But the prevailing political winds helped change his mind.

“I really appreciate this country for giving me an opportunity to go to school and get a better education,” he told RealClearPolitics after attending a rally with Vice President Mike Pence in Peoria, Arizona, last month. “I don’t want to let it turn into the country where I came from, communist China, where they repress freedom of speech, they intimidate people who want to talk about their ideas.”

Now an Arizona resident, Chen says life for his sons here in the United States is filled with so many opportunities to work hard and succeed. He marvels at the rights his children have to express themselves freely without fear of societal or government repercussions.

“My children can be independent. They can share ideas. They can have different opinions [than mine],” he said. “Even though we might argue sometimes, I don’t want to let them to live in a socialist or communist country, then repeat my life in China.”

As Election Day stretches into Election Week and the nation waits for resolution in the presidential contest, there’s been plenty of time for recriminations and rationalizations about what went wrong for each side.

Democrats and some in the media have tried to explain away the inroads Trump made with Latino voters in Florida and elsewhere by claiming that his campaign and conservative outside groups targeted Hispanics in the Sunshine State with a massive “disinformation” campaign designed to falsely tie Joe Biden to socialism.

“False News Targeting Latinos Trails the Election,” one New York Times headline asserted the morning after Election Day.

“Election disinformation is flying in Spanish and English,” charged the Los Angeles Times last week.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the leader of “the squad”—a group of younger, far-left members of Congress who embrace the socialist label and have pushed their agenda on the party over the last two years—fired off emergency flares in the final days of the campaign.

“There is a massive Spanish-language disinformation campaign happening on social media networks targeting our election,” Ocasio-Cortez warned on Twitter. “Please check in on your parents and family and, if possible, coach them to identify questionable content.”

As election results in Florida’s heavily Latino Miami-Dade County showed strong support for Trump, CBS’ Maria Elena Salinas complained about “disinformation” from the Trump campaign and allied groups in Florida, which successfully “scared” Latinos into voting for the president over fears of Democrats’ socialist policy plans.

The socialism that Sen. Bernie Sanders and other prominent Democrats are pushing is not the same as the autocratic, repressive brand of the Castros in Cuba or the abuses of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, Salinas and others argued.

The backlash was swift. Many members of immigrant communities were offended by the idea that their support for Trump was the result of media manipulation of a vulnerable, uneducated community rather than a wholesale rejection of the government-heavy leftist policies that Ocasio-Cortez embraces.

“It’s called Venezuelans, AOC,” Daniel Di Martino, who identified himself as an economics Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, tweeted back to her. “We come from a place where your policies were implemented and we’re determined to stop you and anyone else from destroying the United States and turning it into another Venezuela.”

Trump’s hard-line immigration policies were supposed to lead to his demise in states with large Latino populations. Instead of sinking his reelection hopes, however, in several of these states Latinos provided the margin to keep those hopes alive.

This was especially true in Florida where Cuban Americans and members of the Venezuelan and Colombian immigrant communities are all too familiar with the socialist patterns of the governments they fled.

And as Chen and others attest, the anti-socialism message wasn’t just resonating in Latino communities. Several prominent Democrats have argued it likely cost them gains even in House districts with much smaller minority populations and prevented anti-Trump momentum from building into a blue wave resulting in a Biden landslide, gains in the House, and a decisive Democratic Senate takeover.

Centrist House Democrats responded forcefully during a caucus-wide conference call Thursday, blasting Ocasio-Cortez and others for advancing an agenda they believe cost the party seats.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who is still fighting for her political life in a too-close-to-call reelection bid in Virginia, reportedly told her colleagues never to utter that word “socialism” again.

She also lambasted the Democratic campaign strategy as a failure, arguing that calls to defund the police and the pushing of other far-left agenda items cost Democrats races “we shouldn’t have lost.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to push back against the claims. “I do disagree, Abigail, that it was a failure,” Pelosi interjected. “We won the House.”

That’s little solace for House Democrats who lost their seats.

Trump outperformed most national and battleground state polls and remained competitive in the “blue wall” of the upper Midwest—even during a global pandemic that collapsed a soaring economy.

If Biden emerges from the legal morass as the victor, he won’t have a national mandate among the working-class Americans who formed the backbone of the Democratic Party when the former vice president started his political career.

Republicans are claiming the mantle of the workers’ party, while casting Democrats as the coddlers of Big Tech, Hollywood, and other elites. In response, some influential Democrats are calling for a party reckoning.

“@JoeBiden will get the 270 [electoral votes] he needs. But the ‘socialist’ attacks worked—while we rolled our eyes. A rejection of elites,” tweeted Joe Trippi, a veteran campaign strategist who worked for former California Gov. Jerry Brown and most notably as manager of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. “And as someone who has read polls for 40 years—it’s all broken. People don’t want to hear it—but we have to come out of our silos and talk to GOP voters.”

Originally published by RealClearPolitics

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