Republican senators joined Religious Right activists at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C., today, where they warned that if Democrats are successful in obtaining a supermajority in the 2020 elections, socialism will be implemented in America.
Hysterical warnings about creeping socialism have been a routine staple in conservative messaging for decades. Republicans regularly labeled President Obama a socialist during his time in office, despite no indication that the label was accurate. During this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), speakers renewed their devotion to plastering the socialist label on politicians and policies they oppose, and expressed their continued commitment to the scaremongering as the race to 2020 begins.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told MSNBC yesterday, before the first round of Democratic debates, that she wasn’t sure if there was a single Democrat pursuing the presidency that she would not consider a socialist. Currently, the only Democrat seeking the 2020 nomination for president who has labeled himself a socialist is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
At Road to Majority, the GOP’s strategy met face-to-face with the Religious Right. As plates of chicken and salad were served at the opening session, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas addressed the group, and he warned that “the fate of the nation is being debated.” Cruz asked the audience if they had watched last night’s Democratic Party debate between candidates for president and asked those in attendence to memorize a mantra: “defend freedom.” He criticized Democrats for proposing higher tax rates for wealthy Americans and universal access to health care.
“We saw, last night, an embrace of socialism,” Cruz said. He went on to praise Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerful conservative legal group founded in the 1990s that has argued in favor of anti-LGBTQ discrimination practices in the name of “religious liberty.”
After a brief intermission while attendees ate, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia took the podium. His speech centered on warning that Democrats are hellbent on waging an “ideological war” on the historically conservative values of the American political system.
“Democrats want to convert America to a socialist state,” Perdue said, soliciting boos from the audience. “This socialism talk didn’t just start with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Over the last 100 years, America has been on a slow slide towards socialism.”
Perdue claimed that social programs like the New Deal, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Affordable Care Act had failed to help working people in America, and he praised President Trump for working to roll back regulations and boost fossil fuel production in the United States. He called the Trump administration’s economic policies a “miracle.”
“I never thought in my lifetime I’d be standing here having to defend capitalism, but I have to tell you this, our way of life is in jeopardy,” Perdue said. “I didn’t ask for this fight, but like you, I’m up for it. This is our time. If we don’t do it, who will? If we don’t do it now, when will we do it?”
He added that Democrats won’t use the word “socialism” but that proposed policies were “indeed that.” He said, “What’s at stake here is our freedom. … You and I just cannot let this radical left take our country down that road to socialism. The only thing standing in their way right now is you and me.”
He said repeatedly: “The price of socialism is freedom.”
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky did not fear-monger about creeping socialism in America, but instead stated his anti-choice bona fides and took issue with President Trump on the matter of selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, however, picked up the fear-stoking tone when he followed Paul with a speech that contained similar warnings about socialism coming to America. Rubio told activists in the audience that America was facing a “pivot moment in history” during which “Judeo-Christian principles” were being questioned with regard to their morality and righteousness. During his speech, Rubio said that Democrats wanted to solve problems facing America with socialist policies.
“Is the answer to [those problems] socialism? Of course it’s not. The answer to that is still free enterprise and limited government,” Rubio said.
Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Steve Scalise of Louisiana were scheduled to speak at the luncheon but were unable to attend due to obligations on Capitol Hill.