Donald Trump’s broadside against socialism might not have taken up much of his State of the Union speech, but MSNBC’s Chris Matthews believes it could be very, very effective. Matthews offered general praise for the speech anyway, telling the Rachel Maddow-led panel after the SOTU, “I think people where I came from will like the speech tonight … because it’s all good stuff.”
Introducing Juan Guaidó, Matthews argued, was a masterstroke, especially if Bernie Sanders starts gaining momentum. The more Trump can make 2020 a fight between traditional American values and Marxism, the better off Republicans will be — and the more division it will create among Democrats. One only has to look at Pelosi’s reaction to this part of Trump’s speech to see the problem Trump is creating, Matthews argues (transcript via Jeff Dunetz):
TRUMP: As we restore American leadership throughout the world, we are once again standing up for freedom in our hemisphere. That is why my Administration reversed the failing policies of the previous administration on Cuba. We are supporting the hopes of Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to restore democracy. The United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken. Here this evening is a man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans. Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland. All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom! Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.
Pelosi was especially loathe to offer any rhetorical support to Trump’s speech last night, but she certainly shot of her chair to salute Guaidó. That signals a clear division within the Democratic Party that will come to the fore if Sanders wins the nomination, Matthews warns, one that Trump is already exploiting. Sanders and his allies embrace socialists like Nicolas Maduro and not just the softer socialists in Western Europe.
“We don’t like those leaders. And Bernie does,” Matthews declares. “And that’s a problem for him.”
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think people where I came from will like the speech tonight. I think regular people will — they’ll see the schmaltz, the corniness, they’ll see it but they’ll like it. Because it’s all good stuff, whatever purpose it had.
I watched Pelosi because I really respect her like most of us do. And I watched very — the way she calibrated when to stand, when to applaud. It was almost entirely the tributes to people, individual people. She always felt that was the right thing to do. Especially Juan Guaido. I’m telling you, Trump set up the fight and he laid down the gauntlet tonight about him and Bernie. It’s as if he was following Bernie’s vote in Iowa yesterday.
And there he is going after Guaido, going after socialism, obviously tying all socialism to the kind we really don’t like, the tyrannical socialism of the Latin Americans like Castro. He’s saying, this is going to be my enemy, great, I’m ready to fight. I thought that was interesting. Pelosi stood up and applauded that. She knew where this country stands. We don’t like those leaders. And Bernie does. And that’s a problem for him.
Not just for Bernie either, but for Democrats up and down a ballot with Bernie at the top. What do first-term House Democrat incumbents tell their constituents about what will happen if a socialist wins the presidency and Democrats control Congress? Bernie’s running on radical change, and some of his organizers are talking about violent revolution on the streets, even if he wins. Even fellow Democrats have grown wary of “Bernie Bros” as a political force. Imagine what voters in the suburbs and middle America will think of that outcome.
That is why Democrats are in “five-alarm fire” mode already. Trump signaled last night that he’s ready to defend America against socialism — and Democrats might end up getting stuck with defending Marxism for allowing a socialist to take over their party.