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Trump invokes ‘socialist nightmare’ ahead of 2020

President Trump gave his longest speech ever on Saturday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, held in Maryland. Touting his 2016 victory, he said he will win 2020 presidential bid by an even a wider margin. He also railed against special counsel Mueller’s investigation and attacked Democrats as socialists. New Yorker reporter Osita Nwanevu joins Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joining us now from Washington D.C. is Osita Nwanevu, a reporter for The New Yorker who covers politics and policy and who's been covering the events at the Conservative Political Action Conference. What was the big theme this year?

  • Osita Nwanevu:

    Big theme this year I think was basically socialism. That was a through line through every major speech that you heard not only from President Trump and Cice President Pence but all of the sort of B-list speakers as well. There is a big intro video that they showed multiple times during the convention that featured clips of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic figures who they think are embracing left-wing policies that are going to be too far left for the electorate. Whether that's true obviously remains to be seen.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The Republicans have been doing that and using socialism as a force to tar the left wing for a long time now. What's the difference? That they have evidence, that they have members of the other party claiming membership?

  • Osita Nwanevu:

    Well they do have some candidates like Bernie Sanders obviously who actually started his campaign with an event in Brooklyn today. Who is going around calling himself a democratic socialist for a long time, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I personally would be very skeptical that this is something that's going to seem new and fresh to the electorate who heard these kinds of claims. You know if you want to look at the record of presidential elections, the past three — they called Obama too far left in 2008, didn't win; they called him the same in 2012, they didn't win.

    By contrast, Trump who did spend a little bit of time calling Hillary too far left, actually focused most of the campaign in calling Clinton corrupt, as a member of sort of the political elite, if anything too close to the rich. Today, he talked about the ruling class in his speech to CPAC and that kind of approach set him apart from other Republican candidates and he did obviously win the election. So if I were Trump or people advising Trump, I'd be very skeptical of ditching that kind of original message.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The Conservatives have a fair amount to celebrate. I mean, they can look at the administration's record on deregulating things, they can certainly look at the successful nomination of two Supreme Court justices now they think a lot more like them than the previous appointees.

  • Osita Nwanevu:

    I think that's true. Obviously the tax cuts as well, they talked a lot about that during the conference. There are things that they can tick off. I think the real question now is, with the Democrats in control of the House, how many more victories are they going to be for the administration? So it will be really interesting to see how Trump continues to try to stoke his base and the absence of real victories he can deliver them. Obviously he's trying to do that with the national emergency declared over the wall. We'll see if that actually pans out into anything that's going to get sections of that wall really built.

    But he's really going to struggle to deliver not only campaign promises but sort of the mood that he tried to cultivate here at CPAC. I think that one of the things is going to be central is again this this idea that there is a rising tide of socialism on the left that conservatives have to sort of band together and combat. They're going to be in a more combative mood and maybe that sort of take the pressure off Trump to actually deliver things.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Finally, I want to ask, you spent several days there talking to young people, young conservatives. What's your sense? Is there a newfound energy because of Trump? Are they more optimistic of their own futures?

  • Osita Nwanevu:

    Well I think there's a lot of energy because of Trump. I think that he seems like a different kind of Republican politician to younger conservatives, campus conservatives, somebody who's willing to poke liberals in the eye. And there are a lot of young conservatives who really enjoy that. One of the most striking presences at the conference this year was a group called Turning Point USA, found in 2012 that's exploded over the past couple of years and their agenda is basically sort of ribbing liberals on campus in a way that is quite similar to the kind of jousting that Trump does rhetorically on the national political stage. Charlie Kirk, the group's founder had a big, big speaking slot at CPAC this year as did Candace Owens, their communications director. And you know, there is a lot of interest in that group and it, you know, it was given a lot of space and certainly a lot of people are joining.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Osita Nwanevu, a reporter for The New Yorker. Thanks so much.

  • Osita Nwanevu:

    Thank you.

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