Op-Ed

Latinos know, many firsthand, that the Democrats are not socialists | Opinion

During these past weeks, the media have repeatedly asked the same question about the presidential primaries: Don’t you think the Democratic Party is taking an abrupt turn toward the left?

The question is a Republican talking point — and a not-so-subtle bid to get the Latino community to equate, absurdly, Democrats with the true socialists who have destroyed Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. They applied this strategy in the 2018 elections against Andrew Gillum, in his run for Florida governor, confusing enough Latino voters in Miami — voters who, like me, migrated from those countries and are hypersensitive to the term — to defeat him.

In reality, no one in the Democratic Party promotes ideas or policies even remotely similar to those that have destroyed democracy and economic opportunity in Venezuela. Even those who identify as social democrats or democratic socialists, in fact, only back public healthcare, education or environmental plans similar to those implemented in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands or Germany — all strong democracies with highly productive and competitive social market economies.

Consider the Democratic agenda. The party is focused on growing an economy that is both inclusive and environmentally sustainable; that offers more opportunities for the middle class, the working class, entrepreneurs, innovators and small businesses. On healthcare, Democrats back plans that range from building a whole new public system, like Medicare for All; to building on the successes of Obamacare. For example, Joe Biden’s plan to preserve private insurance but with a public option is a realistic way of expanding coverage and lowering the cost of care and medication that too many American families today can’t afford.

What does any of this have to do with Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela? Nothing.

Latinos will not be subjected to that type of fear-mongering again. We can see what’s really happening in President Trump’s America. His promise of new jobs has yet to materialize, and our economy appears headed toward a recession. And while Trump and Senate Republicans have cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, they’ve refused to boost the minimum wage for average workers. Now, Trump is promising higher tariffs on hundreds of products — in essence a tax hike on hard-working middle-class Americans who are the consumers of those products.

If you want to draw a parallel between Latin American caudillos and anyone in this country, I’d suggest the more apt comparison is to Trump himself. Like NIcolas Maduro in Venezuela, he has abused the Constitution, packed the courts, suppressed voters and undermined the free press. He has engaged in nepotism and corruption, promoted violent hate speech and threatened civil war if he is ever even constitutionally removed from power.

Poll after poll shows Biden trouncing Trump across the country — including by a 50-38 margin in a recent Fox News poll and by wide margins in key swing states from Wisconsin and Michigan, to Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. Biden beats Trump by the widest, most consistent margins because voters know that he has, by far, the most experience to fix everything that Trump has — caudillo-style —broken.

Voters know that Democrats stand with hard-working Americans. And it’s becoming more apparent every day that Trump stands only with himself.

Leopoldo Martinez, a Venezuelan-American, is an international lawyer and social entrepreneur. A former congressman in Venezuela, he is the founder of the Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas and a member the Democratic National Committee.

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