TAMPA, Fla.—Thousands of people lined up on a swampy Tampa afternoon to attend President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again rally on July 31. Several rally-goers who spoke with The Epoch Times expressed concerns about the push toward socialism in America.
Discussions about socialism have intensified in recent weeks, especially after New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a stunning primary election victory over incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley on June 26. Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, ran on a platform that included abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A number of Democratic Socialists of America leaders have publicly endorsed communism, an ideology that, according to some estimates, is responsible for the unnatural deaths of 100 million people during the 20th century.
Former Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin explained in his writings that the ultimate goal of socialism is communism.
Ocasio-Cortez has recently campaigned with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) to espouse socialist ideas such as bigger government, free education, and health care for all through substantial tax hikes.
‘An American Patriot’
Vietnam War veteran Larry Clement, 74, said that as of a year ago, he is no longer a Democrat or Republican.
“I’m an American patriot,” he said. “Being a military person, the very first thing is, protect your flag. When people don’t want to protect my flag anymore, I get quite upset, and I was quite upset. So that was where I stood. I stand for my flag.”
Clement has been to almost every Trump rally in the region so far. “He is very important to me because he’s a business-type individual and he says what he feels,” he said.
Clement said that, after fighting communism in Vietnam, the creep of socialism in America is “very scary.”
“Having been in different countries and seeing what those poor people have to go through and seeing what we go through, we are very, very lucky—very lucky people,” he said. “We need more people to go and see what other countries have to go through, because they don’t get that freedom under socialism.”
He said he’d like to see all American children attend a two-month boot camp-type program after high school, to show them “how to start life, because so many of them don’t know what’s going to be involved.”
‘Something for Nothing’
Dianne Wilhelm, 79, has noticed a decline in values over the years, and she attributes some of that to socialism.
“I think actually we have a lot of younger people that really want to go socialistic,” she said. “I mean they think that you can have something for nothing.”
Wilhelm said Ocasio-Cortez wanting everything to be free is untenable: “Who’s going to pay?”
A recent projection for Sanders’s “free Medicare for all” plan put the cost at $32.6 trillion over 10 years, according to a study commissioned by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a public research university in Virginia.
“And the thing that bothers me about the whole thing is so many people don’t respect the office,” Wilhelm said. “I don’t say you have to respect him [Trump], but respect the office. People used to do that, and they don’t anymore.”
Wilhelm said she supports Trump because he does his best to follow through on his promises and wants to do the right thing.
“I think his heart is in the right place, and you know he’s trying to bring us back to our old values,” she said.
The American Dream
Nena Chancy said much of what she sees on the left is worrisome.
“A lot of the socialist ideas concern me. I believe that the American dream is about working hard and earning money and being rewarded—and that’s what capitalism is all about,” she said. “I believe [Trump’s] core values are completely in opposition to what socialism is all about.
“I think Trump wants to see America succeed, and I like that he puts America first. I feel like that’s his job. He’s elected in that role and that’s his concern.”
Chancy has seven children between the ages of 13 and 27—one is in the Marines, three are married, one is in college, and two are still at home.
Her youngest, Hayden, 13, was harassed in 2016 by a teacher at his previous school in southern Georgia for supporting Trump and wearing a Trump t-shirt.
“She would, like, pick on me in class in front of everybody, trying to embarrass me,” Hayden said.
“He wore a Trump shirt,” Chancy said. “She would tell him he’s as obnoxious as his shirt and just make really rude comments.
“It concerned me that he couldn’t go to school and, you know, say what he believed,” she said.
Chancy said she looked into private schools for Hayden when the family moved to Florida to avoid a similar situation.
Hayden was also bullied by a woman when he was at the beach.
“I was just standing there with all my stuff, and they just came up to me, and grabbed my stuff, and started making fun of me,” he said. “[She] grabbed my shirt and pulled it and then talked a bunch of garbage to me, then they walked away and scoffed at me. They grabbed at my hat.”
However, he remains undeterred and still wears his Trump-branded clothing.
‘Zero Job Skills’
Henry Kones grew up in the 1980s and has noticed a socialist, progressive movement chip away at many aspects of American life, including traditional values, work ethic, and the family unit.
He said, generationally, it’s millennials that lean toward socialism, partly because they “don’t know what it’s like to … pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
“And that’s where the disconnect comes in,” Kones said. “I am an employer, so I know. They come out of universities and they have zero job skills.”
Part of the goal of socialism is to destroy the family unit, eliminating the most basic form of social order to give the government power over minute household decisions.
Kones said he sees the attack on the family happening even in sitcoms on TV.
“Look at the way men are portrayed on sitcoms—they are all idiots,” he said. “Traditionally, men have always been the providers in household, but there is a complete devaluing of really the male role in a household.”
Kones’s wife, Paula, is originally from Colombia, and she has seen socialism in action.
“If there is a politician who is going to run on a socialist platform, I think it would be required that that person should live in a socialist country for at least two years, so they can come and talk from experience, not from a romantic idea of what socialism is—which is a failed system,” she said.
“This is the best country in the world. Why would you change it?”
‘I Picked Conservative’
Seventeen-year-old Victor Bellino plans to join the Navy after completing his final year of high school.
Meanwhile, he feels he has to lay low about his support for Trump at school.
“I wouldn’t want to wear a Trump shirt, I’d feel a little bit scared. Our school is pretty rough,” he said. “I used to have a sticker on my truck. I took that off because I was scared of vandalism.”
Bellino said the 2016 presidential election was his political coming of age and that discussions with his father have helped teach him to form his own opinions.
“I have decided to pick conservative,” he said, “but I just want to support our president.”
“I love that he really doesn’t care what people think. He has a great foreign policy. What he’s doing with the economy is just amazing.
“I like his strong standpoint. I like that he doesn’t get bullied.”