ST. GEORGE — From socialism to immigration and President Donald Trump’s emergency order, Republican Congressman Chris Stewart drew both jeers and cheers as he spoke to these issues and others during a packed town hall meeting held Tuesday night in St. George.
Speaking against socialism
In the wake of Trump’s comments against socialism during his Feb. 5 State of the Union speech, Stewart announced he had created an anti-socialism caucus.
The purpose of the caucus is to inform lawmakers and the public about the dangers of socialism, according to a press release detailing the matter.
“Socialism causes nothing but pain and oppression to the people,” Stewart said Tuesday.
Socialism is built on empty promises and diminishes people economically by destroying future opportunities, he said, adding that once in place, socialist policies end up being initiated and implemented though force and coercion.
According to a poll cited by Stewart’s office, a majority of millennial voters today are in favor of socialism over capitalism, something Stewart said he finds troubling for the future of the nation.
“There is no hope – no future – in socialism, but too many Americans think that there is, and that’s the fight we have to have right now – to convince them and to show them that socialism will hurt you,” he said.
As many carrying the anti-socialism banner have done before, Stewart pointed to the current state of Venezuela as a product of socialism.
“I will fight to the day I die to make sure we are not a socialist county,” he said. “I love my kids more than that, and I’m not going to leave them a socialist county.”
Stewart’s remarks drew criticism, including one man who booed over the entire crowd.
Some members of the crowd, which was primarily composed of older individuals who appeared to be in their 50s and older, pointed to the concept of “Medicare-for-all” as a good policy to pursue, but Stewart disagreed.
At an estimated $32 trillion to implement, Stewart said, the government would have to double the tax burden on citizens and businesses, and he doubted that would go over very well with regular citizens. He also claimed that the Medicare-for-all system as the Democrats propose it would outlaw private health insurance and compel people to join the government system.
“If you think that is what the American people want, go ahead and make that argument,” he said.
Immigration and Trump’s emergency order
Last week Trump signed an emergency order regarding the U.S.-Mexican border and efforts to gain funding for a border wall. Stewart, as well as other Republican politicians such as Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, have criticized the move.
Stewart’s lack of support for the emergency order and public criticisms of it drew fire from some of his constituents.
“If I think he’s wrong, I have an obligation to express that,” Stewart said, adding that he supports Trump on a majority of his policies and that the president respects those who disagree with him.
“He doesn’t expect us to to fall in line like a bunch of robots, and I will not do that,” he said.
Stewart’s concern with the order, which he also reiterated in an interview with St. George News afterward, is that it sets a precedent that future presidents could use in relation to gun control, climate change or other matters.
The emergency orders also erode the balance of power that needs to be maintained between the president and Congress, he said.
When asked by a constituent if he will vote for a joint congressional resolution against the emergency order, Stewart said he would have to read it first before giving a definite answer.
On immigration overall, Stewart said there needs to be reforms and that the U.S. couldn’t simply allow caravans of 50,000-plus people in at a time.
While he acknowledged that some of his more conservative supporters wouldn’t like the idea, Stewart said he supports supplying a measure of foreign aid to Latin American counties. The intent behind the aid would be to build up those counties so its people would feel less inclined to head to the United States.
However, any aid given would have to be accompanies by government reforms, Stewart said. The U.S. couldn’t give aid to a corrupt government that would keep the aid for itself and not use it to help the citizenry.
Stewart’s stop in St. George is a part of an 11-city tour conducting town hall meetings up and down Utah’s Second Congressional District over a three-day period. Prior to the St. George meeting, he met with constituents in Kanab, Panguitch and Cedar City.
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