NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Thursday implored conservative activists not to “stand idly by” amid the rise of socialism on the left, as he called to “put socialism on trial” and “convict it.”
“I want you to put socialism on trial,” Kudlow said during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, outside Washington.
“I don’t want us to stand idly by,” the former CNBC host said. “I don’t want to let this stuff fester. I want it challenged. I want it debated. I want it rebutted. And I want to convict socialism.”
The sharp-tongued economic guru tackled head-on what quickly emerged as a recurring theme of this year’s CPAC: Democrats' embrace of progressive causes like “Medicare-for-all” and the Green New Deal.
“The Green New Deal would literally destroy the economy. Literally,” Kudlow said. “It would knock out energy, transportation, airlines, jobs, businesses. We’d probably lose 10-15 percent of our GDP. It’s remarkable.”
He ripped other “crazy ideas” embraced by some Democrats, like ending private health insurance, and guaranteed jobs “for even those who don’t want to work.”
“It’s never worked,” Kudlow said. “It’s never worked. The old Soviet Union, it won’t work, and it can’t work. Venezuela is proving it again.”
The annual gathering of conservative activists, pundits and officials comes at a time when the Democratic majority in the House, and the growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, are advocating for an array of government expansions. A handful of elected lawmakers identify as democratic socialists, but many more have signed onto policies they espouse like the Green New Deal.
They argue that challenges like climate change and unaffordable health care coverage require bold action by Washington.
“The whole premise of the Green New Deal is that we’re screwed on climate. I’m sorry to break it to you,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in an Instagram Live video.
But some Democrats have warned that these policies could turn off moderate voters in the 2020 election. At CPAC and beyond, Republicans have used the issue to hammer the Democratic Party as a whole.
“The majority of people in this room know that socialism is just stupid,” Rick Harrison, the star of the reality television show “Pawn Stars,” told the CPAC crowd on Thursday. “It’s literally like heroin. The first shot is great. For a little bit it’s wonderful, but then the rest of your life is a living hell. And that’s literally what the socialists are doing.”
“What is America’s biggest problem? Not socialism in Russia, but in America,” former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka told the audience Thursday morning, likening the Green New Deal to a watermelon: “Green on the outside, deep, deep red on the inside.”
North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows referenced Ocasio Cortez’s recent vow to pay her staffers a living wage by reducing the salary of senior staffers in her office.
“She’s really serious about it,” Meadows told the crowd. “Maybe she needs to put her money in there.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan knocked Democrats for embracing policies like the Green New Deal, abolishing ICE and higher taxes for the wealthy.
“This is how radical they are,” he said, predicting President Trump would win re-election against a Democratic nominee embracing these policies.
Also Thursday, the prospect of Trump facing a 2020 primary challenge was broached by Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who said, “They have the right to jump in and lose. That’s fine. They’ll lose horribly.”
Trump is expected to appear at CPAC on Saturday, when the conference wraps up.
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.