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Bernie Sanders on Resisting Trump, Why the Democratic Party is an “Absolute Failure” & More

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Last month more than 4,000 people gathered in Chicago for the People’s Summit. Independent senator, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered the keynote speech. During his speech, he repeatedly criticized the Democratic Party, calling it an “absolute failure,” and blaming it for the election of President Trump. “I’m often asked by the media and others: How did it come about that Donald Trump, the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country, won the election?” Sanders said. “And my answer is that Trump didn’t win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election. Let us be very, very clear: The current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Over 4,000 people gathered in Chicago in June for the three-day People’s Summit, organized in part by National Nurses United. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave a major speech, where he attacked both President Trump and the Democratic Party. Senator Sanders spoke at a time when some of his supporters are pushing for him to form a new political party ahead of the 2020 election and run again for the White House. Today we spend the hour airing Bernie Sanders’ address.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I want to thank many, many of you for your work on our presidential campaign. You understood something that the establishment, the pundits and the corporate media did not know and still do not know. And that is that the American people are profoundly sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics. As RoseAnn just said, the question all over this country that people are asking themselves is: When will my life get better? And it ain’t gonna get better through establishment economics or establishment politics, that’s for sure. At a time of massive—and vulgar—income and wealth inequality, and the movement of our country toward an oligarchy, where a handful of billionaires control our economy, our political life and much of the media, you understood that the American people want a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent. And that’s what all of us are fighting for, and I thank you very much for all that you have done, are doing and will do.

And, by the way, Jane and I just returned from the U.K. the other day. And I want to tell you—want to tell you what you already know, is that the movement for economic, social, racial and environmental justice is not just growing here in the U.S., it is growing worldwide. All over the world—all over the world, people are asking: How does it happen that, globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent? How does it happen that the eight wealthiest people on this planet own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population—3.4 billion people? And just the other day—just the other day, in the U.K., against all of the predictions, the Labour Party there won 30 new seats. And they won those seats not by moving to the right, not by becoming more conciliatory; they won those seats by standing up to the ruling class of the U.K. And all of us congratulate Jeremy Corbyn and his team for what they’ve accomplished.

This evening, what I want to do is give you, as I see it, some good news. I want to be honest and tell you about the bad news that I see. But I’m going to conclude with very good news.

Now, the good news—the good news is that, together, because of the grassroots efforts of millions of Americans, from coast to coast, taking on the entire political establishment, our campaign was able to win 22 states in the Democratic primary, over 13 million votes, some 46 percent of the popular vote. Together—together, in virtually every state, in virtually, I think, every single state, we won the votes of young people under 40, young people who are black and white and Latino and Asian-American and Native American. We won those votes by overwhelming numbers, and we ended up, I believe, getting almost twice as many votes as Clinton and Trump combined, among young people.

And what that means—what that means—and please do not forget this—is that our ideas and our progressive vision, we are the future of this country.

AUDIENCE: Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!


AUDIENCE: Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It’s not “Bernie.” It is you! We are in this together, and always have been and always will be. Together, during our campaign, we organized some of the largest rallies in the campaign, speaking to over 1.4 million people. In other words—in other words, we have the enthusiasm. We have the momentum. And as I look around this theater tonight, I can see we have the energy to transform America.

And this is what else we have accomplished. After the campaign, we helped write the most progressive political platform of any party in American history. Together, we transformed campaign finance in this country and showed the world you don’t Wall Street and corporate money to run an effective campaign. When you stand for something, people will respond. We received two-and-a-half million individual contributions, averaging—

AUDIENCE: Twenty-seven dollars!

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: That’s right, 27 bucks. But, most importantly, we may have lost the election in 2016, but there is no question—there is no question—there is no question that we have won the battle of ideas. And we are continuing to win that battle. And that is, brothers and sisters, no small thing.

Because of the grassroot efforts of activists like you throughout this country, we have in recent years made enormous progress in advancing the progressive agenda. And I want all of you—you know, sometimes what we all do is we look at today, and we say, “Well, you know, that’s kind of the way it always was.” That’s not the case. Ideas that just a few years ago seemed radical and unattainable are now today widely supported, and, in fact, some of them are being implemented as we speak. And I want you to appreciate what together we have accomplished. Don’t take this for granted.

Five years ago, not a long time ago, with a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour—a starvation wage—if five years ago somebody here jumped up and they said, “Bernie, you know, we’ve got to raise that minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour,” person next to you would have said, “You are nuts. You can’t double the minimum wage at one time. Can’t be done.” In fact, three years ago, what the Democratic leadership was talking about was $10.10 an hour. That was then. Today, federal legislation for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which I introduced in the Senate a few weeks ago, now has—now has 31 co-sponsors in the Senate and—and 155 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. And $15-an-hour legislation is being passed by city councils and state legislatures all across America. My understanding is that right here, in the state of Illinois, a $15-an-hour minimum wage bill is on the governor’s desk. Governor, sign that bill! All over in Illinois and all over this country, the working people of this nation need a raise. And what we are saying, as loudly and clearly as we can, is that if you work 40 or 50 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty.

But it’s not just a minimum wage and the fight for 15. I want you to think about this: Five years ago, if we were here, the majority political sentiment in this country, among Republicans and many Democrats, was that our trade policies were just great. What was the problem with NAFTA and PNTR with China or the TPP? So what if those trade policies cost us millions of decent jobs and drove us into a downward spiral, a race to the bottom? Our trade policies were great. That was five years ago. Today, the American people, all across the political spectrum, are saying that we need new trade agreements that work for workers, not just the CEOs of large corporations. And I want to thank all of you for creating the movement that defeated the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But it’s not just trade that we’ve had an impact on. Today, the idea of a trillion-dollar investment to create up to 15 million jobs, good-paying jobs, by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is now widely accepted. Just three years ago—not even five years ago, three years ago—I proposed a trillion-dollar investment, got virtually no support, had to cut it in half. But today, all across the political spectrum, people understand that we need to repair our broken bridges, our roads, our water systems, our wastewater plants, our levees, our dams, our airports. We need to build affordable housing.

Five years ago, you talked about paid family and medical leave, people didn’t even know what you were talking about. But today, not only is support growing for paid family and medical leave, but the very radical concept that women in the year 2017 should not be paid 79 cents on the dollar, that we need equal pay for equal work, that’s also growing.

AMY GOODMAN: Former presidential candidate, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, addressing 4,000 people at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June. We’ll return to the speech in a minute, as he talks about healthcare, fossil fuels and his free college tuition plan. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return now to the former presidential candidate, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, addressing 4,000 people at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Five years ago—think about it, not a long time ago—five years ago, there was almost no discussion about making public colleges and universities tuition-free. Today, all across this country, people understand that in a highly competitive global economy, it is insane that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college and that many of you have left school deeply, deeply in debt. And what we are seeing now in states and in communities all over this country, the movement toward making public colleges and universities tuition-free. And let me tell you this, because I’ve introduced the legislation. Next fall, on college campuses all over this country, you’re going to see young people stand up and tell the establishment, “We’re not leaving school $100,000 in debt.”

Think back five years ago. There was, at that point, widespread belief that the Affordable Care Act, so-called Obamacare, was about as far as we could go as a nation in healthcare. That’s about it. Past Obamacare, can’t do any more. Today, as you know, that view is radically changing. Nurses, thank you for your help on this. Today, all over our country, the American people understand that there is something profoundly wrong when we remain the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, not a privilege. And there is also something profoundly wrong when millions of Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs that their doctors prescribe. And what the American people from coast to coast are catching onto is the function of healthcare is to provide quality care to all people, not to make billions in profits for the insurance companies or the drug companies. And as we—as we sit here tonight, the California state Senate has passed single payer. Thank you, nurses! And now, now it’s up to the California House and the governor to do the right thing and help us transform healthcare in this country by leading the way.

Today, by very large and growing numbers, the American people understand that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and poses a very serious threat to our planet. And there is strong and growing support—numbers have never been higher—for taking on the fossil fuel industry and for moving our energy system to sustainable energy and energy efficiency. Despite the current president of the United States—oh, you know who I am talking to—you know who I’m talking about—the American people, whatever Trump may think, or, as usually the case, not think—the American—the American people understand that we have a moral responsibility to leave this planet healthy and habitable for our children and for our grandchildren, and that we can and must lead the world in combating climate change. And, by the way, when we do that, we create millions of good-paying jobs in America.

Further, again, by overwhelming numbers—and you have to understand this—by overwhelming numbers, the American people support comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship. No, we’re not going to scapegoat—we’re not going to scapegoat the undocumented in this country. They are hard-working, honest people, and we’re going to work with them to create a path toward citizenship. And again, that is—again, that’s not my view. That’s not your view. That, in fact, is the view of the overwhelming majority of the American people.

Today, again—again—by overwhelming numbers, the American people understand that our criminal justice system is broken and that there is something wrong and disgraceful when the United States of America has more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China, and that there is something profoundly wrong when we understand that the people in jail are disproportionately African-American, Latino and Native American. The American people, including a growing number of conservatives, understand that it is absurd, that it is crazy, that we spend over $80 billion a year to lock up over 2 million of our fellow Americans. And all across the political spectrum, including conservatives, there is a growing belief that it makes a lot more sense, for our young people, to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.

Further, not only are we winning the battle of ideas on almost every major issue facing this country—the vast majority of the American people are on our side—but not only are we winning the battle of ideas, we are seeing more and more progressives becoming involved in the political process, running for office and winning office. And let me just very briefly—because there have been victories all across this country, let me just mention a few. And I apologize if I mispronounce some names; I’m not so good at that. Jackson, Mississippi—let me repeat that in case you didn’t get it right—Jackson, Mississippi, has a new mayor, Mayor Lumumba. Great City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, has a new district attorney, Larry Krasner. Christine Pellegrino—where is Christine? OK. Hi, Christine. Christine won a landslide victory for the New York State Assembly in a—in a district that had overwhelmingly gone for Donald Trump. Iowa has a new progressive in their House, Monica Kurth. In South Fulton, Georgia, City Council has a new member, Khalid Kamau. Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis City Council, Jillia Pessenda, Minneapolis City Council—two members. John Courage, San Antonio City Council. Stephanie Hansen, Delaware state Senate. Valdez Bravo, Portland, Oregon. Rita Moore, Oregon school board. Natalie Vowell, St. Louis Board of Education. Lori Kilpatrick, Dallas school board. And, brothers and sisters, those are just a few of the victories that we have had. Let me ask you a question: How many of you have run for office or are actively involved in local campaigns? Stand up! All right! Brothers and sisters, this is the political revolution!

Now, clearly, clearly, our progressives have not won in every election they contested. We have lost some tough races in Montana, in Kansas and in Nebraska. But what we showed is that even in these very, very red states, strong progressives could do far, far better than anyone imagined, and that with proper organization and financial resources, we can win, in any district in the United States of America. So the point that I want to make—and I hope you all appreciate it—is that because of your efforts and the efforts of millions of people all across this country, we are making enormous progress in creating our progressive vision. Now, that’s the good news.

Let me give you the bad news that you also know. And that is—that is—that is, today—today, in the White House, we have perhaps the worst and most dangerous president in the history of our country. And we also have—not to be forgotten—extreme-right-wing leadership in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. Now, what I find particularly disgraceful about Trump is not just his reactionary economic, environmental and social policies or the fact that he lies all the time. What I find beyond belief is his incredible hypocrisy. This is a man who ran for president telling the people of this country that he was going to stand up for the working class, that he was going to stand up to the political and economic establishment. And then—then, once he got elected, and without a second’s hesitation, he brings more billionaires into his administration than any president in history, and he hires the former president of Goldman Sachs to be his chief economic adviser. And then—then, four months in his—within his administration, he pushes some of the most destructive pieces of legislation in the modern history of our country, legislation that will cause intense suffering and pain for millions of working-class families.

Mr. Trump, do not tell us that you are a friend of the working class, when you propose to throw 23 million Americans off of healthcare. Don’t tell us that you care about working families, when you want to cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, when you want to raise premiums for older workers in a very dramatic way, and when you tell, Mr. Trump, two-and-a-half million women in this country that they no longer have the option of getting their healthcare at Planned Parenthood. President Trump, spare us the lies and the hypocrisy. Don’t tell us that you are a friend of working families, when you propose devastating cuts to Head Start, child care, public education, when you make it harder for working-class kids to get a college education because of massive cuts in the Pell Grant program. Don’t tell us that you support workers, when you propose massive cuts in nutrition programs, including the WIC program, designed for low-income pregnant women and their newborn babies.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time and within the exact same legislation as Trump makes massive cuts to life-and-death programs for millions and millions of children, working people, the elderly, the sick and the poor—at the same exact time, he proposes a budget that, over a 10-year period, would provide $3 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent. Trump’s budget is the most massive transfer of wealth from working people to the billionaire class that we have ever seen in this country. If you can believe it, he wants to repeal the estate tax, which applies only to the top two-tenths of 1 percent. And that means that while children will go hungry, people will die because they don’t have access to healthcare, the Walton family, a family worth $130 billion, could get up to a $52 billion tax break. What kind of morality is that, when you take from the most vulnerable people in this country to give to the very, very richest? And, Mr. Trump, we say to you tonight, you are not going to get away with that absurd set of priorities.

AMY GOODMAN: Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, speaking at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June. We’ll return to the conclusion of his speech in a minute, where he talks about why he believes the Democratic Party is an absolute failure. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return now to the former presidential candidate, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, addressing 4,000 people at the People’s Summit in Chicago in June.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We have a president who displays every day a massive disrespect for democracy, for tolerance and for traditional American values. His unprecedented attack against the media is nothing less than an effort to intimidate those who would criticize him and to undermine respect for dissent and a free press. His attacks against the judiciary seek to diminish the separation of powers that our Constitution outlined. The degree to which he tells blatant lies is unprecedented for an American president. And his outrageous claim that up to 5 million people in the last election voted illegally is nothing less than an attempt to tell Republican governors all across this country to accelerate their efforts to suppress the vote.

I also find it strange that we have a president who seems to be more comfortable with autocrats and authoritarian politicians than with leaders of democratic nations. All of us are scratching our heads trying to find out why is Trump so much enamored with Vladimir Putin, a man who has severely repressed democracy in his own country and spent the last number of years trying to destabilize democracy in countries around the world, including our own. Americans are wondering why Trump seems to have such affection for the leaders of Saudi Arabia, a hereditary monarchy which treats women as third-class citizens and which promotes Wahhabism, a radical and extreme version of Islam that has spread throughout the Muslim world.

And lastly, in terms of Trump—lastly, in terms of Trump, he is doing what demagogues have done throughout history. And that is, instead of bringing people together to confront the serious problems that we face, what he is doing is trying to divide us up by our religion, by our race, by our gender or where our families came from. Even a very conservative president—even a very conservative Republican president like George W. Bush understood that one of the important functions of a leader in a democratic society is to bring people together, not separate them. And I say—I say to President Trump: This country has struggled too long, too many people have fought, too many people have died, too many people have been beaten, too many people have gone to jail, in the fights against racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia. Mr. Trump, we are not going backwards. We are going forwards!

Now, I am often asked—I’m often asked by the media and others: How did it come about that Donald Trump, the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country, won the election? And my answer is—and my answer is that Trump didn’t win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election. Let us—let us be very, very clear: The current model—the current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure. This is not—this is not my opinion. This is the facts. You know, we focus a lot on the presidential election, but we also have to understand that Democrats have lost the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of the governors’ chairs throughout the country. And over the last nine years, Democrats have lost almost 1,000 legislative seats in states all across this country. Today—today, in almost half of the states in America, Democratic Party has almost no political presence at all. Now, if that’s not a failure, if that’s not a failed model, I don’t know what a failed model is.

The Democratic Party—Democratic Party needs fundamental change, fundamental change. What it needs is to open up its doors to working people and young people and all people who are prepared to fight for social and economic justice. The Democratic Party must, finally, understand which side it is on. And that cannot be the side of Wall Street or the fossil fuel industry or the drug companies.

Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, these are difficult times and pivotal moments in American history. And I am more than aware of the political obstacles that we face. I understand very well the nature of our corrupt political system, which, as a result of Citizens United, allows billionaires like the Koch brothers to spend unlimited amounts of money, allows them and their billionaire friends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an election on ugly 30-second ads that try to undermine the honesty and integrity of progressive campaigns. And that’s all they can do, because they can’t stand and defend their position on the issues. And we just saw this a few weeks ago in Montana’s Rob Quist. And what happened to Rob is going to continue to happen. What happened to Rob is he did a great job raising money from small individual contributions. I think it was 25 bucks a contribution. Fantastic! Raised over $5 million, $6 million. Fantastic! Did great. But—but the billionaire class got very, very nervous, and they put almost $7 million in independent expenditures by—and by a 10-to-1 ratio, their independent expenditures outspent Rob’s. And he lost that election.

Now, I also understand that corporate media is not particularly interested in our issues, the issues that impact working families, but very often they prefer six-second sound bites and endless discussion about political gossip. In fact, in the last presidential election, there was less discussion about the real issues impacting the American people than in any election in American history. And I also understand that over 90 percent of talk radio is right-wing or extreme right-wing. I got all of that. I know that. That’s what we’re up against.

And we also have to deal with the fact that the American people are today extremely demoralized, that we have the lowest voter turnout of any major country on Earth. And I am more than aware that Republican governors all across this country are working overtime to suppress the vote, to make it harder for people of color, poor people, old people, young people to vote. That is what we are facing today. And that is a lot of obstacles.

But this is what I also know. I also know something about American history. And I know that 150 years ago in this country, working people had no rights. They were treated like animals. They were forced to work 12, 14 hours a day. Children of 10, 11 years of age were working in factories and losing their fingers. Kids were working in fields. And workers 150 years ago stood up, under tremendous—with tremendous opposition against them. And they said to their bosses—they said, “We are not animals. We’re not beasts of burden. We are human beings. We’re going to form trade unions.” And I thank the American trade union movement for all they have done. And my pledge to you is we will pass legislation making it easier for workers to form unions.

And when we think about American history, we think about a hundred years ago, 120 years ago, when African Americans, under the most outrageous conditions, stood up and fought for dignity. And we will never know—never know—how many were beaten, how many were lynched, how many were jailed in the fight for basic human dignity. But we do know that over the years millions of people, black and white and everybody else, stood together and said that we will end the scourge of racism in this country.

And many of the children don’t know this, but a hundred years ago today, women in America did not have the right to vote, did not have the right to do the jobs, to get the education they wanted to have—a hundred years ago, no time at all. But women stood up. They went on hunger strikes. They went to jail. And they said, “Women in America”—and they stood with their male allies. They said, “Women in America will not continue to be second-class citizens.”

And 20 years ago, 25 years ago, no time at all, people who were gay, who were public with their sexuality, were humiliated, were beaten. But the gay community, and their straight allies, against incredible pressure, stood up and said that in the United States of America, people will have the right to love whomever they want, regardless of their gender.

Now, I’ve given you that brief overview of American history to make this simple point: Now is not the time to throw your hands up and say, “I’m giving up. I’m in despair. I’m burnt out.” I want you to think about the incredibly brave heroes and heroines in our history, against unbelievably daunting odds, who risked their lives for social justice, for economic justice, for racial justice.

Now, the fight that we are engaged in now is a tough one. No question about it. We are taking on an extremely powerful billionaire class whose greed has destroyed the middle class of this country, whose greed says that it is not enough that the top 1 percent today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Not enough! They want it all. And what we are saying today: We are going to stand up to that greed, to that recklessness, and tell the billionaire class that this nation belongs to all of us, this democracy belongs to all of us. And when we stand together, when we stand together and not allow demagogues to divide us up by the color of our skin or the country we came from or our sexual orientation or our gender, when we stand together, there is nothing that will stop us! Thank you all very much!

AMY GOODMAN: Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, speaking at the People’s Summit in Chicago, addressing about 4,000 people.

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