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Bernie Sanders on how to hold Donald Trump accountable

November 21, 2016 at 6:40 PM EST
In “Our Revolution,” Bernie Sanders discusses this year’s election and what he sees as the future of American politics. Jeffrey Brown sat down with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the National Book Festival in Miami to discuss the election of Donald Trump and building a progressive movement in the U.S.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: This weekend, Jeffrey Brown sat down with Senator Bernie Sanders at the Miami Book Fair to talk about his new book, “Our Revolution,” to discuss the presidential election, and to get his take on the future of American politics.

Jeff began by asking the senator why he thought Donald Trump’s message attracted so many voters.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Va.): I think he understood that there are many millions of people in this country, the working middle class, who are really hurting. They are in pain.

They are working longer hours for lower wages, can’t afford child care, scared to death of retirement because they have no money in the bank. They have seen decent-paying jobs leave their community, go to China and Mexico.

And he said: I, Donald Trump, yes, I am going to take on the entire establishment. I’m going to take on the political establishment. I am going to take on the economic establishment. I’m going to take on the media establishment.

And I think a lot of people responded positively to that message.

JEFFREY BROWN: I was telling you I was in Iowa, North Carolina seeing a lot of the things that I think you were seeing of people around the country and the desperate shape that they were in.

But why then would Donald Trump become that champion?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Now, how many hours do we have to discuss that issue? That’s the question that needs a lot of discussion.

And I think it speaks to a large degree to the failure of the Democratic Party.

JEFFREY BROWN: The failure?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yes, which is something I’m trying to deal with right now.

The Democratic Party has been very strong in a lot of areas, in fighting to make our country a less discriminatory country. And that is enormously important. And, by the way, on that issue, there cannot be any compromise. Trump’s language has been atrocious, his behavior toward women.

We cannot go back to a racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic type of society.

But, on economic issues, I think there are many people in the working class who say, you know what? Yes, maybe we are better off than we were eight years ago, but I am still working two or three jobs, my kid can’t afford to go to college, I can’t afford child care, my real wages have been going down for 40 years. The middle class is shrinking. Who’s standing up for me?

The Democratic Party there for me? Are they going to take on Wall Street? Are they going to take on the drug companies that rip me off? And the perception was, no, they will not.

JEFFREY BROWN: But when you look at the election, and you think about those issues as drivers in the election, did you feel — do you feel that you could have won if it was you against Donald Trump?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I have been asked that question about 48 million times.

JEFFREY BROWN: I know, so make it 48 million, plus one.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: There you go.

And the answer is, who knows? I mean, I think what we can say is that the polling when I was running against Secretary Clinton during the process, primary process, had me doing better against Trump. And some recent polls suggest that I would have won.

But, you know, you don’t know what a three- or four-month campaign is about. But I will say, I would very much have loved the opportunity.

JEFFREY BROWN: What’s your reaction to his first nominations of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, General Flynn?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It’s not good. Not good. Not good, and not surprising, but not good.

Look, at best, we would have hoped that he would be a center-right president. But at least his initial appointments are moving very, very far to the right. Mr. Bannon comes from the extreme right in American politics. And I’m not comfortable at all that a person with this politics, with these beliefs is sitting right next to the president as his adviser.

JEFFREY BROWN: I think, before election night, most people thought it would be the Republican Party in disarray trying to figure what’s next for it.

Now Democrats have lost not only the presidency, but — and not only in Washington, right, but throughout the country.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: That’s right.

The bottom line, Jeffrey, to me is, you cannot be a party which takes money from Wall Street, which is not strong on the pharmaceutical industry, which is ripping us off every day, which is not strong on health care in taking on the insurance companies, which has not shown a desire to stand up and fight the economic establishment, and then tell working families that you are on their side. People see through that.

So, I think the Democratic Party has got to make fundamental choices. It goes back to the old Woody Guthrie song. Which side are you on? And I believe the Democratic Party has got to be firmly on the side of working families, taking on the big money interests, who today, to a very significant degree, control our economic and political life.

JEFFREY BROWN: In the immediate term, though, what should be the stance vis-a-vis Donald Trump? You have said that you can work with him in some areas, perhaps. But you have also said you’re ready just to fight against him.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, of course we’re going to be fighting against him.

For example, on the issue of climate change, Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. Now, this is not just a stupid expression, but it is incredibly dangerous.

The other area where there is no compromise is on bigotry. We have struggled too much, too long as a country trying to overcome racism and sexism and homophobia. We cannot go back to a more discriminatory society.

So, those are issues where there is no compromise. On the other hand, as somebody who has talked my entire political life about a disastrous trade policy, if Mr. Trump wants to work with us to make sure that trade works for the American worker, not just CEOs of corporate America, you have got a partner, partner.

JEFFREY BROWN: What do you say now to protesters who are in the street, including some saying, “Not my president”?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we can say what we want to say, but he is going to be inaugurated.

I think what we have to be, going to the streets, protesting in any and every way, makes sense. But we need a strategy. And the goal is to bring millions of people together. At the end of the day, if millions of people come together and say, we are not going to be a xenophobic society, we are not going to be throwing millions of Latinos out of this country, we are not going to be a racist society, we’re not going to be a sexist society, we will prevail.

But our job is not just to raise our voices. And that’s fine. But it is to bring millions of people together around a progressive agenda.

JEFFREY BROWN: But he won. So, he comes in saying, “I won. Here’s what I said I was going to do. I’m going to go ahead and do it.”

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, he won, and so do 100 of us who are in the United States Senate. We also won elections. And so do 435 people in the House. And so do governors all over this country.

JEFFREY BROWN: How can you still feel that you have the vast number of — a vast majority of Americans with you if Donald Trump won the election?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all, as you know, Hillary Clinton got a million-and-a-half more votes than Donald Trump.

Second of all, 46 percent of the American people didn’t vote. Thirdly, on every issue that I mentioned, whether it’s raising the minimum wage, pay equity, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, dealing with climate change, yes, on all of those issues and far more, the majority of American people are with us, absolutely.

JEFFREY BROWN: And you personally, what is your role going forward? Do you see yourself as the de facto leader of this opposition, or one of them?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I am going to work with people who hold similar views to me inside Congress, outside of Congress to make certain that we come together to stop Trump from doing some of the very ugly things that he has talked about doing.

And when he is prepared to work with us — and we can work together on raising the minimum wage, taking on the drug companies, changing our trade policies, rebuilding the infrastructure. Trump talked about taking on Wall Street. Well, we are going to hold him accountable. He says he wants to reestablish — bring forth Glass-Steagall legislation. That’s a good thing.

Will he do it? Who knows. But we are going to — we have a list of everything that he said. And we going to bring forth legislation around those issues and say, Mr. Trump, this is what you promised the American people. Keep your word.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the book is “Our Revolution.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you very much.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, we look at the future of the Democratic Party with Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who is challenging Nancy Pelosi to be minority leader in the House of Representatives.

You can also watch many other authors Jeff talked to this week at the Miami Book Fair. You will find that at our Web site, bookviewnow.org.

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