Still Feeling the Bern: Sanders Talks Media, Policy, and Trump in Book Talk

Bernie Sanders, once the longest serving Independent U.S. Senator, won 22 states and 13 million American votes during the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. Despite not becoming the party’s nominee, his voice was instrumental in both shaping Hillary Clinton’s platform and coverage in the 2016 general election.

To promote his newly published book, Our Revmaolution: A Future To Believe In, Sanders gave a speech at the George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. At this event, he spoke about the need for a united progressive movement and calls for accountability for both the media and Donald Trump. After the speech, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne sat down with Sanders for an interview with audience input.

Politics and Prose, a DC establishment known for its books and political guests, hosted the event. Dionne, a liberal Brookings scholar who can be seen and heard on NPR and MSNBC, in addition to The Post, moderated the talk with Sanders.

A “Corporate Media”

Sanders was critical to what he sees to be the “corporate media,” saying that the media primary function to make money is at the detriment of the American people.

“We need serious discussions about serious issues,” Sanders claims, “and that is not what the media is giving us.”

The Senator also pointed out the Podesta and DNC email leaks, saying that Sanders himself could make the argument that the Clinton campaign hurt his own.

“To say the least, the DNC was not a neutral force in the campaign.” Sanders says, “[Our Revolution] has to take on the entire Democratic establishment.”

A Grassroots Policy Revolution and Trump

Despite Donald Trump’s victory and unified Republican government, Sanders expressed optimism and has hope for change and the progressive movement in the future.

“Politics is not just about elections,” Sanders says, claiming the majority of people agree with the progressive agenda. “When we stand together by the millions, we can stop Mr. Trump or anyone from doing bad things.”

He emphasized that this idea that progressive, grassroots change–a political revolution–must be prompted from the common people and “always occurs from the bottom up.” Sanders, throughout his speech, said that he will “oppose and expose Trump’s hypocrisy.”

In response to the impending Republican control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, he informed the audience that he will hold Trump accountable to his word. He also said that he is willing to work with a Trump administration in achieving his promises to vote against “disastrous trade deals,” instituting a six week paid maternity leave guarantee, investing a trillion dollars into infrastructure spending, reinstating Glass-Steagall, and keeping social security, Medicare, and Medicaid in tact.  

Sanders drew a hard line on normalizing Donald Trump’s racist sentiments, telling the crowd that he and his grassroots revolution will not expand racism and sexism. In response to the President-Elect’s controversial border security measures as well as comments on a possible Muslim immigration ban, he said, “As a people, we will not accept racism of any kind… We will not sit by and allow those thing to happen.”

Expanding on the race issue, he called for Trump “to rescind the appointment of Mr. Bannon,” calling Stephen Bannon’s appointment “totally unacceptable.” Bannon, most well-known as the Executive Chairman of the controversial alt-right media outlet Breitbart News during the 2016 election, was just instated as President-Elect Trump’s “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor.

Sanders continued, saying that the grassroots movement will strive to “go forward in creating a nondiscriminatory society.”

The senator is also largely critical of Donald Trump’s stated position of climate change, saying that Trump should “start listening to the scientific community [about the issue] and not the CEOs of the fossil fuel industry.”

A Lost Primary

On Hillary Clinton, Sanders stated that he has the upmost respect for Hillary Clinton and finds her to be “highly intelligent” and “impressive,” though he noted that “her politics are very different than mine” – contrasting the Clinton approach of insider politics and establishment political change with his idea of grassroots change and political “revolution.”

When asked if the senator feels like his campaign hurt Clinton early in the general election season however, he responded that “the assumption behind that question is that we should anoint her president.”

He continued, claiming that his campaign “made hers stronger” because Clinton incorporated Sanders’ more progressive ideas into her general election platform.

On a lighter note, Bernie Sanders commented on Larry David’s portrayal of the Senator, jokingly saying that “I am actually Larry David, and Sanders is back in Vermont, and you fell for it,” eliciting laughs from the audience.

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