Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday morning railed against President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as a White House adviser and noted that Americans are concerned about Trump racist, sexist and xenophobic comments, but Sanders also laid out areas in which he said he hopes to be able to work with Trump.
Sanders told reporters at a breakfast roundtable in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that he was happy that Trump pledged to save the three major pillars of the social safety net.
“We look forward to working with him to make sure that he does not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” the senator said. “During the campaign, he said a lot. And we will find out soon enough whether what he said was sincere.”
Sanders said he also hoped to work with Trump on trade and keeping American companies from moving jobs abroad.
“I think it is high time that corporate America understand that they cannot get the benefits of being American corporations while at the same time they’re turning their backs on America’s working class,” Sanders said, later adding that a tariff may be an option.
He also seemed optimistic about working with Trump to reinstate the Glass Steagall bank regulations in some form, though he again noted that it’s unclear whether Trump will stick to that promise.
“Financial deregulation, brought about during the Clinton administration, which allowed commercial banks and investment banks and large insurance companies to merge, created the pathway forward to the collapse of 2008,” Sanders said.
Though Sanders laid out potential areas of agreement with Trump, he pledged to fight any racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory policies and behaviors from the President-elect. He said he would not “retreat” on the progress America has made when it comes to discrimination, and he repeated his call for Trump to withdraw his appointment of Bannon, who has given a platform to the alt-right on his website Breitbart.
Sanders did not go into depth about the errors Democrats made during the 2016 campaign, but he noted that the widespread losses that the party suffered show that it’s time for a change.
He said that evidence is strong that the party must “reassess what it stands for and where it wants to go” given that Democrats lost “the White House in a campaign against a gentleman who I believe will enter the White House as the least popular candidate in the history of this country,” as well as down-ballot seats.
“It is … not possible to be a candidate of corporate America, not possible to be a candidate of the insurance companies or Wall Street, not take huge amounts of money from powerful special interests, and then say, well, I am going to champion the needs of a declining middle class, I’m going to champion and fight for the needs of working class people,” Sanders continued. “I don’t think you can do that.”
To win going forward, Sanders said that Democrats need to build on their current base of women, black voters, and the Latino community, as well as reach out to the white working class. He said the party needs an economic message that makes clear that corporate America should not “get it all.”
He said that Democrats have correctly acknowledged that the economy has improved from eight years ago, but he said that the party has denied that for the past 40 years that “the middle class in this country has been shrinking.”
Sanders would not address whether Democrats would have seen a different outcome in 2016 had he been the Democratic nominee. When asked if he could have won the presidency, Sanders said that the media spends “too much time on political gossip, too little time discussing the real issues facing the American people.”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I could have won. Who knows,” he said. “It doesn’t make much sense for me to be looking backward.”