Bernie in Trumpworld: Sanders visits ‘imperative if democracy is to survive’

Vermont senator tells New York Times $2tn or $3tn will not be enough for new infrastructure package

Bernie Sanders plans to visit “Trumpworld” to persuade supporters of the former president of the errors of their ways, the Vermont senator and leading progressive said in an interview published on Sunday.

“I would have loved to run against him, to tell you the truth,” Sanders told the New York Times of Trump, who lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden but persists in both his lie that it was the result of electoral fraud and his control of the Republican party.

Sanders ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, losing a tough contest to Hillary Clinton, and in 2020, the last challenger standing against Joe Biden.

Trump, he told the Times, is “a fraud and he’s a phony. That’s what he is, and he has to be exposed for that.”

The 79-year-old refused to be drawn on pop culture questions such as his reported friendship with the singer Dua Lipa or his influence on fashion.

Instead, he discussed infrastructure reform, to which Democrats in control of the Senate will return this week.

Sanders said $2tn to $3tn, numbers touted by centrists, would be insufficient for a bill passed by rules allowing for Democratic votes alone. He has championed $6tn.

He gave Biden credit for confronting “realities” from climate change to healthcare, “concerns progressives have had for decades”. He also dismissed criticism from the left for his relative closeness to the Biden White House.

“You know politics,” Sanders said, “with a shrug”. “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

He also said he did not prefer the progressive slogan “defund the police”, a convenient cudgel for Trump and Republicans, saying he preferred “fundamental reform”.

“A cop’s life is a difficult life,” Sanders said. “Schedules are terrible. Salaries, in many cases, are inadequate. It’s a dangerous job. It’s a job with a lot of pressure.

“We need to significantly improve training for the police. In certain communities, what is going on is absolutely unacceptable. It must be changed, period. We cannot have racism in policing. If you go to Black communities or Latino communities, they want this protection.”

The senator was happy to be drawn out on Trump, who on Sunday told Fox Business supporters who attacked the US Capitol in the deadly riot of 6 January acted out of “love”.

Saying he wanted to speak directly to such people, Sanders said “sometimes part of the Democratic elite does not fully appreciate” the struggles of the white working class.

“We’ve got to take it to them,” he said. “I intend, as soon as I have three minutes, to start going into Trumpworld and start talking to people.

“It’s absolutely imperative if democracy is to survive that we do everything that we can to say, ‘Yes, we hear your pain and we are going to respond to your needs.’ That’s really what this is about.

“If we don’t do that, I fear very much that conspiracy theories and big lies and the drift toward authoritarianism is going to continue. You got all these folks out there who are saying, ‘Does anybody pay attention to me?’”


Martin Pengelly in Washington

The GuardianTramp

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