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Bernie Sanders on the Future of the Democratic Party

Are the Democrats progressive?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Larry Wilmore has felt the Bern. Or at least, he’s prepared to ask the former presidential candidate and current Vermont senator questions about the state of the Democratic Party and increasing political divide in America. Bernie Sanders joined Black on the Air to talk those issues and more.

Wilmore asked Sanders: Is the Democratic Party a progressive party?

"Let me give you an unequivocal yes and no," Sanders began. "I helped write, along with secretary Clinton, what was — what is — the most progressive party platform in the history of American politics. And that is officially now where the Democratic Party stands. It stands for a $15 per hour minimum wage. It stands for moving to universal health care [and] guaranteeing health care to all people. It stands for breaking up the largest Wall Street banks. It stands for pay equity for women, [a] very pro-choice platform. It stands for creating millions of jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure. It stands for making public colleges and universities tuition-free."

But of course, not all of those ideals ring true for every Democrat.

"On the other hand, I would not be honest with you in telling you that there is an element of the Democratic establishment who may give lip service to those ideas, but that’s not really what is in their heart of hearts," Sanders said.

Sanders said he sees a parallel between Trump and the progressive movement in America. Allow him to explain:

"What [Trump] did has touched a nerve, and we have to acknowledge that nerve. People are not happy with the Democrats. They certainly hate corporate America. They hate Wall Street. He said, ‘I’m gonna take them on. Obama didn’t take them on. I am going to take them on.’ People voted for him. He lied. That’s the way it is. Our job is to bring people together at the grassroots to stand up not only in opposition to Trump, but for a progressive agenda. Truth is, his views — throwing millions of people off of health insurance, giving huge tax breaks to millionaires, not acknowledging the reality of climate change, taking away a woman’s right to choose — are not popular views. They are [the views of] a distinct minority of the American people. Our views, raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, creating millions of jobs, taking on the drug companies, taking on Wall Street, those are the popular views. We gotta bring our people together around that agenda."

Sanders is optimistic about his worldview, which he said he believes the youth of America shares.

"Youth is … what do they say, ‘It’s what it’s in your heart and not your chronology.’ [Young people] really have a very different vision for where this country should go than the establishment, [and] are prepared to think big," Sanders said. "And I gotta tell you something, Larry, and I always think about this with a smile on my face. I ran all over this country. We ended up speaking to, like, 1.4 million people in rallies, some very large, some not so large. And I remember being out in the fields and the agricultural areas in California talking to 5,000, 10,000 people, young people, black, Latino, white kids, working-class people. It was so beautiful. You looked in front of you and say, ‘My God, this is a beautiful country. There are beautiful people in it who dream big.’ It was beautiful. They want this country. They ask themselves, ‘Why are we the only nation not to guarantee health care to all people? Why do we accept this level of income and wealth inequality? Why do we still have the kind of sexism and racism that we have?’ In that sense, they are ahead of the Democratic Party. Absolutely."

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.