Bernie Sanders Is Not Done Fighting | The New Yorker
Longer-term, obviously, what I am trying to do is to bring people together to defeat Trump and to elect Biden. It is no great secret that Joe Biden and I have very serious political differences, but, at this particular moment in history, what is most important is to defeat Trump, who, as you implied a moment ago, is literally a threat to American democracy, and is moving this country not only in a dangerous way but in an authoritarian way, as well. Trump has got to be defeated and, in a variety of ways, I intend to play an active role in that process.
Thirdly, it is not good enough just to elect Joe Biden. We’ve got to continue the movement in this country for transformative change, and to understand that we are way, way, way behind many other industrialized countries in providing for the needs of working families. So the fight continues for a Medicare for All single-payer program, and that becomes especially obvious when you have seen in recent months millions of people losing their jobs. They’re also losing their health care because, under our system, health care is an employee benefit not a human right. So I’m going to continue that fight, and, no question, we are gaining momentum at the grass roots. And on and on it goes.
I think one of the myths that is being exploited right now is that I hear my Republican colleagues talk about, Well, you know, yes, this pandemic has been devastating, but, a few months ago, we had this great economy. This really great economy. I don’t know how you have this “great economy” when half of your people are living paycheck to paycheck. And what we are seeing right now, the great economic message of today, is that, when you live paycheck to paycheck and you miss a few paychecks, a few weeks of work, your family is suddenly now in economic desperation. Literally. Struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent.
So we’ve got to rethink. If there is anything that I hope we achieve in the midst of this unprecedented moment in American history, it’s that we use this moment to rethink, as I have said before, some of the basic tenets and institutions of American society, and learn from this pandemic and economic collapse so that we move this country in a very, very different direction.
Oh, obviously, I support what Chomsky is saying. It is very easy for somebody to stand up and say, truthfully, “I disagree with what Joe Biden stands for, his politics are much too conservative.” I get that. I share that view. But not to understand what it would mean to this country, and to our children and to our grandchildren—I have seven grandchildren—and what it will mean to this planet in terms of climate change if Trump is reëlected is, to me, to miss the most important point that has to be made. Trump cannot be reëlected. And what we have got to do, if you are unhappy with Biden’s politics, if you disagree with Biden’s politics—and I certainly do—then the fight has got to take place, starting today, to make sure that he moves in as progressive a way as possible, that his Administration is as progressive as possible.
That’s what our task is. It is not to allow Donald Trump to be reëlected and to see the destruction of American democracy and the destruction of this planet.
I think everybody knows that the police murder of George Floyd is part of a very, very long pattern, and, because of groups like Black Lives Matter and the A.C.L.U. and others, we have been discussing those murders a lot more in recent years than we have in the past, when it was really quite common practice. So this has gone on for decades, and I think the major transformation that’s coming now is a result of cell phones and video cameras. People are seeing what’s actually happening, which was not the case decades ago. But this has gone on, and it’s got to end.
Question : In that letter to Schumer, you got some pushback from some of your supporters for a proposal to give better resources to police departments. [The letter argued for “ensuring that the resources are available to pay wages that will attract the top tier officers.”] The criticism was that a lot of people in the progressive movement now are calling for defunding or abolishing the police. Do you—
Do I think we should not have police departments in America? No, I don’t. There’s no city in the world that does not have police departments. What you need are—I didn’t call for more money for police departments. I called for police departments that have well-educated, well-trained, well-paid professionals. And, too often around this country right now, you have police officers who take the job at very low payment, don’t have much education, don’t have much training—and I want to change that. I also called for the transformation of police departments into—understanding that many police departments and cops deal every day with issues of mental illness, deal with issues of addiction, and all kinds of issues which should be dealt with by mental-health professionals or others, and not just by police officers.
I think we want to redefine what police departments do, give them the support they need to make their jobs better defined. So I do believe that we need well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments. Anyone who thinks that we should abolish all police departments in America, I don’t agree.
I have done more live-streamed town meetings on Medicare for All than all of corporate television has done. We have done two or three wonderful panel discussions viewed by millions of people on why we need to move to Medicare for All. That’s more than CBS has done, NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN. They don’t do it. How many programs have we seen about income and wealth inequality and the morality of three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society? You don’t see it. So it’s not what they did to my campaign. Of course, I knew that that was going to happen. They came up with every line that they could. One of them was, Bernie can’t beat Trump, which, I thought then, and I think now, we were probably in the strongest position to beat Trump. Or, Bernie’s this, or Bernie’s that, or whatever—“Bernie bros”—whatever the line was. Nothing surprised me. We knew that that would happen. We knew that our Medicare for All proposal would be opposed by the health-care industry, and they and others spent millions of dollars in super-PACs lying about what I’m trying to do. Did that surprise me? No. Did the role of MSNBC or the media in general surprise me? No, it didn’t. That is the establishment that we have taken on, and that is why we have worked so hard to try to build an alternative media. I’m proud of the fact that we have a lot more viewers and followers on social media and live streams than many other Democrats do. But we worked hard at that, and we do that because I believe strongly that we need an alternative vehicle, an alternative media, to talk about the ideas that impact working society, because it’s very naïve to believe that the corporate media will do that.
We planted very powerful seeds, and those seeds are going to grow, and you’re seeing them out on the streets of America today. So I say to people who have been supportive of my campaigns that the fight has just begun, and, as I mentioned when I suspended the campaign, the campaign ends, but the struggle continues. And anybody who knows anything about history—whether it’s workers’ rights, whether it’s civil rights, whether it’s women’s rights, whether it’s gay rights, whether it’s environmental rights—understands that change does not happen overnight. It really does not. It changes when political consciousness changes; it changes when millions of people get involved in the process and take to the streets. That’s how change takes place. And we are in the moment when I believe that in fact is going to happen.