Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said the Democratic Party could have an opening to court supporters of former President Donald Trump by fighting for the middle class.
“There are millions of people in this country, working-class people, who look at Washington, and they say, ‘You know what? I’m falling further and further behind. I can’t afford health care. I can’t afford to send my kids to college. I can’t afford the outrageous cost of prescription drugs. Who is listening to me?’” Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
NBC host Chuck Todd had noted to Sanders that he had made a “big deal about wanting to court Trump voters” in 2016 and 2020, and asked whether that voting bloc were still worth pursuing “in an era where a majority of Republican voters think the 2020 election was stolen.”
“Look, I think there are some extreme right-wing voters who are racists, who are sexist, who are homophobes, xenophobes,” Sanders said. “No, and I don’t think you’re going to ever get them.”
Sanders argued, however, that the Democratic Party could attract some voters by standing up to big industries, such as pharmaceutical companies, and taking on their “greed.”
“I think what we need is a Democratic Party that has the guts to stand up to them and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to take on the greed of the insurance companies and the drug companies and Wall Street,’” Sanders continued.” And I think if we do that, some of those people, I’m not saying all, will say, ‘You know what? I’m gonna stand with the Democratic Party, because on these economic issues, they’re far preferable to right-wing Republicans.”
Surveys following the 2016 presidential election found roughly 12% of Sanders’ supporters voted for Trump that year. Following Trump’s election in 2016, Sanders argued that some Americans had voted for Trump because they had given up on the “political establishment.”
“A lot of working-class people out there voted for Trump, in a sense, because they gave up on the political establishment. Well, I, long time ago, gave up on the political establishment, and I think the agenda that we are offering people is an agenda that is going to resonate with them. They want a Congress, they want a government, they want an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent,” Sanders told the Washington Post in 2019.
“I am prepared to take on the political establishment, to take on the corporate establishment, and stand up for the working class of this country,” he later said in the interview.