15 Nov

Bernie Sanders: our job is to oppose Trump’s bigotry vigorously

Vermont senator backs protesters in interview and calls on progressives to mobilise against president-elect

Bernie Sanders speaking during a rally for Hillary Clinton in Phoenix in November.

Bernie Sanders speaking during a rally for Hillary Clinton in Phoenix. Photograph: Patrick Breen/AP

Bernie Sanders has urged millions of progressives “to mobilise and fight back at every instance” against Donald Trump’s presidency.

In a post-election interview with the BBC, the Vermont senator backed those who have protested against Trump’s election.

“Our job is to oppose him vigorously through millions of people in many many different ways,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I am very worried that a President Trump may take us back to where we were before, and we in the progressive community are not going to allow that to happen. We have travelled too far to descend back into racism and sexism.”

Protests against Trump have taken place in cities across the US following the election. The demonstrations have so far been largely peaceful, but there have been dozens of arrests. A man was wounded in Portland, Oregon, on Friday as he joined a march across the city’s Morrison Bridge. The following night, 17 demonstrators were arrested in Oregon. More than 10,000 protesters marched to Trump Tower in New York on Saturday.

Sanders called on more people to take to the streets if Trump tries to implement his campaign rhetoric. “We have got to rally millions of people to stand together, to say, ‘We are not going to be deporting millions of Latinos from this country. We are not going to allow women to be insulted and attacked and have their rights taken away from them.’”

Sanders, who defied expectations by running a close race against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, was also scathing in his criticism of the Democratic party’s attempt to ally itself with big money.

He said the party’s unwillingness to challenge the financial establishment was one of the reasons that Trump won.

“Over the years the Democratic party has become a party more concerned about raising money from wealthy individuals than they have been about bringing working people into the party and taking on the billionaire class, taking on Wall Street, taking on the drug companies or the insurance companies. The Democratic party has not been strong in standing up for the needs of working families. I think people are saying, ‘Well, the Democrats haven’t done it for us, let me try this guy Trump.’”

As the Democratic party evaluates what went wrong in the election, Sanders said he was leading attempts to radicalise its leadership.

“I am working right now to find and support new leadership for the Democratic party and an entirely new process by which we welcome working people and young people into that party,” he said.

Sanders said he was willing to work with Trump if he was serious about honouring campaign pledges about improving the economy for working people.

But he added: “We are going to oppose him vigorously in terms of his bigotry.

“The only way that we can stop it is to bring millions of people together to make it clear to Trump and his allies that they will pay a very, very heavy political price if they go forward in policies that the American people don’t want.

“The progressive agenda about raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, healthcare for all, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, that is an agenda that is supported by the vast majority of the American people.”

Sanders conceded that Trump won by appealing to “a lot of angst and anxiety and unhappiness in America in terms of what’s happening to working families”.

Asked if he could have beaten Trump, Sanders said it was impossible to tell. “There are polls out that suggest that, but the answer is you don’t know. I would love to have had the opportunity. But remember, Hillary Clinton ended up in the election with more votes than Donald Trump. Could I have done better? Maybe. Maybe not.”

He added: “He goes into the White House as the least popular presidential candidate in American history. His unfavourable ratings were off the charts. I know beyond any doubt that many millions of people voted for him, despite their dislike of much of what he had to say about minorities, or women, or many other issues. The reason that he won is that he’s a very good performer, he is a professional television performer. He knows his audience pretty well.”

Sanders ended the interview with this rallying cry: “Trump’s agenda is a minority agenda, not supported by most people. Our job is to mobilise and educate and to fight back at every instance.”

During an interview on the CBS News program This Morning, the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination declares after Donald Trump’s victory: ‘There needs to be a profound change in the way the Democratic party does business.’

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