In a Democracy Now! special, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sat down with Amy Goodman at the Free Library of Philadelphia in late November in his most extensive broadcast interview since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton just weeks earlier.
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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. In this holiday special, we’re spending the hour with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I recently interviewed him before a live audience at the Free Library of Philadelphia. The date was November 28th, less than three weeks after Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you on election night?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Home.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you went through.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, when the results came in from Indiana, I was very nervous. We had an outside chance with a conservative Democrat to win that seat—no one thought that Clinton was going to win it—and he got beaten rather badly, and I started getting nervous. And it was downhill from there. I went into the evening thinking that it was about a two-to-one shot that Clinton would win. So, I mean, I was—I was not shocked that Trump won—surprised, but not shocked—for the reasons, some of the reasons, that I gave. But I will not deny to you that it was a very depressing evening. I did not want to deal with the media. I didn’t want to—I was invited to be on, you know, a million different things. I didn’t even show up at the state event, you know. So, I will not deny that it was a depressing evening. And since then, I’ve been thinking as hard as I can, with other people, about how we go forward and what the best response is.
AMY GOODMAN: This also catapults you into the position of the most powerful, non-Democratic Democrat in the country.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, there are not too many non-Democratic Democrats who are in the United States Senate, so it doesn’t say much. But yeah, it—but I think your point is that last week or two weeks ago Chuck Schumer, who is now the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, put me on leadership. And he gave me a position that I wanted, and that is to be chair of the outreach effort. And what I am going to do is use that position, with your help, with all of your help, to transform the Democratic Party. I think—you know, it is very easy to beat up on people when they’re down, and that’s not my intention. You know, Secretary Clinton and her supporters are hurting now. It’s not my intention to be beating up on them. But it goes well beyond the presidential race.
Right now in the United States, as you know, Mr. Trump will be inaugurated. Right now, the Republicans control the U.S. Senate. Democrats, I had hoped—we thought we had a better than even chance of gaining control. We did not. We’ll end up with 49 seats. Democrats picked up a few seats in the House, but the Republicans will continue to control the House. Not only that, in about two-thirds of the states in this country, there are Republican governors. And in the last eight or so years, Democrats have lost some 900 legislative seats in state capitols all over this country. So I think any independent assessment, without casting any blame, says the current approach has failed. All right? When you lose, you know, it’s like they always say about the football coach: You know, if you’re zero and 10, you’re not doing well. Well, the current approach clearly is not succeeding, and we need a new approach.
And the new approach, I think, is to, A, create a 50-state strategy. That means we start playing ball in states that the Democrats have conceded decades ago. But more importantly, we create a kind of grassroots party, where the most important people in the party are not just wealthy campaign contributors, but working people, young people, people in the middle class, who are going to come in and going to start telling us what their needs are and give us some ideas as to how we go forward. And I accept this responsibility as outreach chair with a lot of trepidation, but also with excitement. I’m going to be going around the country to try to do everything that I can to create a party which represents working people and not just the 1 percent.
AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of who will head the Democrat—the DNC?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I am strongly supporting a congressman from Minnesota named Keith Ellison. And the reason—I’ve known Keith for a number of years. Keith is the chair—co-chair, along with Raúl Grijalva, of the House Progressive Caucus, which is, by definition, the most progressive caucus in the U.S. House. And Keith fundamentally believes, as I’ve indicated, that we need to make a major transformation of the Democratic Party, we need to make it into a grassroots party, and he has some very specific ideas as to how to do that. So I’m strongly supporting Keith, and I’ll do everything I can to [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of his being the first Muslim congressmember at a time when the president-elect says he wants to set up a Muslim registry?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Obviously, there is great symbolism in that. But to me, to be honest with you, as somebody who is not a great fan of identity politics, I am supporting Keith because he is a strong progressive whose whole life has been about standing up for working families and the middle class and low-income families. But your point cannot be denied. And that is, it will be a statement to the entire country that the leader of the Democratic Party is a Muslim, that we want a party of diversity, that we will not accept for one second the bigotry that Trump has been espousing during his campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think Donald Trump represents?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: And who do you think he represents?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: That’s a good question, and I don’t know that I can give you a definitive answer, but this is what I think. For a start, in terms of the campaign, what he did is, as I indicated in my remarks, he touched a nerve. And it would be wrong to deny that. There are some people who think that everybody who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, a sexist or a homophobe or a xenophobe. I don’t believe that. Are those people in his camp? Absolutely. But it would be a tragic mistake to believe that everybody who voted for Donald Trump is a “deplorable.” They’re not. These are people who are disgusted, and they are angry at the establishment. And the Democratic Party has not been clear enough, in my view, about telling those people, whether they are white, whether they are black, Latino, Asian American or whatever, women, gay, whatever, that we are on their side. And too often what we look at is identity. You’re a woman. Well, that’s good, but we need more women in the political process. We need more African Americans in the political process, more Latinos. No question about that. But we need people who will have the guts to stand up to the billionaire class and corporate America and fight for working families.
AMY GOODMAN: You were considered a fringe candidate. Maybe you, yourself, considered yourself a fringe candidate. When did the moment come when you actually felt the Bern?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I’ll tell you. This is what I thought, you know, and it’s been a crazy two years. But, you know, what I thought is, look, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I wasn’t—you know, I didn’t just get involved in politics two years ago. I’ve been representing the state of Vermont for 25 years in Congress. I was mayor of the city of Burlington for eight years, where I took on Democrats and Republicans to win election. And I knew, you know, that the message that we had—I could see it in Vermont. You go to the rural areas, by the way, where people are not necessarily pro-choice, where they may not be enthusiastic about gay marriage, where they may or may not believe that climate change is real, but they are sick and tired of having to work two or three jobs, not being able to send their kids to college, worried about their own parents. I picked that up, OK, in Vermont. And I thought that the message that resonated in Vermont—and I won my last election in Vermont four years ago with 71 percent of the vote. I did not believe for one minute that Vermont was any different than the rest of the country.
But what ended up—to answer your question, what happened is, before I decided to run—and the book goes into it—we went around the country. And we did, honestly—you know, politicians always say, “Well, the people asked me to run,” you know, after they had already made a decision to run. But the truth is, I didn’t know. How responsive would people be to our message? Well, I’ll never forget. We were in—on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles—maybe the weather is always beautiful there, I don’t know. But anyhow, it was—and I thought nobody would show up at a meeting. We had the musicians’ union hall. We had 500 people coming out: “Run, Bernie, run.” We were in Minneapolis—this is a funny story, which we relate in the book. You know, we didn’t know our way around Minneapolis. So we were driving around. Suddenly we see this long line of people, and I comment to the guy next to me. I said, “I wonder what concert is going on.” Well, it turns out, 7,000 people were there for an event. This is early on.
And what we were beginning to see with the turnouts, the turnouts at our rallies, more and more people coming out, more and more excitement, more working people, more young people, who indicated to me, in a million different ways, they were sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics. They wanted real change. And I will tell you, as the campaign progressed, that it was an awe-inspiring moment, a humbling moment, to be walking out on a stage—I think it was in Portland, Oregon, where the Trail Blazers play in the NBA—and you look out, and there are 28,000 people at a rally in Portland, 25,000 in Seattle, 27,000 in Los Angeles. So people were starting to come out. The word was getting around. And it was especially gratifying to see so much beauty in the faces of young people who want real change in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, who heard you were the people in that room, in each place. You were having the largest rallies of anyone, including Donald Trump, certainly far surpassing Hillary Clinton. But what Donald Trump had that you didn’t was the media. And, you know, that was repeated over and over by those that owned the media. You know, “He is good for us.” So, it wasn’t just Fox. It was all of the networks that were Trump TV.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right. That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: He didn’t have to travel. He was piped into everyone’s homes.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: March 15th, Super Tuesday III, was the night when Rubio gave his speech, and Ted Cruz gave his speech, Clinton gave her speech, and Donald Trump, they waited for half an hour for him to give his speech and showed the open podium, as they often did. They showed more of the open podium waiting for Donald Trump than ever playing your speeches. That’s what—those were all the candidates that night. And they played all their full speeches. They did not play one word of your speech. You were speaking in Phoenix, Arizona, to the largest rally of any of those people that night. They didn’t even speculate where you were.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I wish I could disagree with you. No, no, no, Amy is raising a very—and we go into it in the book. I was stunned. I mean, you know, in the middle of the campaign, you’re not figuring out this stuff or thinking about it. Turns out that from January 1st, 2015, I think, through November 2015, ABC Evening News had us on for 20 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: What was it you did that was so newsworthy?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: And it wasn’t much better on NBC or CBS, all right. And that’s just the simple truth. And there are a couple of points. I think—Amy, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the guy who’s head of CNN said, “Hey, Trump has been fantastic for us.” I mean, literally said that. “We’re making huge profits from Trump.” And the point to be made is, we had the misfortune of actually trying to talk about the problems facing America and providing real solutions. Trump was tweeting out about how ugly or horrible or disgusting or terrible his opponents were, in really ugly terms. Perfect for the media. That is a great 12-second sound bite. But to talk about why the middle class is in decline or why we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality can’t be done in 12 seconds. And second of all, it’s not something that they are, frankly, terribly interested in.
AMY GOODMAN: It was Les Moonves, who is head of CBS, who said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s good for us.”
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: CBS?
AMY GOODMAN: CBS.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah, I think a guy at CNN said something similar, because if you say outrageous things, this is what CNN lives for. That’s what they live for. And then they got to have somebody else: “Did you hear what he said? Oh, my god, it’s terrible.” And they go on and on. And that’s—that is coverage. Here is something. During the primary campaign, somebody—I think it was the Shorenstein school of media at Harvard, just over there. They studied the kind of coverage, and they said that something like 90 percent of media coverage during the primary—and I don’t think they got any better during the general—was all on this kind of stuff, gossip; 10 percent on issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He’s now in the Democratic leadership of the Senate, though he’s an independent socialist. We’ll return to our conversation with him after a short break.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. In this Democracy Now! special, we’re spending the hour with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I interviewed him before a live audience at the Free Library of Philadelphia in late November. I asked him about the standoff at Standing Rock in North Dakota. I asked him about the Dakota Access pipeline and why he supports the Native water protectors, who have led the resistance against the $3.8 billion project.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Number one, we’re dealing with sovereignty rights for Native American people, an invasion of their own property, in violation of treaty rights, which is an endemic problem in this country. Number two, you’re talking about an area where, if the pipe bursts, water, clean water that goes to millions of people in that region, could be severely impacted, at a time when we’re all concerned about the amount of clean water that we have. And thirdly, and most importantly perhaps, you’re talking about whether or not we should be in any way supporting a pipeline which is piping in filthy oil at a time when we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. So those are the three issues there.
I think what we have done is, number one, demanded that the president do what he did with Keystone. A lot of people put a lot of pressure on the president, and he finally did the right thing. And that is to kill the Keystone pipeline, which, by the way, under a Trump may be reopened again. But that is what he should be doing. And certainly, the demand must go to the North Dakota authorities that the kind of military presence that exists there is simply not what is acceptable. So, we have written to the president. We are going to continue to put pressure on the president to do everything he can to protect the Native Americans in the area and the protesters in the area.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about that famous moment in one of the debates with Hillary Clinton where you said you didn’t care about the damn emails. Do you feel the same way today?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: What I said—and sometimes it got taken out of context—is that there was an investigation going on and that I wanted to spend—that history, 10 years from now, trust me, no one will remember these damn emails. What they will worry about is people not having healthcare. They’ll worry about climate change. They’ll worry about poverty. They’ll worry about infrastructure. And my point was—and the media often doesn’t play that whole statement—I said, you know, “I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails, because that’s what the whole campaign is about. Why don’t we talk about, A, the collapse of the middle class, income and wealth inequality, healthcare, education, how we move the country forward?” And that was the thrust of my point. It is not my style—and sometimes, amazingly enough, I get criticized for it—for running, you know, ugly and negative ads. I prefer to stay on the important issues facing the American people. There are other areas we could have gone, as well, that Trump went into, that we chose not to do it, because I think, in my own state, I can tell you that people do want to hear a serious discussion on serious issues. That’s what we tried to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me tell you the reason I ask this now. This issue that was hijacked by the right-wing media and Trump himself, but the issue of the secretary of state setting up this private email server, and she has her husband, who’s the former president and running a multibillion-dollar foundation, meeting with heads of state, as well, and yet they don’t have accountability here—what this means not only for them, but if this becomes a model, for example, for President Trump. He runs a vast business empire.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: He is the top government official. If he decides to set up his own private email server and decides that he can disappear tens of thousands of email, there won’t be a government record of what is actually going on.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right, right. I mean, I think that’s a fair point. And I think, with Trump, the major point is this guy has business enterprises all over the world. And you’re looking just at immense, immense conflict of interest. Every decision that he makes is going to impact his bottom line of some business that he owns all over the world. So it remains a huge issue. And I got your point, too, obviously, you know, and that is the valid criticism of having a private email when you’re doing government business.
AMY GOODMAN: And now his Cabinet appointments, your thoughts on the direction he’s going?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think this is where—and what our job is—in fact, as I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be, I think, in Indiana on Monday night. And we’re going to go to the Carrier plant, where you have a situation where Carrier is—you all remember air-conditioners—they make furnaces in Indiana, actually. And they decided—they announced last year they’re going to shut down two plants in Indiana, throw 2,100 workers out on the street. This is a company that pays top dollar to its CEOs, head guy makes $14 million. Couple of years ago they had a severance package for a former CEO. You know what the guy got as a golden parachute? $171 million. And now what they want to do is shut the plants down and move to Mexico and hire people in Monterrey for three bucks an hour. So it becomes symbolic of a disastrous trade policy. And we’re going to be there.
But to answer your question, what we have got to do now, to those people who voted for Trump, because they said, “Well, you know, this guy sounds reasonable”—Trump sent out a tweet where he says, “I am the only Republican candidate for president who will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” Right? Well, believe me, every American, every person in this country, if I have anything to say about it, will know precisely what is going on with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because, as you’ve indicated, they are beginning to appoint people who are typical right-wing Republicans who want to privatize and cut Social Security. And our job—and we’ve got it. We’ve got every statement that Trump made during this campaign. And we are going to hold him accountable. Every person in this country will know what he said and what he is doing. Trump said, “One of the issues that I think a whole lot of people are deeply concerned about is the high cost of medicine in this country.” Trump said during the campaign he was going to take on the pharmaceutical industry. He was going to allow for Medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies, allow people to reimport medicine from Canada and other countries, where the price is often half as much as it is in the United States. Well, you know what? We are going to remind the American people of precisely what Donald Trump said about that and many other issues.
AMY GOODMAN: So now you have someone like Betsy DeVos chosen to be the new secretary of education, sister of Erik Prince, who, you know—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Blackwater.
AMY GOODMAN: —is founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: And multibillionaire, a multi, multibillionaire, I think, very active in politics in Michigan.
AMY GOODMAN: And massive supporter of voucher system for education. And then you have Mike Flynn, the national security adviser nominee. And this goes to another point of—though it’s critical to hold Trump accountable, starting with the Democrats, on the issue of the kill list, President Obama’s kill list, his using extrajudicial powers, executive powers, to kill people—can be Americans—without a judge, a jury, without them being charged with a crime. That’s President Obama, and he’s extending those powers. Your thoughts on President Obama’s use of the kill list and then the idea of President Trump using his kill list?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, look, you know, when we talk—obviously, I disagree with Obama in using—unilaterally deciding who’s going to live or die. And, look, it goes without saying that, you know, we are concerned—I am deeply concerned—about virtually everything that Trump is talking about and has talked about in his campaign and the kind of people that he is appointing. But what’s going through my mind right now is to figure out the most effective way that we can fight back. That’s really what I am focusing on right now. And what I will say, and what I believe to be the case, the Republicans are many things, but they’re not dumb. And if millions of people begin to stand up and fight back, they’re going to be thinking twice about doing very bad things.
I’ll give you just one example, Amy. A couple of years ago, sad to say, not only all—virtually all Republicans wanted to cut Social Security. There were a number of Democrats who did, as well. And some of us in the Senate, organizing a defending Social Security caucus, we worked with senior groups all over this country. We got millions of signatures on petitions coming in. And you know what? They backed off. They did not cut Social Security.
So, I think if there’s—if there’s a lesson to be learned right now, when we are fighting for huge stakes—we’re fighting for the future—future of the planet in terms of climate change. We’re fighting for the future of American democracy. We have got to mobilize people and rethink our commitment in terms of what our role is in the political process. And the message I just want to make here in Philadelphia and across this country is it is not good enough to say, “Well, hey, I vote every two years. I vote every four years.” That’s fine, but that is not good enough. What we need to do is to be thinking every day the kinds of role we can play in educating and organizing and mobilizing people to defeat this horrific agenda. And I do believe that if millions of people do stand up and fight back, we can stop him from doing some really awful things. And that’s what I am trying to do right now. And we’ve got to mobilize people to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: And I know we just have a few minutes, but this is an historic period. Fidel Castro just died on Friday at the age of 90. During the campaign, Hillary Clinton tried to redbait you by raising your support of the Sandinistas and talking about you being favorable towards Fidel Castro. But I was wondering if you could talk about the significance of the life and legacy of Fidel Castro and talk about the U.S. in relation to Latin America today.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it’s not just Latin America. You know, I think what we can say—and I’ve been to Cuba two or three times. I think Jane and I went in 1989 for the first time, and I’ve been back a couple of times, and Jane had some educational work in Cuba. A lot of positive things that can be said. Their healthcare system, for a Third World country, is quite good. It’s universal: All people have healthcare without any expense. Last time I was there, I visited a hospital, where they do very, very serious and good work. They come up with a lot of new drugs, actually, in Cuba, I believe. Their educational system is strong. But in truth, their economy is in pretty bad shape. And in truth, you don’t do very well if you dissent in Cuba.
So I think, you know, if you look over Castro’s long life, he overthrew a terrible dictator, supported by the United States of America, Batista. Some very positive changes came about. And we can argue ’til the cows come home to what degree American interference created the kind of society that exists in Cuba today. So that you could say there are some positive things in Cuba, some very negative things. Fifty years after the revolution, people still can’t dissent with freedom. The economy is terrible.
But I think it raises the question—I was on a Sunday show yesterday, and somebody was raising a quote that I made about Castro 30 years ago. And, you know, somehow, they have decided that Fidel Castro is the only—that Cuba is the only nondemocratic country in the world. See, Saudi Arabia is fine. Many other countries in the Middle East are fine. And what we need to do, as a nation, is really start educating the American people. You know, Amy, I’m sure, that in 1954, way back when, we overthrew a democratically elected government in Guatemala, which unleashed decades and decades and decades of horror in that country, supported terrible people in El Salvador. We engineered the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, democratically elected, the first time a person democratically elected in Chile was overthrown through the United States and the CIA. But those issues somehow don’t quite make it onto ABC. But I think it is important to understand our role in the world. In Iran, we overthrew—what was it? 1954?—Mr. Mosaddegh.
AMY GOODMAN: 1953.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: ’53, Mr. Mosaddegh. And how many people are familiar with that? Did people know that? Good. Not a lot of people—certainly, young people don’t know that. But in 1953, at the bequest of British oil companies, the United States government helped engineer a coup of a guy who was democratically elected, who was thinking about nationalizing some of the oil industry there. He was replaced by the shah, who turned out to be a very brutal, brutal man, which then resulted in what we have today with Khomeini coming to power. But these are issues that virtually do—correct me if I’m wrong. Have you seen many shows about that on NBC? You know, it’s just not something to be talked about.
AMY GOODMAN: Tune into Democracy Now!
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: All right.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s a good show. Your thoughts that Donald Trump said that he would have won the popular vote but for the millions of people who voted illegally?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I know this will shock you: I personally do not believe every single thing that Donald Trump says. No, but I did mention in my remarks that that was a—you know, this is—we can go back and look at all of the totally absurd and nonfactual statements that Trump made. You know, and I am not a guy in politics who really likes to attack viciously my opponents. It’s not my style. But I felt obliged during the campaign to say something that was just patently true, and that is that Trump is a pathological liar. And, you know, I mean, he was saying—and the danger is, it may be—you know, everybody lies. You know you’re lying. But I fear very much that he may be not even knowing that he lies, that he believes that he saw—the only person in the world who saw in New Jersey Muslims on a rooftop celebrating the destruction of the twin towers, the only person in America who saw it, and he’s utterly convinced that he saw it. And he may well be convinced of that. It may not be a lie; he may believe that he saw that.
But this statement, as I mentioned earlier, the danger of this statement is not just that it is delusional and incorrect, is that it sets—if you have a president who believes that millions of people voted illegally, you’re telling every Republican official in this country to suppress the vote, to make it harder for people to vote, whether they are immigrants, whether they are people of color, whether they are poor people, young people or old people. That is the danger of that statement. And that’s something we have got to fight tooth and nail.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you be running for president again?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Oh, now you sound—OK, now, she waited ’til the end of the program to sound like a mainstream media person.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, will I—do I continue to sound—do I continue to sound that way if I ask you, would you ever consider leaving the Democratic Party, that you’re actually not a part of? And—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well—well, let me answer the other question, is—four years is a long time. I’ve got to—you know, I’m going to be running for re-election most likely in two years for Vermont to the Senate. And there’s just an enormous amount of political work that has to be done at this—at this moment. I think, you know, as now having been recently appointed a member of the Democratic leadership, my job, with the help of everybody in this room—look, we’re going to ask a lot from you. And here’s the bad news: We don’t want just your money. See, and one of the things that bothers me is—and I will take this on—is Democrats spend an enormous amount of time raising money. And I have—for those people who were kind enough to donate—and we appreciate it very much—I’ve got to ask you a favor. Do not take up so much time—and I mean this very seriously—time of the candidates. They—if I have anything to say about it, they’re going to be going to Kansas and Mississippi and Alabama, where they’re not going to be raising money, they’re going to be talking to working people. So we need financial support, but we don’t have the time to spend an evening with 10 people. We need your financial help, but you have to allow serious people in politics to go out and start talking to working people so that we can transform the politics of this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Is that—is that a yes for 2020?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: So, no comment for 2020. It’s a statement that—it is a statement we have to worry, believe me, about 2017 and 2018. And again, let me repeat what I have said throughout the campaign and I believe absolutely from the bottom of my heart: Politics is not about a person. We transform this country not by electing some guy or woman to be president; we transform this country when millions of people stand up and fight back. That will result in good leadership on top. So the goal right now is not to worry about who’s going to be running in 2020 or 2080. The goal now is to mobilize millions of people around a progressive agenda.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, many people are deeply concerned about the two-party duopoly. You, yourself, are an independent or a socialist. Would you ever consider a third-party run—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I—
AMY GOODMAN: —like joining with the Green Party?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: You know, I did that. In Vermont, as many know, I defeated Democrats and Republicans to become mayor, defeated Democrats and Republicans to make it into the Congress. Recent years, Democrats have been more sympathetic. And I’ve been a member of the Democratic caucus for 25 years. So right now I would not have accepted the position of leadership if I was not serious about fundamentally reforming the Democratic Party. So that’s where my head is right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you. Bernie, the last question is—I’m famous for my “finallys.”
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: This is your fourth last question!
AMY GOODMAN: For people who are feeling deeply discouraged right now—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you learn from your campaign this time around?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Good question.
AMY GOODMAN: Where you almost won.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Let me just say this, and the feeling of—I wouldn’t use the word “discouragement.” The feeling of maybe frustration, depression, all of which is valid, but here’s what I hope that everybody remembers. Anybody who knows anything about American history, you know, think about what this country—and I don’t mean to be ultra-patriotic here, but think about the issues that we had to confront. Think about 120 years ago. There were children—children, kids, 12, 10 years old—working in factories, losing their fingers. People fought back. They fought to create unions. Think about the women’s movement. Think about the civil rights movement. Think about the gay rights movement. Think about the environmental. Think about all of the hurdles that those folks had to overcome. We were, during the course of the campaign—Amy, I don’t know if you know this; I didn’t know it ’til last year—we were in Birmingham, Alabama. And all of you, you know, probably remember the horrific bombing that took place in Birmingham. You remember that, where 12 children were killed? I did not know, until I was at that church, that that month in Birmingham—do you how many bombings there were in that month? Testing you, Amy; I’m asking you a question.
AMY GOODMAN: Two hundred?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, but there were a lot. Point being—what’s the point? The point is—you know, I thought there was one terrible bombing. There were 13 bombings. That city was under siege by terrorists who did not want to see the Voting Rights Act passed. And people fought back.
So, where we are now is in a difficult moment. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties facing us. But throughout history, serious people have fought back. That’s where we are now, and that is exactly what we have to do. It is not acceptable—it really is not—for people to throw their hands up and say, “Oh, I’m depressed. Oh, I’m giving up.” It’s not about you. It’s about the future of this planet. It’s about your kids and your grandchildren. It is about American democracy. It is about some very fundamental issues. And nobody in this room or in this country has a right to say “I give up.” On the other hand, you’ve got to jump in and start fighting.
AMY GOODMAN: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, in an interview recorded live on November 28th at the Free Library in Philadelphia. Sanders’ new book is called Our Revolution. If you’d like a copy of today’s broadcast, you can go to democracynow.org