Bernie Sanders is searching for votes in struggling blue-collar communities that gave their support to Donald Trump in the last election after he promised them better healthcare and steady jobs that have not manifested.
The Vermont senator is on a four-day road trip through the Rust Belt, with stops planned for Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – five states Trump unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton in last cycle.
He began his day in Gary, where he took on Trump’s claims that he is ‘crazy’ and his ideas are too ‘radical’ to be enacted as he spoke at a roundtable.
Sanders was flying down the highway after and across the Indiana border to Michigan after that, to a union meeting where he took Trump head-on.
‘I am here in the Midwest for one major reason, and that is I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that Donald Trump is not re-elected as president,’ Sanders announced at the beginning of a Saturday afternoon speech in Coopersville.
He immediately ripped into Trump for ‘lies’ he says the Republican told them to earn their support last time he and the Republican competed for the White House.
Bernie Sanders is targeting struggling blue-collar communities that gave their support to Donald Trump in the last election after he promised them better healthcare and steady jobs that have not manifested in the more than two years since
Sanders was short on time. His scheduled remarks in the town that’s 20 miles outside of Grand Rapids should have started 25 minutes earlier, and he had a rally 173 miles away in Warren to get before he made an appearance at a Detriot pie shop.
His staff had packed the day with events that helped to break up the road trip and give the candidate – who was mercilessly mocked in a 2016 skit by Larry David on Saturday Night Live for being too gruff – the opportunity to meet with voters in more intimate settings that the stadium rallies that Sanders typically books.
But the 77-year-old progressive was late, which meant he didn’t have time to listen at an involved town hall or deliver long-winded remarks on the millionaires and billionaires. He’d have to get straight to his point about Trump.
‘Now, I have colleagues in the Senate who are conservative. They believe what they believe, which is not what I believe,’ he said, teeing up his attack, ‘but they do not lie every single day.
‘And I am gonna hope, that regardless of one’s political views…they all understand that it is not in the best interest of the future of our country, when we have a president who is a pathological liar, who will try to divide our people up rather than bring them together,’ he said.
‘And when you’re talk about lies, the lies that Trump told on the campaign trail, the most profound lie of all, was that he said he said that he was going to stand with the working class people of this country. That was a major lie and most people know that,’ he asserted.
Sanders claimed that Trump promised to be a different kind of Republican but is now attempting to ‘throw’ 32 million Americans off their healthcare plans without a workable alternative.
‘Donald Trump told the people of Michigan, and the Midwest and Vermont and California, that he was going to provide healthcare to everybody. Sounds pretty good, right?’ he said. ‘Good speech,’ he added.
Yet, since he has been in office, Sanders said that Trump has sought to ‘savagely’ cut Medicaid and eliminate pre-existing conditions.
‘You don’t stand up for working families when you try to make massive cuts in the food stamp program. You got a problem in this country, in this state, my state, people are struggling to put food on the table for their children. You don’t give tax breaks to billionaires and cut nutrition programs,’ ‘he said in Indiana.
Sanders said of Trump, ‘So I think I can understand why people voted for him, I got it, but the sad truth is, and I’m not the first person to say this, we have a president who is a pathological liar. He lies almost every day. The media has documented thousands of lies that he has told, and he lied during the campaign.’
The senator who’s a self-pronounced democratic socialist introduced a revised Medicare-for-All bill before he left Washington for a two-week legislative recess.
It’s going nowhere in the GOP-run Senate but is being embraced by Democratic presidential candidates as a baseline for health care reform in a new administration.
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids was the final city Trump visited during his 2016 campaign, and the first suburb Sanders hit up in the 2020 campaign
At his first stop of the day, Sanders noted that four years ago when he competed against Clinton, his healthcare and economic policy proposals were considered fringe.
‘I know this is a so-called radical agenda, I understand. And you know when I talked about this four years ago, in Indiana, and in other states, everyone said Bernie, “You’re kind of crazy. You can’t do all those things,” ‘he acknowledged.
Now considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, he said at a Gary, Indiana roundtable, ‘I want to, I guess, just convey to you, that over four year period, more and more Americans have come on board, piece by piece.’
Sanders told attendees of the small-group event that it’s ‘not acceptable that so few have so much’ in America, where the middle-class is in decline.
‘It is not a radical idea that children, whether they’re black or white … should not go hungry in the United States of America,’ he said. ‘It is not a radical idea to say that veterans should not be sleeping out on the street.’
Sanders said that America can overcome the disparities if voters ‘stand together and we don’t allow Trump or anyone else to divide us up’ by skin color, religion or anything else.
‘All of these ideas are ideas that the American people support. Everybody,’ he insisted. ‘Are we gonna do it over night? No, but can we do it? I believe that we can, and that’s more or less what my agenda is about.’
Sanders was taking active steps during the campaign swing to address top complaints about his 2016 campaign, including complaints that he did not spend enough time pressing the flesh, his ideas were too extreme and he traveled too often by private jet.
His new and improved message, which focused heavily on Trump, was met with mixed reviews by his supporters, however.
‘It’s something that needs to be said. …It’s an issue out there,’ McCall said in Coopersville. ‘It’s one of the biggest issues. And I also think it’s a diversion of what he’s really doing behind the scenes.’
She inferred that Trump, who said is a ‘crook,’ might be doing more than just lying- he might be hiding behind the secrecy of the White House to commit crimes.
Sanders made no mention of investigations into Trump as he repeatedly called him a ‘pathological liar’ and contrasted their policies proposals.
But his full-frontal assault was too aggressive for some. Debra Minor, a Grand Rapids, Michigan resident who attended the union meeting in Coopersville, said that she while personally finds the approach effective, ‘I know that Trump has a lot of supporters so it might not be.’
Dan Tenhoopen, another Grand Rapids resident, paused several times as he considered his feelings on Sanders’ voter-poaching strategy.
‘I don’t personally like to call people liars. It’s a personal thing. You know, he is certainly not telling the truth on any of the issues. I don’t – my pauses – I don’t like calling other people liars,’ he explained. But I also agree that he is not telling the truth, and everything that he does is directly opposite of what he said before.’
He decided that Sanders was right to accuse Trump of telling falsehoods. ‘You do have to, you have to call it out as what it is, it’s certainly not truthful, and yes it is a lie.’
Sanders won the Michigan primary in the 2016 face-off with Clinton. He reminded his supporters of the fact on Saturday night in Warren as he touched on old claims that he’s running on a far-left agenda that automatically rules him out for higher office
‘Well a funny thing happened over the last two years,’ he said to laughter at the evening rally. ‘Today, virtually all of those ideas are now supported by a majority of American people, and they are the ideas the Democratic candidates from school board to president are now supporting.’
He told rally-goers holding classic ‘Bernie’ signs in his classic baby blue background with white lettering, ‘And now our job is to finish what we started.’