Monday, November 14, 2016

Joanna Walters - Bernie Sanders and other progressives plot Democratic party comeback

Newly emboldened, populist voices of the Democratic party called on Sunday for the grassroots revival of progressive forces in America, to remake the party and rebound following Donald Trump’s crushing victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who was defeated by Clinton in the Democratic primary, and Keith Ellison, a rising progressive star and a leading contender to become the new chair of the party, both called for redirecting of party efforts away from the wealthy liberal elite. “We have to do a lot of rethinking,” Sanders told CBS on Sunday. “Democrats have focused too much on a liberal elite, which has raised incredible sums of money from wealthy people but has ignored … the working class, middle class and low income-people in this country. “Now we need to create a grassroots movement of millions of people who want to transform this country.”

Sanders promised to fight Trump on environmental regulations, and said he wanted millions to campaign on forcing Republicans to action on climate change, which Trump has denied exists. He also repeated his rejection of Trump’s campaign rhetoric on immigrants, women, isolationism and Muslims, saying: “We will not accept racism, sexism or xenophobia.”

The senator, who has described himself as a democratic socialist, admitted he might find common ground on finance reform with Trump – if the Republican held to his word to be “the champion of working people” and has “the courage to stand up to Wall Street”. The senator also said he agreed with Trump on the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure and overhaul international trade deals.
“If he’s for creating a trade policy so that corporate America starts investing in this country, not in China, yeah, we can work together on that,” Sanders said.

But he said he feared the government would devolve into an oligarchy, with a small number of extremely wealthy people in control of the US economic levers. Sanders reserved criticism for Democrats, as well, in their deference to the rich. He criticized the party for failing to appreciate that average working Americans are working longer hours for low wages, are upset and “worried to death about the future generation”. “Trump tapped that,” he said.

Asked whether he supported the Democratic leaders that will now be in charge of that party’s side in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer in the House Senate respectively, Sanders said: “I’m not into leaders, I’m into building a movement that transforms this country.”

An African American from Minnesota, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, and leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Ellison is considered a rising star in the party. Last year, he was one of the few Democrats to seriously believe that Trump could win the Republican nomination – a prediction he made on the same ABC programme, This Week, drawing laughter – and he was one of most outspoken supporters of Sanders in the Democratic primary.

“We should have to put the voters first, not the donors first. I love the donors and we thank them. But it has to be the guys in the barber’s shop, the lady in the diner, the folks who are worried about whether their plant is going to close,” he said… read more: