While speaking on Friday evening at an event in Boston, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders defended Trump supporters, saying that are not “sexists, homophobes and deplorables” as some people think. Sanders’ remarks were widely interpreted as a jab at former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who said during a fundraiser in New York City last September that “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”
“Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” she continued, according to CNN. “And unfortunately, there are people like that and he has lifted them up.”
But according to Sanders, to write off Trump supporters as being merely racist xenophobes is to show a lack of understanding of the issues affecting their lives.
— bernie sanders (@BernieSNewschan) April 4, 2017
“Some people think the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks. I don’t agree, because I’ve been there,” Sanders said at the event on Friday, March 31, organized by a group called Our Revolution, according to Newsweek.
Our Revolution was formed soon after Sanders mounted a surprisingly vigorous challenge to Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, according to the Guardian. The group claims that it aims to create “a Democratic party that is not a party of the liberal elite but of the working class of this country.”
Many Trump supporters also seized upon Clinton’s comment, with many adopting the label “deplorable” as an ironic gesture of defiance against Clinton and her supporters who accuse them of xenophobia and racism.
Clinton later expressed regret about her comment.
In another jab at Clinton, Sander emphasized the need for reorientation of the Democratic Party so that it transforms from a party that serves the interests of the wealthy liberal elite to one that serves the interests of the American working class.
— WorldNewsPolitics (@WorldnewsPoli) April 4, 2017
“When we are competing against a right-wing extremist party who has an agenda that most Americans soundly and roundly disagree with, how in God’s name do they win elections?” Sanders asked. “And the reason, in my view, is that the time is well overdue for fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party.”
“We need a Democratic party that is not a party of the liberal elite but of the working class of this country,” Sanders continued. “We need a party that is a grassroots party, where candidates are talking to working people not spending their time raising money for the wealthy and the powerful.”
“And when we do that, when we transform the Democratic Party, we transform America,” he concluded.
Sanders also argued that the 2016 general election was not about the fact that Trump won, but that the Democratic Party lost.
“Let me tell you something else some of you might not agree with,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t that Donald Trump won the election, it was that the Democratic Party lost the election.”
— The Hill (@thehill) April 1, 2017
Sanders’ comments could represent a new effort to woo working class whites whose votes are believed to have been responsible for Clinton’s unexpected Electoral College loss, despite the fact that she won the popular vote count by a wide margin.
Sanders appeared at the event in Boston in the company of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, like Sanders, is a prominent figure in the Democratic Party’s populist left.
Sanders’ comments also reflect the tensions between the Democratic Party establishment and the grassroots oriented populist left faction of the party. The populist left received a boost, first under Senator Warren’s charismatic leadership, and later during Sanders’ primary fight against Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment.
Sanders ran a primary campaign that was caustically critical of what he considered the Democratic Party establishment’s betrayal of the American working class through aligning with the political and economic elites represented by institutions such as Wall Street.
Already, Sanders and Warren are being touted as possible Democratic candidates to challenge Trump at the 2020 general election. But due to Sanders’ advanced age, many observers believe that Senator Warren, who is up for re-election in 2018, has better chances of emerging as the Democratic Party candidate in 2020. It is believed that she has better chances of bridging the widening gulf between the party’s establishment and the party’s populist left.
The contest in February for the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reflected the tensions between the party’s establishment and the populist left. Tom Perez, the party’s establishment candidate beat Minnesota congressman and former Obama labor secretary Keith Ellison, backed by Sanders and the anti-establishment faction of the party.
[Featured Image by Scott Eisen/Getty Images]