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Primary Source: Bernie Sanders on What It Will Take for Democrats to Win in November

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will be in the Upper Valley today, speaking to veterans as part of National Vietnam War Veterans Day, meeting with officials at the VA Medical Center, and then dropping by the Bugbee Senior Center, a familiar, friendly stop in his Vermont travels.

In a phone interview from Burlington on Wednesday, before President Donald Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin, Sanders talked about some recent accomplishments in the new federal budget and what Democrats need to do to regain control of Congress, and all but confirmed he is running for another term in November.

The 76-year-old Sanders, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said he had pushed to include a $480 million increase for the Social Security Administration, the first substantive increase in eight years in the operating budget for core administrative activities at Social Security.

Sanders said Vermont caseworkers had told him that Vermonters with disability claims faced “waiting times that were way, way too long” because of understaffing.

Sanders last week held a “town hall” on inequality that drew some 1.7 million live viewers, evidence that he continues to cultivate a grass-roots following across the country. Sanders said the forum, which included Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, illustrated two messages that may help Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“The first message is that the American people want to understand why for 40 years the middle class of this country has been in decline, while at the same time an enormous amount of new income and wealth has gone to people on top,” he said.

“Part two is where do we go from here” in creating an economy that “works for the middle class,” he said.

Sanders said he made recent appearances on behalf of candidates in such red states as Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas and Arizona, and that boosting voter turnout will be critical for Democrats’ chances.

“I will be working as hard as I can to increase voter turnout to support candidates who are prepared to fight for progressive issues like Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pay equity for women, and transforming our energy system,” he said.

Whether or not Democrats can win back the House and Senate remains to be seen, though. “I think, if Democrats are smart and do the hard work that is necessary, that can occur,” Sanders said. “If not, it won’t. This is not a slam dunk.”

Asked about the Trump administration’s plan to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 U.S. Census, Sanders said Trump has continually tried to “divide this country up” through targeting immigrants, including the so-called Dreamers.

“This is one of the ugliest aspects of the Trump administration, which is xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, and that is how he hopes to win elections,” Sanders said.

Sanders said he approves of the gun safety legislation working its way through the Vermont Legislature, and strongly suggested he will be filing to run for a third term in the Senate.

“The filing deadline is at the end of May … and we’ll have a decision in four or five weeks that I don’t think will surprise people,” he said.

As for another race in the Twin States, Sanders will be keeping an interested eye out on the bid by his son, Claremont resident Levi Sanders, who has entered a crowded Democratic primary in New Hampshire’s First Congressional district — but don’t expect any father-son door-knocking in the primary.

“He is running very much on his own. My son is a very impressive person. He has spent his entire life working for low-income and working people … but this campaign is his idea, and he wants to win it on his own,” Bernie Sanders said.

Appearing in the Valley

A past — and possibly future — presidential candidate is headed this way. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is slated to visit the Dartmouth campus on April 2 for a panel discussion on climate change and renewable energy.

O’Malley, who proved to be a bystander in the 2016 primary slugfest between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, will be the featured speaker the next day at the “politics and eggs” breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown.

Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is expected to be in Woodsville today, helping Cottage Hospital launch its new Athenahealth electronic medical record system. Giuliani has a business involved in corporate security.

And, get a load of this — 76-year-old Paul Bremer, the former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq under President George W. Bush, now is spending some time as a ski instructor at Okemo Mountain Resort, according to a profile in taskandpurpose.com.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.