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Sanders: Broad voter base is path to victory

  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listens to a question from a Valley News editor during an interview at the newspaper's West Lebanon, N.H., office Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/27/2019 10:19:09 PM
Modified: 12/27/2019 10:20:49 PM

WEST LEBANON — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Friday that his Democratic presidential campaign aims to spark a “political revolution” that will help pressure lawmakers to save the country from the effects of climate change, a failing health care system and big-money interests.

In a meeting with Valley News editors and reporters, Sanders said the new programs he supports would include funding comprehensive health care coverage, with much of that spending redirected from the current health-care system.

He also continued his long-running advocacy against tax breaks for the wealthy and corporate interests, arguing those dollars could fund new spending on clean energy, rural broadband, housing and other priorities, and heal what he sees as America’s most urgent ailments.

Solutions won’t be cheap or easily attained, he acknowledged, as he outlined plans that could total trillions of dollars in spending.

“I do wish honestly that I could come to you and say, ‘Look, we can do a little bit here, do a little bit there and leave the political system pretty much intact,’ ” he said. “It would be nice if we could say that.”

Health care is a pressing area where America needs a change, Sanders said. He is proposing a Medicare for All system, a single-payer national health insurance program that would be paid through new taxes, which he asserts would cost most Americans less than their current deductibles and premiums.

Sanders’ preferred plan would have people pay 4% of their income on health care costs, while employers would see payroll taxes expand by 7.5%. People who make $29,000 or less would be exempt from the tax, Sanders said.

“The (current) system is totally dysfunctional, it is totally cruel and it is sustained simply by the greed and power of the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said. “It is very hard to defend the current system.”

Sanders, 78, also called for a $15 minimum wage, implemented over a few years.

“I will go to every bloody state in this country necessary to make the case, whether it’s Iowa or Kentucky or wherever it is,” he said.

“That is exactly what the people want, and we will start putting a substantial amount of pressure on elected officials to start doing what their working families want, not just their wealthy campaign contributors want.

“That’s what I mean by a political revolution. It’s a transformation of American politics so you have a government that represents ordinary people, not just the big money interests whose views dominate the political process today,” he added.

Sanders said he supports the Green New Deal, the $16.3 trillion plan from progressive Democrats to reach 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030.

“If you want your children and your grandchildren and future generations to live in a planet which is healthy and habitable, you have no choice,” he said. “We are going to have to transform our energy system as rapidly as humanly possible.”

The plan also calls for the construction of 10 million units of new housing and $150 billion to expand and upgrade America’s high-speed internet infrastructure.

In 2010, Sanders supported a $35.2 million loan from the federal government to help Vermont Telephone Co. build a wireless broadband network that was supposed to blanket the state. But the state’s Department of Public Service found earlier this year that VTel’s wireless network is either not available or performs poorly in many areas it purports to serve.

VTel received a total of $117 million in grants and loans under the federal government’s recession-era stimulus spending program, including money to expand the Springfield, Vt.-based company’s fiber-to-the-home network in its service territory. Sanders said Springfield has strong broadband service but acknowledged it did not transform the entire state’s broadband infrastructure.

“Something happened. Was it the best investment in the world? I doubt it,” Sanders said.

However, he added, broadband is necessary to help communities thrive, bringing small business and helping to educate children in rural communities.

“We can and must do better than we are currently doing,” Sanders said.

The Vermont independent, who won New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary, is once again hoping Granite Staters will deliver him an early primary win. Sanders garnered 60% support four years ago, defeating Hillary Clinton’s 38%.

Sanders said he’s confident in obtaining another victory and expects Democrats to rally around the party’s eventual nominee. He is the Democratic front runner in New Hampshire, where he’s polling around 19%, according to a Real Clear Politics polling average.

Sanders, who is in the midst of a swing through New Hampshire, said his campaign strategy includes engaging a diverse group of voters. He touted a recent Las Vegas town hall event held in Spanish where Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who is of Puerto Rican heritage, was the keynote speaker.

“The nation is obviously diverse and when you travel around the country and you go to states like California and Nevada, you see that diversity upfront,” Sanders said.

However, Sanders declined to say whether New Hampshire is diverse enough to retain its first in the nation primary status.

“I’ll leave that to the (Democratic National Committee),” he said.

Other early voting states — such as Nevada and South Carolina — are diverse places, Sanders said. But the Granite State and Iowa are smaller, making retail politics easier, he added.

“If you hustle, if you’re prepared to work hard, if you’re prepared to get around the state and hold dozens and dozens of town meetings, you can do well in the state even if you’re not very wealthy,” Sanders said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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