Bernie Sanders: Democrats Need To Become A 50-State Grassroots Party If They Want To Win Elections

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the chances of avoiding a government shutdown, rethinking American trade policy and the introduction of legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15, what Democrats need to do to build a grassroots movement and 50-state party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, and I think this is in connection with that, you said in an interview two days ago, the Democratic Party — you said this as an independent, that the Democratic Party is failing, that it needs the change.

Are you saying there should be a litmus test to be a Democrat? What does one have to believe to be a Democrat?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Judy, here is the reality. And I don’t think it’s just me saying it.

Right now, you have the Republicans controlling the White House, right-wing extremist Republicans controlling the White House, the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, two-thirds of the governors chairs, and in the last eight years, Democrats have lost 900 legislative seats all over this country.

That is a failed approach toward politics. So, in my view, the Democrats need to do several things. Number one, Democrats need to become a 50-state party. You can’t have a great party on the West Coast and the East Coast. You need to have a party in all 50 states. That’s not the case right now.

And that’s why I have been running around the country to Republican states to galvanize people to get involved in the political process.

Second of all, you need a Democratic Party which is a grassroots party, which makes decisions from the bottom on up, not just from the top on down.

In my view, it is not a question of Trump having won the election, it’s a question of Democrats having lost the election. Democrats need a strong progressive agenda which says to the working class of this country, we are going the stand and fight for you, we’re going to raise the minimum wage, pay equity for women, we’re going to rebuild the infrastructure, and we’re going to guarantee health care to all people as a right. We’re going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.

We understand that there is enormous pain in this country. We’re going to stand with working people. We’re going to take on the billionaire class. We’re going the take on the drug companies and the insurance companies. We’re going the take on Wall Street. That’s where I think the future of the Democratic Party lies.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And my question is, does that mean that some Democrats are not acceptable?

For example, the special congressional election in Georgia last week, you initially didn’t endorse the Democrat, Jon Ossoff. And you said he wasn’t a progressive.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Judy, don’t believe everything you read in the corporate media.

Jon Ossoff never asked me for an endorsement, never asked me. Of course I want him to win the election, and of course I want the Democrats to gain control of the U.S. House. Just so happened he never asked me for an endorsement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I guess the broader question is, does a Democrat have to toe a certain line? You have said Democrats have to do well in red states.

So, for example, a Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, are these Democrats, you consider under the tent that you would like to see, under the umbrella of the Democratic …

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think those decisions are going to be made by the people in North Dakota, where I think Heidi is quite popular. They will be made by the people in West Virginia.

It is not my job to tell the people in 435 congressional districts or in 50 states who they should be supporting. What a grassroots party is about is people getting excited, getting involved in the local political process, saying, we want her to run for office, we want him to run for office, and we’re going to get involved and make sure that he or she wins.

That’s what I think the future of the Democratic Party is, not a few people in Washington saying, sorry, no good, or that’s OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying it’s all right with you that the Democratic Party has elected members who, for example, disagree with you on trade, who may disagree with you on the corporate tax rate, on issues like abortion?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right.

Look, this is America. Between you and me, Judy, I would wish — I would love it if everybody in America agreed with me on every issue. I can’t get my wife to agree with me on every issue, let alone the American people. It’s called democracy. That’s what it’s about.

So, I think — you know, I have supported candidates whose views are very different than mine on the need the break up Wall Street banks, on the war in Iraq, on trade issues. Of course I have supported those people.

My hope is that we’re going to see — and I believe it is the case — we’re going to see more and more strong progressives running for office. That’s my hope. That’s my desire. But that is up to — that decision is going to be made by people in 50 states and 435 congressional districts.

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