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In his 2016 presidential campaign, in stump speeches across the country, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a political revolution. He campaigned on the idea of combating a political system he said was rigged, and a message of rebuilding a declining middle class.
Now, he is out with a book meant to speak directly to young people, called "Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution."
This interview has been condensed and edited.
On why he decided to write a guide to political revolution for young people
The great crisis that we face as a nation is that democracy in America is in serious trouble. Millions and millions of people are giving up on our democratic institutions. They don't vote, they don't get involved, they don't know how to get involved. And what I think we need as a nation is for tens of millions of people — young people, working people, people who historically have not been involved in the political struggle — to get involved. To take on the big-money interests who today control our economy and our political system. So this is a message to young people. It's an agenda of the things we need to do. And it's a toolkit as to how you can become involved.
On why this generation is prepared to move the country in a new direction
What I can tell you, having run for president, speaking to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of young people, is that this generation is in many respects the most progressive generation in the history of our country. This is the least racist, least sexist, least homophobic, least xenophobic generation of people that I think we have ever seen. This is a generation that understands that we have fundamental problems in this country, and that we have got to think outside of the box. It is a generation that I believe is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a much fairer distribution of wealth and income than we currently have. And this certainly is a generation that knows that Donald Trump is dead wrong when he talks about climate change being a hoax. This is a generation that knows that we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, towards energy efficiency and sustainable energy ... and within the young people of this country, there is an understanding that the economy is not working for them.
On his reaction to data showing that of 50,000 people surveyed, 12 percent of the people who voted for Sanders in the 2016 presidential primaries voted for Trump in the general election
It wasn't [surprising]. People vote the way they want to vote. And people have different reasons for voting for this or that candidate. But I do think we spoke to an issue that Democrats often don't speak to, and that is the understanding that in this country today we have tens of millions of people who are in a lot of pain. These are people who have seen their standard of living decline. They're earning less than they used to. They've seen their decent-paying jobs go to Mexico, or going to China. These are people who can't afford health care, or they can't afford to send their kids to college, or they can't afford child care, or they can't afford housing. And I think for too long the Democrats have not been speaking to that pain. And what Donald Trump did is, he said, "Hey, I hear your pain. I'm going to stand up to the establishment. I'm going to lower the cost of prescription drugs. I'm going to provide health care to everybody." Unfortunately, as some of us knew at the time, he was lying. He was lying and lying and lying. But some people fell for that.
On the Democrats' agenda, "A Better Deal."
It's not enough, but it's a step in the right direction. I think more and more Democrats are catching on [to the fact that] if they are going to be successful, they have to talk to working people in this country, whether they're white or black or Latino, Asian-American or Native American. You need an agenda that speaks to that ... in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we should not allow the middle class of this country to continue to decline.
On addressing climate change
Climate change is the great global environmental crisis our planet faces. If we — and by we I mean the entire planet — do not get our act together and cut back on carbon emissions and combat climate change effectively by transforming our energy system into sustainable energy, the planet that we are going to be leaving to our kids and our grandchildren will not be a healthy or habitable planet. This is kind of a no-brainer from any perspective. The very good news is the technology is out there. The price of solar has been plummeting and will continue to plummet. Wind is getting cheaper ... we have enormous potential now to transform our energy system and lead the world. And it is really sad that we have a president that doesn't doesn't even recognize the reality of climate change.
On the future of health care legislation and Medicare For All
We're not going to win Medicare for all tomorrow. With a right-wing president and right-wing leaders in the House and the Senate, we're not going to win that. But what I am very proud of, and I think the American people should be very proud of, is Trump and his friends in Congress tried to repeal Obamacare with three different proposals. And we were able to beat them back. And what was most important is not just that we were able in the Senate to defeat the proposal to repeal Obamacare, but most importantly, the American people became became engaged in that debate.
On keeping young people engaged in a political system that Sanders says is rigged against them
[The system] is rigged against them. But when you have a system that is rigged against them, you stand up and you fight back. And I think we're seeing that. Certainly one of the accomplishments of my campaign was not only that we brought issues like the $15 minimum wage, a trillion dollar infrastructure plan, Medicare for All, free tuition at public colleges and universities — not only did we brought those ideas into the mainstream, but more importantly, we engaged millions of young people who suddenly started to register to vote.
[People are] running and helping to support candidates at the local level — school board, city council, state legislature, all the way up to Congress ... What the establishment tries to tell you is, "Hey, don't get involved in politics. It's too hard. You're too dumb. You don't know what's going on." And we've got to break down those barriers. That's what the Koch brothers want. That's what the billionaire class wants. They don't want ordinary people involved. But I want the exact opposite.
This article was originally published on August 28, 2017.
This segment aired on August 28, 2017.
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