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Bernie Sanders Speaks

By       Message John Nichols       (Page 3 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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The Nation: Which brings us to the subject of debates. My sense is that you'd be happy to debate every day...

Sanders: Well, not quite every day.

The Nation: But you have argued for a lot more debates. And you've suggested the radical notion that Republicans should be included in the debates...

Sanders: This is what I believe. I'm the ranking member on the Budget Committee. The Republican budget gave over $200 billion in tax breaks over a 10-year period to the wealthiest two-tenths of 1 percent -- massive cuts in Medicare, massive cuts in Medicaid, massive cuts in education, threw 27 million people off their health insurance. That is the Republican budget. That is what they believe... This is a fact. That's exactly what their budget did.

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The Republicans get away with murder because what they do and what they want is not seen, is not understood by the American people, because it's not talked about... So I think the more that we can confront Republicans about their ideology of tax breaks for the billionaires and cuts to every program that is a benefit to the American people, and can expose them for their subservience to the billionaire class -- I think that wins for us every single time.

So this is what I would like: I would like as many debates as possible, and I would also like to break new ground and have debates with Republicans and Democrats. I think that will be very positive for the American people in that we'll be able to focus on issues. Let the Republicans defend why they want to give tax breaks to the billionaires and make massive cuts in Medicare. I would love to hear it.

The other thing I want to do is to take these debates into the so-called red areas of the country. I think it is insane that the Democrats do not have a 50-state strategy [along the lines championed by Howard Dean]. How is it that, if you are the party of working people, supposedly, you abdicate your responsibility in some of the poorest states of America? Where are you in Mississippi? Where are you in South Carolina? Where are you in Alabama? Where are you in other low-income states? If you don't get started now, you will never advance. So I intend in this campaign to go to states that many Democratic candidates don't usually visit.

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The Nation: Would you do one-on-one debates with Republican presidential candidates? Would you sit down with Scott Walker and debate about unions with him?"

Sanders: Of course I would -- I'd debate him about anything. And I'll tell you the truth: I don't think it would be a bad idea to have more than one Republican and more than one Democrat. The most serious political problem facing this country is that we don't discuss the serious issues facing this country. And the American people are becoming increasingly alienated from the political process; 63 percent of the American people didn't vote last November. I'm looking for ways to bring them into a serious discussion about serious issues. When we do that, the Republican agenda will be exposed for the disaster it is.

The Nation: You have a strong sense of history. What's your measure for a historic campaign?...

Sanders: The title of our campaign, the working slogan, is "A Political Revolution." That's what this campaign is about. If it results in millions of people beginning to move in that direction, beginning to understand the potential of our country, what we can become; if people understand why we are where we are in terms of income and wealth inequality; if people begin to understand that participating in our democratic process is our patriotic duty and what people fought and died to defend; if people begin to stand up and say, "America is not supposed to be a country where 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent, or where the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent... that is not what America is supposed to be"; if people begin to ask, "What can we do as Americans? How do we move to healthcare for all? How do we have the best educational system in the world? Let's get involved in that discussion. Let's make it happen" -- if we accomplish that goal, I will be elected president of the United States. And even if I am not elected president of the United States, this country will be in much better shape for having made that effort.

Copyright - 2014 thenation.com -- distributed by Agence Global

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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