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In a Democracy Now! special, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sat down with Amy Goodman at the Free Library of Philadelphia in late November in his most extensive broadcast interview since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton just weeks earlier.TRANSCRIPT
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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. In this holiday special, we're spending the hour with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I recently interviewed him before a live audience at the Free Library of Philadelphia. The date was November 28th, less than three weeks after Donald Trump's defeat of Hillary Clinton.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you on election night?- Advertisement -
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Home.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you went through.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, when the results came in from Indiana, I was very nervous. We had an outside chance with a conservative Democrat to win that seat--no one thought that Clinton was going to win it--and he got beaten rather badly, and I started getting nervous. And it was downhill from there. I went into the evening thinking that it was about a two-to-one shot that Clinton would win. So, I mean, I was--I was not shocked that Trump won--surprised, but not shocked--for the reasons, some of the reasons, that I gave. But I will not deny to you that it was a very depressing evening. I did not want to deal with the media. I didn't want to--I was invited to be on, you know, a million different things. I didn't even show up at the state event, you know. So, I will not deny that it was a depressing evening. And since then, I've been thinking as hard as I can, with other people, about how we go forward and what the best response is.
AMY GOODMAN: This also catapults you into the position of the most powerful, non-Democratic Democrat in the country.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, there are not too many non-Democratic Democrats who are in the United States Senate, so it doesn't say much. But yeah, it--but I think your point is that last week or two weeks ago Chuck Schumer, who is now the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, put me on leadership. And he gave me a position that I wanted, and that is to be chair of the outreach effort. And what I am going to do is use that position, with your help, with all of your help, to transform the Democratic Party. I think--you know, it is very easy to beat up on people when they're down, and that's not my intention. You know, Secretary Clinton and her supporters are hurting now. It's not my intention to be beating up on them. But it goes well beyond the presidential race.
Right now in the United States, as you know, Mr. Trump will be inaugurated. Right now, the Republicans control the U.S. Senate. Democrats, I had hoped--we thought we had a better than even chance of gaining control. We did not. We'll end up with 49 seats. Democrats picked up a few seats in the House, but the Republicans will continue to control the House. Not only that, in about two-thirds of the states in this country, there are Republican governors. And in the last eight or so years, Democrats have lost some 900 legislative seats in state capitols all over this country. So I think any independent assessment, without casting any blame, says the current approach has failed. All right? When you lose, you know, it's like they always say about the football coach: You know, if you're zero and 10, you're not doing well. Well, the current approach clearly is not succeeding, and we need a new approach.- Advertisement -
And the new approach, I think, is to, A, create a 50-state strategy. That means we start playing ball in states that the Democrats have conceded decades ago. But more importantly, we create a kind of grassroots party, where the most important people in the party are not just wealthy campaign contributors, but working people, young people, people in the middle class, who are going to come in and going to start telling us what their needs are and give us some ideas as to how we go forward. And I accept this responsibility as outreach chair with a lot of trepidation, but also with excitement. I'm going to be going around the country to try to do everything that I can to create a party which represents working people and not just the 1 percent.
AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of who will head the Democrat--the DNC?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I am strongly supporting a congressman from Minnesota named Keith Ellison. And the reason--I've known Keith for a number of years. Keith is the chair--co-chair, along with Raúl Grijalva, of the House Progressive Caucus, which is, by definition, the most progressive caucus in the U.S. House. And Keith fundamentally believes, as I've indicated, that we need to make a major transformation of the Democratic Party, we need to make it into a grassroots party, and he has some very specific ideas as to how to do that. So I'm strongly supporting Keith, and I'll do everything I can to [inaudible].