Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Tuesday night that his platform “which two years ago seem to be radical ideas are now kind of mainstream ideas supported by a pretty strong majority of the American people,” including universal healthcare, free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage and making wealthy taxpayers pay more.
Sanders won the Democratic primary with more than 94 percent of the vote against challenger Folasade Adeluola, who argued that the incumbent was too much of a part-time senator, but will decline the nomination as he’s done in the past in order to run as an independent.
“To make a long story short, I always run as an independent, and that’s what I will do. And I think people of Vermont understand that,” he told MSNBC.
Still, he added, “I am not separate and apart” from the Democratic Party as “I’m part of the Democratic leadership.”
“The truth of the matter is, and I think Democrats and Republicans have got to understand this, there are more people now who are independents than Democrats and Republicans. I don’t want to break the bad news to anybody. Two-party system is not held in wide esteem in this country,” the senator said. “And I think as an independent what I can do, and am doing, is bringing a whole lot of working people and young people who are not crazy about the Democratic Party into the Democratic Party, because clearly that is the far better alternative than the Republican Party.”
Asked about the fact that establishment Democrat is winning 89 percent of the time in competitive primaries, Sanders insisted “it doesn’t mean anything.”
“In races where a party-endorsed candidate ran against a progressive-group-endorsed candidate (excluding any races where a candidate was endorsed by both sides), the party-endorsed candidate won 89 percent of the time,” said the FiveThirtyEight analysis. “In other words, the best predictor of primary success remains establishment support.”
“Next question is, how much money did the establishment Democrats have compared to the insurgents?” Sanders asked. “Look, we are winning, I believe, the ideological struggle, do you agree? OK. In other words, ideas that were seen as radical are now seeming mainstream. Are we going to win every election? Of course not. A lot of really great candidates who have lost, but the truth of the matter is, if you look at races from the school board, state legislature, city council, members of Congress, we are winning some really good races.”
The senator said his mission is to “get people excited about the political process, getting people to run for office, getting people to vote.”
“If we can have a large voter turnout, and if we have candidates who stand for working families, I think the Democrats are going to do just fine,” he said.
Sanders added that the party has “got to do a heck of a lot better in getting through to some of those people” supporting President Trump yet not benefiting from his policies. “Look, I am not going to deny for a second that some of those supporters are racist, sexist, homophobes, xenophobes, that’s true. I don’t believe that is the majority,” he said. “…You talk to Republicans and ask them how they feel about Citizen United. Do they think it’s a good idea that billionaires, like the Koch Brothers, can literally buy elections, spending hundreds of millions of dollars? They don’t.”