Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has some advice to help bridge the current political divide: Don’t make fun of those who voted for Donald Trump.
Sanders, who spoke Fridayat Boston’s Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, has been vocal about opposing the political views of the current president. But, the former Democratic presidential candidate said he doesn’t want Americans to dislike their fellow countrmen who put Trump in office.
“If you sit at home and think, well, Trump won because all the people who voted for him are racist or sexist or homophobes, I think you got it wrong,” Sanders said during his speech. “I think what Trump understood is that there’s a lot of pain in this country.”
Sanders believes that the American people actually do not support cutting Medicaid for millions of adults or giving tax breaks for billionaires. Instead, he said, people do believe in things like paying workers a living wage.
Sanders even said there were things Trump discussed during the campaign that Sanders himself agreed with. For instance, Sanders said the U.S. needs to fix a crumbling infrastructure, something Trump has continually pushed for. The senator also agreed with the president that Americans should not continue to pay some of the highest costs for medical care.
But, Sanders told the crowd that Trump tricked the voters, and played on their fears.
“When you go before the American people, many of them living in desperation, and say ‘I’m going to stand with you and take on the establishment, trust me, vote for me,’ and then the day after you get elected, you turn your back on them — that is being a fraud,” Sanders said.
Sanders acknowledged that more people are getting involved with politics now, and pointed specifically to the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, an effort he described as “unprecedented in American history.”
“Our job right now is to do two things,” Sanders said. “One is to expose Trump for the fraud that he is. Two is to bring the American people together around a progressive agenda.”
He also added that he has one request of those listening to him: Go outside your comfort zone.
“It’s very easy for you and your pals to make fun of Trump,” he said. “[But] start talking to people who voted for Trump and ask them whether they voted for massive cuts to Medicaid or Pell Grants or environmental protection, and I think you’re going to get some surprising answers.”
Sanders emphasized that for those who are looking to be politically active or make a change in the country, it’s not their job to “make fun of people who voted for Trump.” It's equally unproductive, he said, to call Trump's supporters “sexist, racist and homophobic, because I personally do not believe that’s the case."
Instead, he said, the job is to bring people together to make changes in areas like minimum wage, health care, the criminal justice system and immigration reform.
“When we stand together fighting for rights of all people," Sanders said. "When we demand our government, that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent, extraordinarily beautiful things are going to happen in our country.”