Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that he thinks he can win many Trump supporters over during the upcoming election.
During CNN’s Town Hall, Sanders was asked how he can bring in that crowd of voters to stand with him in 2020. The senator said that most Trump supporters are people who are just as concerned about having decent jobs and healthcare as anyone else in the nation.
“I’m not going to say that within Trump’s camp there aren’t some people who are racists and sexists. There are. We have seen that. But I don’t believe that is the case for most of those folks,” Sanders said. “Many of these people are people that worked hard their entire lives and their standard of living is going down. In many cases, they’re making less today than they did 30 or 40 years ago.”
Sanders blamed large companies and the “one-percent” for initiating polices that make them richer while making their workers poorer.
“Large corporations cut healthcare and benefits for their workers, and the CEOs make 300 times what their workers make,” said Sanders.
He told the story of Wabtec’s (Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp.) merger with GE Transportation on Feb. 25. In Erie, Pennsylvania, workers are threatening to strike against new policies set up by the merged company, including less salary for new employees, mandatory overtime and required vacations during shutdown periods.
Sanders used the story to prove that big business is a problem that government has to solve, but GE has had a history of keeping close ties with the federal government, especially during the Obama administration. Former CEO Jeffrey Immelt joined the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) in 2011. Just as Obama took over the office, Immelt sent a letter to shareholders sharing what he thought the future of capitalism would be.
“The global economy, and capitalism, will be ‘reset’ in several important ways,” Immelt wrote. “The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.”
Today, the company receives nearly $1.17 billion in federal subsidies and $161 billion in federal loans, bailout money and loan guarantees.
Another factor that Sanders thinks Trump supports can connect with him about is the opioid crisis.
“They’re looking at their kids and they’re seeing that their kids will have a lower standard of living than they do. In fact, in many rural communities in America, if you can believe it, life expectancy is going down,” he said. “Opioid epidemic. What the doctors call the ‘diseases of despair’: heroin, opioids, suicide, alcoholism—serious problems all over those communities.”
Where Sanders may face difficulty in reaching to Trump voters on the issue. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Most of the heroin coming into the United States is cultivated on poppy farms in Mexico, with eight cartels controlling production and operating distribution hubs in major U.S. cities.” Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, also known as El Chapo, was infamous for smuggling tons of illegal narcotics into the country since the 1980’s, and only recently was tried and found guilty in New York.
Many of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 believed, and continue to believe, that the U.S. needs to take strict measures to secure ports of entry and prevent cartels from being able to cross the border to conduct their unlawful business. This includes the structure of a border wall, which not only Trump, but other leading conservative politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have taken major steps to get one built.
Sanders has given similar remarks about Trump supporters in the past. Last year, the senator blamed the democrats for letting Trump win the presidency by not talking about how citizens are losing jobs to Mexico and China, and instead doubling down on calling most the voters racists and sexists. He criticized Hillary Clinton for labeling voters as “deplorables” during her campaign.
“We have got to reach out to those people and we have to stand with them for decent jobs, decent health care, decent education and I think we can win many of them over,” Sanders concluded at Town Hall.