Bernie Sanders and Nina Turner discuss the building of a movement to fight the oligarchy and the achievements of the People’s Summit
Nina Turner: Senator Sanders, it is such a pleasure to have you on the debut of the Nina Turner Show. Bernie Sanders: It is an honor to be here with one of my favorite people in the country. Nina Turner: Well, thank you, Senator. I was hoping you’d say the world but you said the country- Bernie Sanders: Right. Well, it’s a small one. Nina Turner: It’s a small … No, really, it is wonderful. We are in Chicago at the People’s Summit, and you gave a riveting speech last night. How did it feel to take a selfie with over 4,000 of your closest friends? Bernie Sanders: Of my intimate, closest, personal friends! Nina Turner: Yes! Bernie Sanders: It’s great. The energy here is extraordinary. RoseAnn DeMoro is doing a great job, my wife Jane is doing a great job, you’re doing a great job, we have a lot of the nurses here, it is a great collection of people from all over the country, from every kind of background, and it’s exactly what we need to revitalize the progressive movement, go home, start winning elections, start fighting for the progressive vision that you and I share. Nina Turner: Absolutely. You talked about the sister power, I don’t if you know that RoseAnn, Dr. J – I finally call your wife Dr. J – and myself, we are the three amigas. Bernie Sanders: I know that. Nina Turner: We got sister power. Bernie Sanders: You’re a threat to the entire planet. Nina Turner: In a good way. Bernie Sanders: In a good way, absolutely. Nina Turner: Well, Senator, last night you shared your vision, your constant vision in talking about racial justice, social justice, climate justice, but you also pinpointed the fact that during movements like this, and even when people were chanting your name, you said, “It’s not about me. It’s you.” Which is powerful- Bernie Sanders: But history is about them, people have to understand that in these very difficult times. Change never comes from on top. It always comes from below. That’s what the workers’ movement in this country is about, where working people stood up against incredible odds to fight the unions. It’s what the Civil Rights movement is about where millions people fight against racism. It’s the women’s movement, it’s the gay movement, it’s when whole lots of people at the grassroots level come together so that the people on top look around them and they say, “We have no choice. We have got to do the right thing.” Leaders follow the people, not the other way around. That’s what this is about. What I will say, Nina, is I see a tremendous upsurge of grassroots activism all over this country taking place in many forms, and I’m excited about that. We got to keep that going. Nina Turner: We really do. Now, Senator, there’s this tension going on within the Democratic party, you really critiqued the Democratic party quite strongly last night, there are some that don’t necessarily believe that the Democratic party can be saved, but you do. Bernie Sanders: Well, this is what I think, Nina. I think any objective assessment of where the Democratic party is today, and above and beyond the presidential election, if you look at the fact that the Republicans control the Senate, the House, the White House, they control almost two thirds of the governance offices around this country, Democrats have lost almost 1,000 seats in legislative … former state Senate, you know about this stuff, right? Nina Turner: Yes. Bernie Sanders: The model has failed. I believe at this moment what has got to be done, and I know there are people who disagree with me, I think what we are seeing is around the country people moving into the Democratic party. Working people, young people, progressives, prepared to transform the Democratic party. That’s where I am right now. Nina Turner: You really believe that it can be? Bernie Sanders: We will see what happens. I’m not going to speculate. What we know is, there are people, and I often say this unbelievably, who would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they’re on top. They got the bird’s eye-view of the Titanic going down, rather than change it. But the current model and structure of the Democratic party is failing, and we need to bring millions of people into it who understand that we cannot continue an economy that works for the 1%, a corrupt political system where the Koch brothers and billionaires are buying elections. It’s got to change. And I think the people of this country are catching on to my demanding of that change. Nina Turner: Even in the world, you did make reference to Jeremy Corbyn and the great work that he was able to- Bernie Sanders: You know what that was about? Media here didn’t pick up on it, but that campaign turned around because the Labour Party brought forth what they call a manifest, what we would call a platform, and it was a progressive manifesto. It said to the working people, to the young people, that we have got to create a nation that works for you, not just the elite. That’s what people want in this country. They’re sick and tired of working longer hours for lower wages, they’re sick and tired of the inner cities in this country with unemployment … 20, 30% for the kids? Nina Turner: Yes. Bernie Sanders: Now, if unemployment is 30% then a kid does not get a job, doesn’t have the education, you tell me, what’s gonna happen? Nina Turner: Well, they do. We’re right here in Chicago, Senator, where you know there’s lot of tension, especially on the South Side, the West Side. But the African-American community in particular really feels under siege. Poverty, they’re suffocating because of poverty. And just because somebody’s poor doesn’t predispose them to be criminal, that’s not the issue—but when you have these symptoms that bubble up, poor people are more vulnerable in that way. I mean, we’re right here where those things are happening, Chicago is just an example of the other struggles that are going on across this country, what are your thoughts about how people should leverage from the local level? Now, this is not just about the federal level, the power of the people to make their lives better- Bernie Sanders: It’s what the demand has got to be. It is criminal that we have communities where youth unemployment is 20% or 30%. What we have got to do is to get teachers and mentors to provide jobs and educational opportunity. If we keep an eye on kids, you know what? They don’t have to drop out of school. If we provide job training, there are jobs out there—but I worry that many of these kids are not going to have the skills because they’re not getting the education. This is not rocket science. We can do that. It requires of commitment to say to that kid, “You know what? You’re not going to drop out of school, because we love you, we’re concerned about you. You’re going to sit down, you’re going to learn the skill, and by the way, there’s a job over there.” And when that kid goes out and starts earning a paycheck, his or her life is going to be profoundly changed. Nina Turner: You know, Senator, you sound a lot like president FDR when he gave his Four Freedoms speech. He talked about what the political and economic system – what people deserve from that system, and I think the first thing he named was youth and others, jobs for youth and others. Bernie Sanders: That speech never got the kind of attention that it deserved, but what it said is, we have the Bill of Rights that protects your political freedom, your religious freedoms, we all agree with that. But what about economic freedoms? Are you entitled as a human being in America to healthcare? If you are a young person or any person in a changing economy, are you entitled to get education? Or, if you don’t have the money, are you just left decided and not able to go to college or to a post-high school training program? What Roosevelt said is that when we talk about rights, it’s not just political rights, religious rights – it is economic rights. I do believe that. I believe when you talk about freedom, if you’re unemployed and you’re uneducated, you know what? I’m not so sure what kind of freedom you’re going to experience in your life. Nina Turner: But some would say that people are poor because they choose to be poor, because they made bad decisions that if someone that can afford healthcare, for example, or can’t afford to send their children to college or wherever else, their children would decide to go to increase their skillset. That really that is on the individual. Bernie Sanders: Well, I don’t believe that for a second. I think the people who make those statements have never lived for one second in the shoes of those people who are making decisions. There is such a thing as individual responsibility, no question about it. But we all have to take responsibility for our lives, but we live in a community where unemployment is just horrifically high, where there are no jobs, where your schools are dropout factories, that has got to be taken into consideration before you go around criticizing people. And I got to tell you something, I get sick and tired of these people on top who have billions and billions of dollars, blaming people who are struggling every day to put food on the table, for the problems that they face. Nina Turner: Now, Senator, the people who have come to the People’s Summit are the people who really do believe in the messages that you put out from your campaign. Last year was the first People’s Summit, it was 3,000 people there, this year it’s over 4,000 people, and people are coming because they believed in your message of revolution. What is your recommendations to those people who believe so strongly but at times when things … when people lose or they don’t get that change right then and there, sometimes they lose hope. What would you say to them? Bernie Sanders: What I would say is what the revolution means is that each of us, it’s not one person on top – and you’ve heard me say this a million times, because Nina and I have gone around the country together – it’s all of us standing up. And when we all stand up together, there is nothing that can stop us. That’s just a simple truth. People are … if they watch television all the time, they’re led to believe that somebody else is going to make the decision. We can do it together. And we’ve seen many, many examples of throughout history. But I think right now the message must be, that the fights that we’re waging, it’s not just about you and it’s not just about me, it’s your kids, it’s your grandchildren, it’s my grandchildren – it is the future generations of this country. And to cut to the chase, the issue is that we’ve become an oligarchy in which a handful of billionaires control the political and economic life of our country, where the very, very rich get richer and almost everybody else gets poorer. Do we live on a planet in which climate change causes horrific problems in this country and around the world in terms of drought and flood, which will lead to international conflict? Or do we as a people come together and say, “You know what? This ain’t the way it should be”? We have the technology now, Nina, to really, greatly improve the standard of living of people all around the world. That’s a good thing. Okay? But we need to gain the control, the power to make the good decisions. Nina Turner: Senator, in your environment, in your world right now in the federal level government, things are a little toxic. Bernie Sanders: Little toxic? Nina Turner: Just a little bit, a little toxic. Being an optimist here, just a little toxic, and there’s lots of talk of impeachment of Mr. Trump, some people feel as though that line has been crossed and impeachment should happen. What do you say? I mean, what are your thoughts and feelings? Bernie Sanders: Well, this is my thoughts, I think that, as I know you know, there’s almost nothing that Trump has done that I approve of. I think he’s been a disastrous president. But when you talk about impeachment, it is absolutely imperative that the American people feel comfortable that the facts have led us in that direction. Right now, many of us insisted on a special prosecutor, Bob Mueller, is now the special prosecutor. I don’t know Mueller personally but I’ve heard that he is a serious, forceful guy who’s prepared to do the right thing. Nina Turner: He’s a former FBI- Bernie Sanders: Former Director of the FBI. We got, in the House and in the Senate, you have more or less bipartisan investigations taking place over the question, two questions – number one, did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians in undermining our 2016 elections? And the second issue is, are there credible charges of obstruction of justice on the part of the president? Did the president fire Comey because he was doing the investigation? And we’ve got to proceed in a bipartisan way to get the facts and we’ll see where they lead. Nina Turner: If they lead that … I mean, some people really believe that that is the total answer, that in other words, Mr. Trump caused all of the distress that we have in the country right now. I mean, there are a group of people who really believe that he must go no matter. Bernie Sanders: Well, I don’t think … that’s not the way it works. I mean, he is a horrendous president, giving tax breaks for billionaires, cuts the programs for working people, refuses to acknowledge climate change, lying all the time, you know, he is just an awful president. But there is a process. You got a Constitution. Awful presidents can stay in office if they do not commit impeachable- Nina Turner: High crimes. Bernie Sanders: High crimes and misdemeanors. Nina Turner: Misdemeanors. Bernie Sanders: And that’s what we’re looking at and that’s the way it’s got to be. But I think what I worry about right now, you talk about Washington, is the Republican healthcare plan in the House was probably the ugliest, most destructive piece of legislation I’ve ever seen in my life. Can you imagine throwing 23 million people off of health insurance? Defunding Planned Parenthood, raising premiums for older workers, cutting Medicaid $800 billion, do you know what that will mean? [crosstalk 00:13:28] Nina Turner: Devastation. Bernie Sanders: Then, his budget, his budget, massive cuts. Think about the programs that are important to your lives, the lives of middle-class and working families, they will be cut, in some cases eliminated, and at the same time, this guy wants to give $3 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1%. It is vulgar. And that’s kind of where we are right now in terms of organizing and fighting back. Nina Turner: To that very point though, your message really is to the people, that we have to be prepared, that this preparation time. That resistance and resilience go hand-in-hand. Bernie Sanders: You cannot … as I said a moment ago, despair really is not an option. Because it’s not just your life, it’s the lives of your community, your kids, and future generations. Our moral obligation is to continue the fight. What I want to say, and I said it last night and I’ll repeat it again, on virtually every major issue, the American people are on our side. Okay? You go home and I speak to the viewers now, talk to people in your community, the people who voted for Trump, ask them whether they think it’s a great idea to give tax breaks to billionaires and cut Medicare or cut Medicaid or after-school programs and nutrition programs? Very few people think that makes sense. So the good news, Nina, is the vast majority of the people in this country support, in my view, a progressive agenda. Our job is to bring them together to take on all of the money from the Koch brothers and the other billionaires in the elections and to start winning some margins. Nina Turner: I’ve seen you, Senator, in other town halls really sitting right next to people who did vote for Mr. Trump and you have been able to move those people to your side. How is that? Because we see a lot of signs around that says Love Trumps Hate, but when it comes down to it, there’s lots of vulgarity going on between citizens, people are hateful towards one another because of that. Bernie Sanders: All right, Nina, I will not deny for one second that there is a part of Trump support which is racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, that’s true. Period. We’re not going to get to those people, But I think your average Trump supporter is somebody today, sitting maybe in Ohio, sitting somewhere in Michigan, and people who have worked hard their whole lives, they’ve seen their jobs go to China and Mexico, can’t afford to send their kids to college, worried to death about the future of this country. And they are asking, “Who worries about me? Who worries that I’m working two or three jobs? That I’m making half the wages that used to, that I can’t afford to retire? Anyone worrying about me?” I think we can reach out to those people and say, “Yeah, we are on your side. We got to stand together.” Don’t fall for Trump’s nonsense of blaming Muslims or Latinos for all of your problems. Take a look at Wall Street and what they did to this country. You can’t afford prescription drugs, it’s not some guy picking strawberries for eight bucks an hour who caused that problem. Okay? Let’s work together, not let Trump divide us up. Nina Turner: We got to hoped Goldman Sachs and Enron and all of these multibillion-dollar corporations- Bernie Sanders: That’s right. Do you know how much harm Wall Street did to millions of people in this country? Nina Turner: Yeah. Bernie Sanders: African-American wealth plummeted. Nina Turner: Yes, most of that wealth is in homes. Bernie Sanders: That’s exactly it, housing values went down. Nina Turner: That’s it. Bernie Sanders: Absolutely right. We got to look at those guys. By the way, of course, Trump and his friends, once again deregulate Wall Street. Nina Turner: Absolutely. Well, Senator, if we are fast-forwarding to 2018 and you’re back at the People Summit, what would your message be to the attendees in 2018? Bernie Sanders: Well, in 2018 I’m going to be working really hard, and I’m going to drag you into this fight as well. Nina Turner: Anytime. Bernie Sanders: All right, we have got to win a lot of seats. I think there is a lot of discontent in this country against Trump’s economic policies, against his effort to divide us up, against his movement toward authoritarianism. We have got to get out there and bring people together and start winning seats. And if we can do that, if we can win the Senate, if we can win the House, we can put a real break on these disastrous policies coming from the administration. Nina Turner: And win seats with people who are really committed to the people. Bernie Sanders: Absolutely. A progressive agenda. Nina Turner: A progressive agenda. Well, Senator, I’m telling you, people all over this country owe you a great debt of gratitude because you, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, were the man in the arena, the doer of the deeds. And very much in the spirit of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, when she said her very presence is redefining a new era in America. Your presence, not just in 2016 but from the very start, and you are a very modest man. I want our viewers to know that, you don’t talk about yourself a whole lot. But I know at the age of 21 you weren’t thinking, “Let me stand up against segregation and racism and discrimination at the University of Chicago so I can one day run for president.” You did that because you have absolute heart-soul agreement, and this world is a better place because of you, Senator Sanders. Adore you. Bernie Sanders: Thank you so much. Okay. Nina Turner: Real News Network exclusive with the one and only Senator Bernie Sanders, the man in the arena, the doer of the deeds and the person that has reminded us that it is not about him, it is really all about us. It is about you, your children and your children’s children, and we all need you. This is Nina Turner on the Nina Turner show on the Real News Network. Thank you for joining us.