Bernie Sanders isn't the underdog this time. While the Vermont senator's progressive ideas may have seemed too "radical" to get him to the White House in 2016, they've now caught on more broadly, keeping him consistently among the leading 2020 Dems. And his ideas seemed to be resonating with crowds in his recent swing through ruby-red Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
“Coal miners are not my enemy. Workers in the fossil fuel industry are not my enemy. Climate change is our enemy!” Sanders cried to hundreds of Kentuckians in a rally outside the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville. He almost won the primary in that state in 2016, with Hillary Clinton eking out a win by .43 percent.
“Four years ago, I was trying to say to the American people, 'You know what? Health care is a human right. We need to move toward Medicare for All.' People said, 'Oh, Bernie, it's a radical idea.' Well, poll after poll says that is exactly what the American people believe,” he told VICE News.
That means bringing his political revolution to all corners of the country, highlighting his key goals of establishing a federal $15 minimum wage, eliminating all student debt, creating a free healthcare system under Medicare for All, and transforming the economy by spending $16 trillion on a Green New Deal over 10 years.
When asked if he perhaps missed his moment in 2016, Sanders obviously disagrees. "I think we're in a very good place. I think the message that we are fighting for, the ideas that we are fighting for, are ideas that are resonating with the working families of this country.”
He’s also tweaked his Medicare for All plan last week to make it more palatable to the labor movement.
It’s working. On Monday in Pennsylvania — Joe Biden country — Sanders won a key endorsement from the Union of Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America during their national convening.
Fatima Anda, a social worker in Los Angeles, told VICE News after the union endorsement that Sanders has a lot of support in her Hispanic community, and that he’s more relatable than the former vice president. "I feel that he's [Biden’s] a little bit more separated, and I feel that Bernie Sanders is more, like, for the people, a people's person. I feel that he has more of a connection.”
Sanders says this race is about beating Donald Trump, someone he directly attacks in his stump speeches.
"I think first and foremost that has to do with defeating the most dangerous president in the history of our country, who is an overt racist,” he said, also calling Trump "a sexist” and "a homophobe.”
"He fits the personality of a demagogue who wants to retain his power and his wealth by dividing people up.”
Unlike like some of the field that skewers the buzzword “electability,” Sanders says it’s a factor voters should consider: Can the Democratic nominee beat Trump?
"I think what we need is a candidate who can speak to young people, a candidate who speak to working-class people, a candidate who can create a massive voter turnout. If the total voter turnout, is high the Democratic candidate will win,” Sanders added. He believes he’s that candidate.
Right now he has to get through the Democratic primary process — but Sanders says he’s not courting superdelegates yet.
“We'll take one step at a time. Right now we're courting the people we intend to win in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and California."
This segment originally aired Aug. 28, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.