Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders chided Democrats and called on students to take ownership of leftist political movements during a speech at Riverside Church Monday night.
In an hour-long speech in front of hundreds of students and New Yorkers, the populist firebrand called for a unified movement to resist the agenda of President Donald Trump, who Sanders repeatedly labeled a “demagogue.”
“Our political job is to stand up to that demagoguery and to come together as a nation … not to allow Trump and his political allies to divide us up,” Sanders said. ‘When we stand together and focus on the real problems facing our country, there’s nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Citing wage gap statistics that became a hallmark of his campaign, Sanders, a former presidential candidate, devoted the majority of his speech to calling for more robust social programs like universal single-payer healthcare and free access to public colleges and universities—all hallmarks of his 2016 campaign.
“This is the year 2017. Is it really appropriate, really OK, for so few to have so much when so many people have so little?” Sanders asked. “We must be loud and clear in stating that, if you work 40 hours a week, you must not be living in poverty. Is that a radical idea? I don’t think so.”
Democrats’ failure to make such issues central to their platform, Sanders argued, is what cost Hillary Clinton the general election to Trump in November.
“If you go around the country, what you see is people in state after state living in despair, living in pain. … Trump and his campaign stand up and says, ‘I see that pain, I hear that pain, I’m going to take on the establishment,’” Sanders said. “Well, as we all know, Trump is a pathological liar. He lied then and he lies today.”
Sanders’ appearance at Riverside Church was sponsored by Harper’s Magazine and Book Culture, and served as a promotion for his new young-adult book, “Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution.”
Robert Godfried, CC ’18, said he didn’t vote for Sanders in the Democratic primary in 2016—instead supporting Hillary Clinton—but agrees with most of the Senator’s ideas.
“I’ve always been pretty interested in a lot of the ideas he’s had—affordable college plan, working to create much more inequality-alleviating taxes, a lot of these big social programs,” Godfried said. “I think he’s been good for the party.”
As he finished his speech, Sanders received a standing ovation from the crowd, with dozens raising “Bernie 2020” signs as he walked offstage.