During a rousing speech delivered to supporters in New York City Tuesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had a few words for the media establishment.
“Over 90 percent of media coverage [during the 2016 presidential race] was not about the issues that impact your lives,” he said, citing “a variety of studies.”
Instead, he continued, the stories “were about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. They were about political gossip. They were about polls. They were about fundraising. They were about stupid things that people said 20 years ago. What we must demand of a media is that they start covering the issues that impact our lives. Not just the candidates’ lives.”
Sanders was in town to promote his new book, Our Revolution, named for the political action group that grew out of the senator’s progressive platform. Speaking to a crowd of seated audience members in Manhattan’s Cooper Union, he took what he called “corporate media” to task for its failure to cover the 2016 presidential campaign season in “a serious way.” During the speech, Sanders echoed sentiments outlined in the last chapter of his book, a section titled “Corporate Media and the Threat to Our Democracy.”
“If media does not accept its responsibility to talk about the reality facing the American people […] that is a real threat to the future of American democracy,” he told his supporters Tuesday night.
In his book, published on Nov. 15 by Thomas Dunne Books, he cites an early experience with “the nature of the media’s political coverage,” recounting the time Vermont news outlets focused their attention on a candidate for state representative who skied around the state to meet voters, downplaying the actual issues affecting voters. “If corporate media won’t change,” Sanders writes in the final pages of his book, “start new media.”
The issues that impact our lives, Sanders reiterated throughout his hourlong talk, include access to healthcare and higher education, the disappearance of the middle class, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and climate change. He urged his followers to pay attention to these concerns, going so far as to point out three subjects on which American citizens should refuse to compromise: bigotry, democracy and climate change.
Sanders was introduced on Tuesday night by the actor and activist Harry Belafonte, who described the election of Donald Trump as “weird.” Belafonte was in turn introduced by Strand Bookstore owner Nancy Bass Wyden, who praised Sanders’ “action-oriented ideas for progressives who want to reclaim power in America.” Strand hosted the event at Cooper Union.
The Huffington Post streamed the entire speech live on Facebook Tuesday night. You can read more excerpts from Sanders’ talk, below.
On Donald Trump:
“In terms of the popular vote, Mr. Trump lost that to Secretary Clinton by almost three million votes. […] Mr. Trump does not have a mandate to carry out his extremist ideas and we should not forget that for a second.”
On the progressive agenda:
“On virtually every major issue impacting the American people, it turns out that a significant majority of the American people support the progressive agenda. I want all of you to know […] that you’re not heroes and heroines fighting some great uphill struggle out on the vanguard. What your views are, by and large, represent where the American people are on issue after issue.”
On voter suppression:
“What you have in Republican states all over this country is you have Republican governors who are too cowardly to participate in free and fair and open elections. They are working overtime to deny poor people, old people, young people, people of color the right to vote. Massive levels of voter suppression.”
On Trump’s cabinet nominations:
“Mr. Trump nominated for Secretary of State the head of ExxonMobil. He appointed or nominated as head of the Environmental Protection Agency someone who does not even believe in the reality of climate change. And on this issue, as on many other issues, what we have got to do as a nation is […] we have got to bring millions and millions of people together to tell Mr. Trump that we’re not going back to bigotry, that we’re going to protect American democracy, and that we are going to transform our energy system, whether ExxonMobil likes it or not.”
On why Hillary Clinton and Democratic congressmen lost:
“There are a lot of reasons why, but I’ll tell you what I think a key reason is ― is that the Democrats failed to understand that, while it is true, absolutely, that we are better off today economically than we were eight years ago when Bush left office, no debate about that, there’s another truth. And that truth is that there are millions and millions of people, often in rural areas, in inner cities, who are hurting today very, very badly. They are in real pain. This is a pain that you don’t see on television. […] The word poverty comes out of the mouths of very few elected officials.”
On the future of the Democratic Party:
“I think we need a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party. I am not here tonight to, you know, knock people […] but I think it is very clear that the current approach ― the current way the Democratic Party has done business simply has failed and we need a very new direction.”