Bernie Sanders’s warning comes as President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign seeks to remind Americans of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s role on January 6. Republicans are also gathering in Iowa for caucuses that mark the official start of this year’s presidential election.
Focus on the working class
Bernie Sanders, America’s leading Democratic progressive politician, issued the stark warning to President Joe Biden in a Guardian interview. The Vermont senator urged Biden to be more aggressive in addressing the concerns of millions of struggling Americans or risk handing the presidency back to his demagogic rival, Donald Trump.
Recipe for success
“We’ve got to see the White House move more aggressively on healthcare, on housing, on tax reform, on the high cost of prescription drugs,” the progressive Democrat said. “If we can get the president to move in that direction, he will win; if not, he’s going to lose.”
Sanders telling Biden’s team
Sanders added that he was in contact with the White House to press his point: “We hope to make clear to the president and his team that they are not going to win this election unless they come up with a progressive agenda that speaks to the needs of the working class of this country.”
The Vermont senator’s warning comes at a critical point in U.S. politics. On the 15th, Republicans will gather in Iowa for the caucus, which marks the official beginning of the 2024 presidential election.
Biden struggling in polls
Biden currently faces no serious contenders in the Democratic primaries. But there is mounting concern that he would lose in the likely rematch against Trump this November. Recent polls show Trump doing well in key battleground states and also gaining support with Democratic groups who were vital to Biden’s 2020 victory, including young and Hispanic voters.
In his interview, Sanders predicted a Trump victory “will be the end of democracy, functional democracy.” Over a further four years, he predicted, Trump would change electoral goalposts to make “many people who would vote against Trump… unable to do so. He will make it harder for young people, people of color, to participate in the political process.”
New direction needed
Sanders criticized Biden’s campaign team for not taking appropriate action given the stakes. “They’re not their own best advertisers; they don’t do a particularly good job in explaining what Biden has accomplished,” he said.
Sanders recognizes Biden’s achievements
Sanders praised Biden for his accomplishments in office, including the $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan he argued helped prevent economic collapse and the Inflation Reduction Act, which pumped money into transitioning the U.S. away from fossil fuels.
He also said Biden was “the strongest pro-union president that we have had, certainly, since FDR [Franklin D. Roosevelt]” for his historic decision to join the United Auto Workers picket line during the union’s strike against the three biggest carmakers.
A way to go
But Sanders urged the White House to act. “The president has got to do something that’s very, very hard,” he said. “He should be proud of his accomplishments, but he’s also got to say that he understands that there is a housing crisis, that people can’t afford healthcare or prescription drugs or childcare—that he’s trying, but he hasn’t yet succeeded.”
Biden could draw inspiration from Roosevelt’s 1936 re-election campaign, Sanders suggested. By then, Roosevelt was nearing the end of his term in office and had implemented two groundbreaking New Deal programs.
Just the beginning
“Roosevelt didn’t go around saying, ‘Look at all I’ve done,'” Sanders explained. “He said, ‘I see a nation that is ill-clad, ill-housed. We made some progress, but I know there are enormous problems.”
Sanders’s influence on Biden
Sanders previously came close to securing the Democratic nomination on two occasions and helped Biden win the 2020 election by rallying his millions of young supporters to vote for him. He also pushed Biden in a more progressive direction, forming a set of “taskforces” that saw top Biden and Sanders supporters working together to forge policy agreements across several key areas, including the climate crisis, the economy, and immigration.
Working Americans before elites
In his 2023 book, It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism, Sanders set a similar progressive agenda for 2024. He called for the Democratic Party to focus on working-class struggles rather than “corporate elites.”
Voters may stay home
In his Guardian interview, Sanders said that he fears young Americans will not vote in November if that does not happen. “The polling is clear. Given the choice between Biden and Trump, a lot of people are saying, ‘Thank you, but no thank you.'”