A day after joining the Senate Democratic leadership, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders signaled Thursday he’s a willing ally if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on a number of promises to working Americans.
“He’s talked about the collapsing working class in America. He’s right,” Sanders said Thursday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
In a roundabout way, Sanders praised the billionaire businessman and expected they could cooperate on campaign pledges to raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, to force big pharmaceutical companies into lower prices for seniors and to preserve Social Security.
“Donald Trump is nobody’s fool. He is a smart guy,” said Sanders, adding that “you are going to see some of us working with him.”
Speaking in the animated fashion that brought him surprising success in his bid to win the Democratic nomination, Sanders identified trade as another area of cooperation.
“Trade is a good thing, but we need trade policies that work for the American worker and not just for the CEO’s of large multinational corporations,” Sanders said, dodging a direct question of whether he supported Trump’s pledge to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement. “Unfettered free trade has been a disaster for Americans workers.”
The incoming president also vowed on the campaign trail to slap tariffs – a tax on goods crossing borders – on Mexican and Chinese products exported by U.S. companies that moved jobs abroad. It’s an idea to which Sanders is open.
“A tariff may well be one of those options,” he said. “If Mr. Trump has the guts to stand up to those corporations, he will have an ally with me.”
Trump won election, in part, by co-opting Democratic messages on trade, promising to tear up trade deals and get tough on China. Free trade and a soft-touch on China as it develops have traditionally been Republican planks.
If he is consistent with his views that our trade policies have failed American workers ... yes I will work with him.
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders on working with President-elect Donald Trump.
In yet another area of potential cooperation, Sanders noted that candidate Trump vowed to get tough on Wall Street and that the two favor more curbs to ensure than banks create a wall between lending and their investment activities.
Questioned about the future of the Democratic Party after Trump’s unexpected victory, Sanders repeatedly pointed to views outlined in his new book “Our Revolution,” which call for more engagement with younger voters who stayed home in 2016.
Asked if his bid for the White House weakened Hillary Clinton, Sanders was unequivocal.
“I think at the end of the day, my candidacy was … helpful to her, if we believe that candidates should not be anointed,” the senator said, noting that Trump overcame more than a dozen rivals in the primaries. “My campaign brought millions of people into the process.”
Sanders was given a Senate leadership position of Outreach Chair, a job he admitted he hadn’t quite defined yet, other than to bring in younger voters.
“I initially understand my role is to bring those people into the political process,” he said. “How we go about doing it, I don’t know.”
Sanders repeated his support for Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to head the Democratic National Committee, noting he has support from the incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Although he ran to become the Democratic nominee, the fiery socialist from Vermont said he will not officially join the party.
“I was elected as an independent, I will finish this term as an independent,” Sanders said.