Bernie Opens Up About New Democrats In Congress & Taking On Trumpism

A conversation with the Vermont senator, who wants liberals to be able to “walk and chew gum at the same time” when it comes to the president.

By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone (11/

mid all the drama of the 2018 midterms, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders cruised to re-election Tuesday night, securing a third term in the Senate with an easy 66.1 percent of the vote. In a year in which longtime Senate incumbents on both sides of the aisle were either unseated or faced stiff challenges, Sanders continued a tradition dating back to his House days of winning too easily to make headlines. He was barely mentioned during the cable news election-night marathons.

But Sanders was implicitly a major part of the 2018 narrative. He had campaigned hard for several candidates, notably Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum, and seemed deeply disappointed in Gillum’s narrow loss (which appears on the verge of being relitigated). Pundits treated many of the races around the country as referendums on the viability of Sanders-style progressive politics going forward.

As we did after Election Day in 2016, Rolling Stone caught up with Sanders to ask for his take on the midterms, the Democrats’ likely strategy in the House, the dismissal of his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions and other key issues.

Sanders, a possible 2020 presidential candidate, called Tuesday’s victories “a significant step forward in terms of the revitalization of American democracy.” But he also had some customarily sharp-edged takes about the conventional wisdom already forming about the results.

As he did two years ago, Sanders warned against complacency and insisted it would be a “very, very serious mistake” if Democrats did not at least try to pass progressive legislation, so as to call Trump’s populist bluff. Failure to do so, he implied, would mean ceding vital territory to Trump, a man with “no core beliefs.”

Matt Taibbi: Senator, congratulations on your win.

Senator Bernie Sanders: Thank you very much.

First impressions from Election Night? Most encouraging result, least encouraging?

My impression is that, given the fact that Trump fired [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions today in order to remove media coverage from [Tuesday] night tells me we had a pretty good night. I think [Tuesday] night was a significant rejection of Trumpism. Not only did the Democrats regain control of the House, which was the most important development, Democrats won seven governors’ races. Democrats won 300 races at the state legislative and in the four states that Trump won in order to get his Electoral College majority — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — all four of those Senate Democratic candidates won. And three out of the four [Democratic] candidates for governor won. As someone who worked very hard for Andrew Gillum, that was a major disappointment. He ran a brilliant campaign, dealing with a lot of things, including racism. We’ll see what happens in Georgia, whether or not they’re going to count all the votes there. But if Abrams loses, that [will be] a painful loss. …

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