Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday advised Republicans not to use their newly-won control of Congress to only serve the wealthy donors that had financed their campaigns.
“The American people are extremely dissatisfied for good reasons at the state of the economy,” Sanders told CNN host Wolf Blitzer. “The middle class continues to collapse. That’s been a 30-year collapse. The gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider. Real unemployment is close to 12 percent.”
According to the self-described socialist, the Republicans won big in Tuesday’s midterms because they were able to blame President Barack Obama for the country’s problems.
“What they also managed to do — and a brilliant political strategy — is not tell us what their agenda is,” he explained. “All over the country in conservative states, people said let’s raise the minimum wage to, at least, a living wage. What’s the Republican position on that? They’re against that.”
“Is the Republican Party going to do what the American people want?” Sanders asked. “The American people do not want more tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations. Is the Republican Party going to poison the well by going forward at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, giving more tax breaks to people who don’t need it?”
The senator agreed that bipartisan legislation on things like immigration reform was the “preferable route” to executive action if Republicans were willing to work with the president.
“But let’s not turn our backs on the middle class of this country and ignore the enormous economic problems they’re facing,” he said. “Let’s not simply work for the rich and the big campaign contributors who control the United States Congress. If we can do that, and respond to the needs and the pain of the American people, you know what, I think you’ll suddenly find Congress is regarded a lot more favorably.”
Sanders said that he was seriously thinking about a 2016 presidential run, but he wanted to be sure that his supporters were ready to take on powerful conservative donors like the Koch brothers.
“I am giving thought to running,” he explained. “But for me and the nature of the campaign that I’d be running, I’ve got to get a lot of input from people all over this country. We haven’t made that final decision yet.”
“When you take on the billionaire class and you take on the Koch brothers and Wall Street and the drug companies and all these guys, you don’t do that haphazardly, you’ve got to really think it through,” Sanders added. “And I just want to know whether there is grassroots support in this country for an agenda that is going speak to the needs of working families and the middle class, prepared to take on the big money interests. And I’ve got to determine that, and we’re not there yet with that determination.”
“The American people today are very demoralized. One of the takeaways of this last campaign is that in my state, by the way, and all over this country, the vast majority of people didn’t vote. Young people don’t vote, low income working people don’t vote. They’re disgusted, they’ve given up on the political process. Is it possible to bring those people back in so they stand up and fight for their rights and take on the big money interests? I don’t know the answer to that.”
Watch the video below from CNN’s Newsroom, broadcast Nov. 6, 2014.