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Sanders: Gaza “May Be Biden’s Vietnam”

“Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated not just young people, but a lot of the Democratic base.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a pen and pad news conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

After President Joe Biden delivered a chilling speech telling pro-Palestine student protesters to back off on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has warned that the president may be isolating huge parts of his own base as he faces a moment that echoes the similar mass uprising against the Vietnam War in 1968.

Affirming that pro-Palestine student protesters at Columbia University and over 100 other campuses nationwide are demonstrating for the “right reasons,” the senator said that Biden is standing against his own party base and, indeed, the majority of the country in continuing to back Israel’s genocidal assault of Gaza.

“As a young man I was involved in civil rights demonstration, I was arrested in taking over the administration office at the University of Chicago because there was racism and segregation going on at that time,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “The truth of the matter is, if there had not been protests and sit-ins and demonstrations, we would not have made the progress we have made in this country.”

He went on to seemingly indirectly criticize Biden’s remarks on Thursday which smeared students for their protests. In a short speech aimed at demonstrators, Biden said that “dissent must never lead to disorder” and that “order must prevail” over protests that have sought to disrupt normal life in order to demand an end to the Gaza genocide; the speech came after a week of violent police repression of protests, which has hospitalized dozens of students across the country over their support of Palestinian rights.

“The right to dissent, the right to protest, that is what the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States is all about,” said Sanders. “That’s what, in fact, makes you a free country. Being a free country means that somebody goes out and demonstrates, you don’t have to agree with them. They have the right. That’s the difference between autocracy and dictatorship and a free country.”

He went on to say that this moment is a crucial test for Biden in the same way that the uprisings against the Vietnam War in 1968 served as a test for politicians. Then, the anti-war movement followed President Lyndon B. Johnson around on campaign stops — similarly to how Biden and his administration is protested by advocates for Palestinian rights at public events today — over his escalation of the war, with Johnson ultimately dropping his reelection campaign.

“In terms of his campaign … this may be Biden’s Vietnam,” Sanders said. “Lyndon Johnson, in many respects, was a very, very good president, domestically brought forth some major pieces of legislation. He chose not to run in ‘68 because of opposition to his views on Vietnam.”

“I worry very much that President Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated not just young people, but a lot of the Democratic base, in terms of his views on Israel,” the senator continued. “I would hope very much that, from certainly a policy point of view, from a moral point of view, the president stops giving a blank check to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. And I would hope that they understand that from a political point of view this has not been helpful, quite the contrary.”

Advocates for Palestinian rights have long said that Biden is risking his own presidency due to his backing of the genocide in Gaza, which has killed or injured at least 5 percent of the population of Gaza so far and threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands more.

Polls have found that public opinion has shifted dramatically against Israel since October as Israeli forces have killed over 34,000 Palestinians with heavy use of U.S. weaponry, with only 18 percent of Democrats approving of Israel’s siege of Gaza and 75 percent disapproving, according to a Gallup survey released last month.

Young voters in particular are opposed to Israel’s massacre. A January poll found that a plurality of people aged 18 to 29 say Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, with only 24 percent disagreeing. The dissent on U.S. policy in the Middle East has driven voters away from Biden, contributing to a plummeting approval rating among young voters amid the assault.

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