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Sanders’s Midterm Advice to Democrats: Have the “Guts” to Lead on the Economy

It is key for Democrats to make it clear where they stand on issues like unions and minimum wage, he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally on October 28, 2021, in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

With just weeks until the midterm election in November, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has a piece of advice for Democrats: speak up about the economy or risk losing control of Congress and, perhaps, risk democracy itself.

In an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Sanders said that Democrats must widen their scope beyond talking about their stances on social issues and stand up against corporate greed in support of the working class.

He said that, while Democrats’ messaging on topics like abortion is laudable, the party must come out stronger on economic issues and clearly set themselves apart from Republicans, who polls show voters tend to trust more on the economy.

“We live in a moment, Chuck, in which we see an economy where the people on top are doing phenomenally well, while working people are struggling,” he said. “What I think is, Democrats should talk about the economy, I think they should contrast their views with the Republican positions.”

There are some easy talking points for Democrats to reach for on this issue that are widely popular with the public, he said, pointing out that Republicans almost uniformly oppose raising the minimum wage, making it easier for workers to unionize, and ensuring that billionaires pay their fair share in taxes.

“Now, what Republicans are saying, Chuck, which is quite amazing to me, that in the midst of these difficult economic times for seniors and for other people — you know what they say? ‘We’ve got to cut Social Security, we’ve got to cut Medicare, we’ve got to cut Medicaid,’” he said. “I think that is grotesque, and I think Democrats have got to hold them accountable for those reactionary positions.”

In an op-ed in the Guardian last week, Sanders also emphasized that Democrats must hold up issues they had fought for in the COVID stimulus bills and in last year’s Build Back Better Act. Sanders and Democrats had fought to extend the expanded child tax credit, allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and expand Medicare to cover vision, dental and hearing — measures that were killed by conservative Democrats and Republicans.

While Democrats aren’t perfect, Sanders said, he believes that they can and should show that they are committed to standing up for working class people.

“There are some extreme right-wing voters who are racists, who are sexists, who are homophobes, xenophobes — no, I don’t think you’re going to ever get them” to vote for Democrats, he said. “But I also think that there are millions of people in this country, working class people who look at Washington and say, ‘you know what? I’m falling further and further behind. I can’t afford health care, I can’t afford to send my kids to college, I can’t afford the outrageous cost of prescription drugs. Who is listening to me?’”

“What we need is a Democratic Party that has the guts to stand up to them and say, ‘yeah, we’re going to take on the greed of the insurance companies, and the drug companies, and Wall Street,” Sanders said.

Polls suggest that Sanders is correct in his thesis that Democrats could be boosted by focusing on the economy. Recent polling has found that, just weeks before the midterms, key indicators show that voters may be swinging toward favoring Republicans as anxieties about the economy increase.