Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that “the current model of the Democratic Party obviously is not working” and must be exchanged for a much more “progressive agenda” if Democrats hope to make a comeback in both 2018 and 2020, during an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, remained for many years on the fringe of mainstream American politics. But when the senator unveiled his long-promised “Medicare for All” single-payer health care proposal on Wednesday, an unprecedented one-third of the Senate Democratic Caucus backed the bill — including a number of rumored 2020 presidential hopefuls.
As the Democratic Party struggles to regroup and revamp its political platform for the 2018 midterm election, Sanders urged it to reject its more traditionally moderate policies and to fully embrace a progressive-liberal platform.
“Let me just say something about this: The current model of the Democratic Party obviously is not working,” Sanders told host Chuck Todd. “Republicans control the House, the Senate. They control the White House. They control two-thirds of the governor’s offices throughout this country.”
“In my view, Chuck, what we need to do is to reach out to independents. There are a heck of a lot more independents in this country than there are Republicans or Democrats,” he added. “I am an independent. I’ve worked within the Democratic Caucus in the House and the Senate for over 25 years. I’ll continue to do that.”
In order to reach out to independents and moderates, however, Sanders rejected the idea that moderate policies were the way to go.
“I think that the Democratic Party has got to reach out to working people. It’s got to reach out to young people. It’s got to come up with a progressive agenda. And by the way, that agenda is gaining momentum,” he said. “That’s the agenda we’ve got to fight on.”
Both Sanders and the more mainstream congressional Democrats acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care bill, was flawed. But while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are fighting to prop up the existing system, Sanders and his progressive, far-left followers are lobbying for a radical European-style, single-payer health care system.
“And in my view, a Medicare for All single-payer program will address those issues and guarantee health care to all people in a cost-effective way. And that’s the direction that we’ve got to go,” Sanders said. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow. I fully admit that. But we need to put the benchmark down there and go forward.”
But not all Democrats are on board with Sanders and his more radical cohorts. Neither Pelosi nor Schumer have embraced the bill, and other congressional Democrats view the “Medicare for All” with a similar lack of enthusiasm. In its current form, Sanders’ bill stands little to no chance of actually passing in either the Senate or the House with Democrats divided and Republicans firmly against it.
Nevertheless, Sanders is persistent. As the Democratic Party gears up for trying to snatch the White House from President Donald Trump’s grasp in 2020, their decision to pit progressives and moderates against each other in a party split is questionable.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who also appeared Sunday on “Meet the Press,” warned that Sanders’ single-payer bill could backfire in 2018 and 2020.
“Just this week, Bernie Sanders introduced his single-payer health care bill,” Cotton said. “I’m glad he finally recognizes that we need to repeal Obamacare, which is what this bill would do, and that has divided the Democratic Party.”