- Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, focusing heavily on the president’s claims about the strength of the US economy.
- Sanders also said Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigration was “racist” and “factually inaccurate.”
- “He is trying to divide us up,” Sanders said. “He is trying to have one group turn against another group, and that is certainly not what this country is supposed to be about.”
- Sanders faced criticism for offering a rebuttal on top of the official Democratic response from Stacey Abrams.
- The independent senator from Vermont is considering running for president again in 2020.
- Follow along with all of INSIDER’s coverage of the State of the Union here.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night offered a blistering rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, focusing more on what the president didn’t mention than on what he did touch on.
Sanders zeroed in heavily on Trump’s claims about the economy. The Vermont senator noted that Trump was correct in contending that the economy was doing well but argued the benefits were going to only a small number of wealthy people.
“We have more wealth and income inequality than any major country on earth,” Sanders said, adding that the economy was “not booming” for the roughly 80% of Americans he said were living “paycheck to paycheck.”
Sanders said Americans should not be proud of the economy when the US had “the highest rate of childhood poverty in the developed world.”
He said too many in the US were working for “starvation wages” and slammed Trump for not discussing raising the minimum wage to a living wage.
“People are not truly free when they can’t afford to go to the doctor when they are sick,” Sanders said. “People are not truly free when they cannot afford to buy the prescription drugs they desperately need. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity.”
“People are not truly free when they are exhausted because they are working longer and longer hours for lower wages,” he added. “People are not truly free when they cannot afford a decent place in which to live. People are certainly not truly free when they cannot afford to feed their families.”
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Sanders said, “This country has socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.” This was perhaps a jab at Trump’s rhetoric condemning socialism in his Tuesday-night address.
My response to President Trump’s State of the Union address: https://t.co/sl1OEu6NR8
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 6, 2019
Sanders also ripped into Trump on his claims about illegal immigration, particularly regarding violent crime. He said Trump’s rhetoric on this subject was “racist” and “factually inaccurate,” and he questioned why Trump didn’t focus more on violence committed by white men.
Sanders also disdainfully noted that Trump did not mention climate change. “Somehow” Trump “forgot” to talk about this subject, Sanders said.
He also said it was embarrassing that Trump ignored the fact the US was the only developed country without universal healthcare.
Sanders went on to slam Trump for not mentioning voter suppression, Russian election interference, and US involvement in Yemen, among other topics.
The Vermont senator said Trump’s call for a border wall led to a shutdown that caused much pain and suffering, and he rejected the president’s assertion there’s a security crisis at the southern border. He called on the US to focus on working toward offering a pathway to citizenship for unauthorised immigrants already living in the US, whom he said were overwhelmingly hardworking and law-abiding.
“He is trying to divide us up,” Sanders said. “He is trying to have one group turn against another group, and that is certainly not what this country is supposed to be about.”
Stacey Abrams gave the official Democratic response to Trump’s address, and Sanders followed not long after. The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate was the first black woman to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to a State of the Union address.
Given some of the criticism that Sanders had not focused enough on the black community during his 2016 presidential campaign, some felt it was unwise for him to also deliver a response on top of Abrams’ rebuttal – particularly as he’s considering running in 2020.
Symone Sanders, who served as Sanders’ press secretary in 2016, in a Tuesday CNN appearance said: “If Senator Sanders is somebody that’s thinking about throwing his name … in the ring for president, and he knows he has an issue with people saying that they don’t think he supports and uplifts the voices of black women, of people of colour, do not step on Stacey Abrams. Do not give more fodder to the people that are already going to be critical of you in the first place.”
Sanders seemed to address some of the criticism he faced ahead of his response in a tweet praising Abrams.
“Stacey Abrams is a great choice to deliver the Democratic response,” Sanders said on Monday. “I’m very much looking forward to her speech. For the third year in a row, following the Democratic rebuttal I’ll be on Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube to respond to Trump.”
Following Trump’s address, the Vermont senator urged people to watch Abrams’ speech. He tweeted, “Now that that’s over, please watch my friend Stacey Abrams share her message for the country.”
Republicans did not seem to appreciate Sanders’ response to Trump’s speech.
“It’s crazy to think that Bernie Sanders’ socialist agenda has become the norm for the Democrat Party,” the Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest told INSIDER. “While his signature policies like government run-healthcare have been fully embraced by their liberal base, they’re far too extreme for everyday Americans.”
Guest also rejected Sanders’ allegations of racism against Trump.
“President Trump has brought African-American and Hispanic unemployment to record lows and passed historic criminal-justice reform,” Guest said. “Just because someone disagrees with Bernie’s left-wing agenda that doesn’t make them racist.”
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