Sen. Bernie Sanders talked with The Star before his campaign appearance Thursday in Lawrence. This is a transcript of that interview, edited for clarity and length.
The Star: It’s clear there is enthusiasm for your campaign. Do you ever worry that if you’re elected president you’ll disappoint the people who supported you?
Sanders: No. Because I will fight for them. I’m not guaranteeing that I can do everything. But what I have said over and over again, and what I’ll say here again tonight, is that no president alone can accomplish what has to be done. The powers that be, Wall Street, corporate America, the corporate media, large campaign donors are so powerful that the only way we transform America and make government work for all of us is when millions of people stand up and fight back.
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Aren’t you worried that that gets lost? Particularly in presidential elections, there’s this cult that whoever we elect will do the things that he or she says they’re going to do.
That’s why this is a different type of campaign. I don’t say that. I say if I were elected president tomorrow, I can’t alone take on Wall Street, and corporate America, and large campaign donors. They’re too powerful. I think I’m being honest with the American people and saying, everything I am talking about is doable. It is mainstream, but we’re going to have to stand up and fight back against some very very powerful people who prefer an economy that works for the rich.
I’m getting at this idea that if four year from now you’re president, and people are still paying tuition, they may be disappointed in you.
I’m not going to speculate. You’re going off in an area — why would I want to speculate as to what’s going to happen? You’re talking about people being disappointed …
What I’m getting at senator is people are quite angry at the political system, which I think you’ve tapped into and maybe the other side. How would they not be angry four years from now if you’re unable to deliver what they want you to deliver?
You’re talking about what I may not be able to do. Do you know what I might be able to do?
You’ve been in Congress for 25 years and you know how difficult these things are.
Okay, that’s a line of discussion. I’m not into speculation. You’re asking me what will happen, if. I don’t accept your basic assumption. Okay? We are going to work together. Every idea that I have proposed is I think a mainstream, sensible idea. If the American people stand up and demand a government that works for them, we can accomplish all of them.
Do you think there is anger in the country?
Of course there’s an anger in this country. People are working two or three jobs, and they’re seeing almost all the income and wealth going to the top one percent. You’ve got millions of young people graduating thirty, forty, fifty thousand dollars in debt. Twenty-nine million people have no health insurance. People all over the midwest have seen their jobs go to China or go to Mexico and they’re asking why that happens. And the new jobs they get are being fifty percent of what they had. You’ve got the elderly trying to make it on twelve thousand dollars a year Social Security, which they can’t. Veterans not getting the health care they need. Of course they’re angry.
And how do you address that, presuming you’re elected?
You address it by having ideas and legislation that addresses it. For example, I believe we should make public colleges and universities tuition-free. I believe we should lower student debt. We pay for that by a tax on Wall Street speculation. … I believe we should create millions of good-paying jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We pay for that by doing away with outrageous loopholes in which corporations put their money in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda and other tax havens.
Everyone agrees we need to rebuild infrastructure. But they say let’s do a gas tax, with gas at record lows. Nobody wants to touch that.
A gas tax is a regressive tax. Why are we talking about a gas tax when you have major corporations making millions of dollars a year in profits, and not paying a nickel in taxes?
A gas tax is paid for by people who use the roads.
So what. Corporations benefit.
I guess what I’m getting at is the politics, senator. It seems so difficult to get things done. I’m asking why you would be different.
Because I think we have the capability of rounding up the American people to stand up to a corrupt campaign finance system, and to stand up to a rigged enonomy.
Any thoughts on Donald Trump and Mitt Romney? It’s a mess on the other side.
To me it’s not a mess. I don’t stay up nights worrying about that. This is what I do say. Every poll that’s out there has us beating Trump, often by large numbers. I think the American people, if given a choice between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, a campaign I would love to be involved in, I think we’d beat him and beat him badly.