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Sen. Bernie Sanders in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Sanders Warns President-Elect Trump: 'We Are Not Going Backwards'

'Mr. Trump, we have a list of everything you said and we are going to hold you to account,' says progressive leader

Deirdre Fulton

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday called on Donald Trump to rescind his appointment of alt-right figurehead Stephen Bannon, vowing to hold the president-elect accountable for his campaign promises while fighting against "the expansion of bigotry."

In a speech at George Washington University that was live-streamed for thousands of viewers, Sanders admitted that last Tuesday night was "a very, very depressing evening for me." But he pivoted swiftly to optimism, citing the millions of people he met during his presidential primary campaign—"working people, young people"—and their inclusive vision for the United States.

"We are not going backwards in terms of bigotry, we're going to go forward in creating a non-discriminatory society."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

"Real change, and real politics, never takes place from top on down, it always occurs from the bottom on up," said the senator from Vermont. "And what that means, in my view, is that when millions of people stand together and they refuse to allow demagoguery to divide us up—by race, by the country we were born in, by our sexual orientation—when we stand together by the millions, we can stop Mr. Trump and anyone else from doing bad things to this country."

He rattled off a list of promises Trump made on the campaign trail, including his vows not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; to invest a trillion dollars in U.S. infrastructure; to reinstate Glass-Steagall legislation; to ensure paid maternity leave; and to reject corporate-friendly trade deals.

"Mr. Trump, we have a list of everything you said and we are going to hold you to account," declared Sanders, who joined other progressive senators earlier this week in blasting Trump's seeming lack of follow-through on his pledge to "drain the swamp" of corporate lobbyists and Wall Street executives.

Meanwhile, he offered strong resistance to the strains of "bigotry, racism, [and] sexism" that were present during Trump's campaign and have already marked his turbulent transition.

"I say to Mr. Trump, from the bottom of my heart...We are not going backwards in terms of bigotry, we're going to go forward in creating a non-discriminatory society," Sanders said.

To that end, he again criticized Trump's appointment to "chief strategist" of former Breitbart executive chairman and white nationalist Bannon, saying "a president of the United States should not have a racist at his side."

In a separate statement, also issued Wednesday, Sanders said:

This country, since its inception, has struggled to overcome discrimination of all forms: racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. Over the years we have made progress in becoming a less discriminatory and more tolerant society—and we are not going backward. The appointment by President-elect Trump of a racist individual like Mr. Bannon to a position of authority is totally unacceptable. In a democratic society we can disagree all we want over issues, but racism and bigotry cannot be part of any public policy. The appointment of Mr. Bannon by Mr. Trump must be rescinded.

The new "chair of outreach" for Senate Democrats—who has called for an overhaul of the Democratic Party in the wake of last week's election—reiterated his belief that "we need major, major reforms of the Democratic Party."

But Sanders indicated that among Democrats' top responsibilities is ensuring Trump does what he said he'd do after Inauguration Day.

"Many Democrats will be prepared to work with Mr. Trump if he turns out to be sincere," he said. "If those promises turn out to be hollow...we will not only oppose his economic policies, we will expose those hypocrisies as well."

C-SPAN has the full video here, or watch clips from George Washington University and Our Revolution below:

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