Bernie Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, but he urged about 2,000 cheering Democrats on Wednesday night to embrace his message of “revolution” to rebuild the party and counter Donald Trump’s presidency.
“It sounds to me like you guys are ready to make a political revolution. Well if you are, you’ve come to the right place,” Sanders said at a “Come Together and Fight Back” rally in which he and new Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez sought to unite the party’s Sanders and Clinton wings.
“Donald Trump did not win the election. The Democrats lost the election,” Sanders said.
“That means rebuilding the Democratic Party, making it a grassroots party, a party from the bottom on up,” said Sanders, who himself is not a registered Democrat but describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and caucuses with the party in the Senate.
Sanders invoked the Woody Guthrie labor anthem “Which Side Are You On?” to tell Democrats: “Our job is to make it clear that the Democratic Party is on the side of working people. We’ll take on the billionaire class and Wall Street and the drug companies and the insurance companies and, might I add in Florida, the damn fossil fuel industry as well.”
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, voiced doubt about Sanders’ role in rebuilding the party.
“I still feel that if Bernie wants to do something about the Democratic Party then he ought to join the damn Democratic Party and stop fiddling around in my organization if you can’t make that necessary step,” Hastings said at a town hall meeting west of Boynton Beach.
In Miami, Sanders said Democrats should embrace single-payer health care, a $15 minimum wage, equal pay for women, paid family leave, sentencing reform and — in a sharp contrast to one of Trump’s signature issues — a welcoming stance toward immigrants who are in the country illegally.
“Our job is to say to Mr. Trump, ‘Stop scapegoating people. Pass comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship’…Our job is together as a nation to say that we respect those people, that we’re going to work with those people and that we are finally going to pass immigration reform,” Sanders said.
Before Sanders spoke, Perez took the stage to Tom Petty‘s “Won’t Back Down” and threw some coarse language at Trump and the GOP.
Perez called the president “a damn liar…You’re goddamned right he’s a liar.”
Perez said Republicans couldn’t decide whether to call their health care proposal “Trumpcare” or “Ryancare” after House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“I have a name for it. It’s ‘I Don’t Care,’ because the Republican leadership doesn’t give a s–t about people who are suffering,” Perez said. He used a variation of the profanity two other times in describing Republican health-care claims and Trump’s proposed budget.
Perez, Sanders and other speakers urged the crowd of activists to get involved in politics, run for local offices and speak out at government meetings.
Said Sanders: “If you’re just standing back and moaning and groaning and making funny jokes about Trump, that ain’t good enough.”
One early speaker, Miami-Dade Democratic Chairman Juan Cuba, complimented the crowd on its enthusiasm — but in so doing highlighted the lack of Democratic passion before the Nov. 8 election.
“There’s been political energy in this room tonight,” Cuba said, “and I’ve felt it ever since November.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the rally an “unhinged, profanity-laced roadshow” and said Florida voters rejected the Sanders-Perez message when Trump carried the state in 2016.
“Last year, Sunshine State voters roundly rejected the far-left polices that Sanders, Perez, and their Democrat colleagues continue to espouse today. Voters entrusted President Trump and Republicans to move Florida forward, and no amount of Democrat showboating will change that fact,” McDaniel said.