Why has Donald Trump surged to first place in GOP primary polls? Some liberals are quick to simply blame "racism" on the right — but during Saturday's Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders gave a more subtle answer.
Essentially, Sanders thinks Trump has risen because Americans are "anxious" about an economy that isn't working for them, and have grown distrustful of political elites in both parties. That economic failure, Sanders said, has given Trump the opportunity to build his popularity by naming scapegoats, like Mexicans and Muslims. Watch or read his comments below:
What you have now is a very dangerous moment in American history. The Secretary is right. Our people are fearful. They are anxious on a number of levels. They are anxious about international terrorism, and the possibility of another attack on America. We all understand that. But you know what else they're anxious about? They're anxious about the fact that they are working incredibly long hours, they're worried about their kids and they're seeing all the new income and wealth — virtually all of it — going to the top 1 percent. And they're looking around them, and they're looking at Washington and saying, 'The rich are getting much richer. I'm getting poorer. What are you gonna do about it? What are you going to do for my kids?'
And somebody like a Trump comes along and says, 'I know the answers. The answer is that all of the Mexicans, they're criminals and rapists, we've got to hate the Mexicans! Those are your enemies! We hate all the Muslims because all of the Muslims are terrorists! We've got to hate the Muslims!' Meanwhile, the rich get richer. So what I say to those people who go to Donald Trump's rallies — understand, he thinks a low minimum wage in America is a good idea! He thinks low wages are a good idea. I believe we stand together to address the real issues facing this country, not allow them to divide us by race or where we come from.
This gets to the heart of Sanders's political strategy. He doesn't just want to mobilize the far left — his dream is to unite lower- and middle-income Americans on economic issues, winning their support to challenge the rich. Sanders doesn't just want to condemn Trump's supporters as racist — he wants to convince them that Trump is misleading them, and perhaps win their support for himself and his economic policies. He thinks he'll only be able to bring about his "political revolution" with a coalition that goes beyond traditional Democratic voters.