Bernie Sanders accused President Trump of “leading us down the path of authoritarianism” and having a “negligent response” to the coronavirus pandemic in his speech at the first night of the virtual Democratic National Convention on Monday.
The Vermont senator also urged the supporters who pushed him to a second-place finish in the Democratic primary to rally behind the party’s presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
“Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs. His actions fanned this pandemic, resulting in over 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people,” Sanders said. “Furthermore, Trump’s negligence has exacerbated the economic crisis we are now experiencing.”
Among other things, Sanders blamed Trump for inadequate supplies of protective gear that plagued the country at the start of the pandemic in March and the expiration of employment benefits for the record numbers of workers who have lost their jobs.
He also framed Trump’s overall handling of the presidency as “a threat to our democracy.” To make his case, Sanders, who spoke live during Monday night’s convention kickoff broadcast, listed a number of criticisms he has of the administration, and he took issue with Trump’s remark earlier in the day about staying in office beyond his constitutional term – a recurring bit for the president.
“During this president’s term, the unthinkable has become normal. He has tried to prevent people from voting, undermined the U.S. Postal Service, deployed the military and federal agents against peaceful protesters, threatened to delay the election, and suggested that he will not leave office if he loses,” said Sanders. “This is not normal and we must never treat it like it is. Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country.”
The speech was a preview of attacks to come from Sanders as the election approaches the home stretch. A source close to the senator said he “will continue finding venues to push the message” of why he thinks Trump must lose in November – including potentially holding live events if he is able to do so safely during the pandemic.
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