On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump delivered his first-ever address to a joint session of Congress, and it proved to be a long-winded and controversial affair — in other words, pretty much what countless people expected ahead of time. And just like you might expect, one of the most prominent, popular voices in the Democratic Party spoke up afterwards to give his two cents: here's how Bernie Sanders responded to Trump's speech to Congress.
It was effectively a State of the Union address, although just slightly more than one month into Trump's first term, it wasn't titled as such — rather, it was simply an address before a joint session of Congress, delivered from the well of the House of Representatives. It was the first such ceremony-drenched speech Trump's delivered as commander-in-chief, and as such, it's no surprise that people were unsure quite what to expect. Suffice to say, this president is not like the previous one, nor any modern presidents before him.
It's also no surprise that members of his political opposition were eager to issue their responses, staking out their respective territories opposite this new, often wildly inflammatory president. And Sanders, being the single most popular figure involved in the 2016 presidential campaign cycle (at least as far as the favorability polls were concerned), is obviously one of the people eager to stake out some ground. Here's what Sanders [said or tweeted] following Trump's speech, which ended up being one of the longest in recent memory — it lasted more than an hour.
Sanders began by stating that he felt it more useful to point out what Trump did not say, rather than what he did. And needless to say, from the perspective of Sanders' self-avowed Democratic socialism, there were a lot of ways Trump's speech left him wanting.
Some examples. At a time when over half of older Americans have no retirement savings, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word, about Social Security or Medicare. During the campaign as we all remember, President Trump promised over, and over, and over again that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. But in his first address to the nation, he didn't even mention Social Security or Medicare once, not a single time. Even worse, President Trump has proposed a massive cut to Medicaid, massive cut, threatening the nursing home care of millions of senior citizens, and the health care of many of our children.
Sanders also held Trump to account for failing to mention climate change, which he described as "the greatest environmental threat facing our planet," and for his failure to address mass incarceration.
Not only did he not mention climate change, he pledged to increase our dependency on fossil fuels. Furthermore, at a time when we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth — disproportionately African-American, Latino, Native-American — I did not hear President Trump say one word about how he was going to fix our broken criminal justice system.
And, of course — it's right in his wheelhouse, after all — Sanders hit Trump for his broken promise to "drain the swamp," pointing out just how swampy things are looking in the halls of power right now.
During his campaign, President Trump told us that he was going to take on Wall Street and "drain the swamp." Remember that? ... Well, the swamp, big time, is now in his administration, which has more millionaires and billionaires than any presidential administration in history. Amazingly enough, for someone who's gonna drain the swamp, who's gonna take on Wall Street, his chief economic adviser Gary Cohn is the former president of Goldman Sachs. One of the major financial institutions that paid billions of dollars in fines for their illegal activity. That's really draining the swamp.
If you're interested in hearing Sanders' thoughts on everything Trump did say, some of which Sanders acknowledged "sound[ed] good on the surface," you should definitely give his full response a look. It's only 14 minutes long, and it's a good display of a progressive taking an attack to Trump that's not at all based in personality, but entirely in policy.
For the record, Sanders wasn't the person charged with giving the official Democratic response to Trump's speech, a longstanding tradition for one lucky (or depending on how it goes, not so lucky) member of the opposition party. This time around, that job fell to someone who isn't even in elected government right now — former Democratic governor of Kentucky Steve Beshear, who was replaced by Republican Matt Bevin in late 2015.
Regardless, however, Sanders is a much bigger voice at the moment than Beshear is. Indeed, among grassroots progressive movement, there's no doubt that Sanders' voice carries a tremendous amount of clout, which means his above words could end up having some resonance.