Bernie Sanders argued Donald Trump’s policies have failed working Americans and blasted him for neglecting climate change in his rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union speech.
While Mr Sanders acknowledged the truth of Mr Trump’s boasts that the stock market has soared and unemployment has dipped to a low rate, he argued that the President’s policies favour the rich. Affluent Americans stand to make the majority of the gains from a tax cut that is Mr Trump’s main legislative accomplishment so far.
“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality the rich continue to get rich richer while millions of American workers are working two or three jobs just to keep their heads above water”, Mr Sanders said.
The Vermont Senator also lambasted Mr Trump for backing a healthcare bill that would have reduced the number of insured Americans and raised premiums for some older Americans. And he expressed incredulity that Mr Trump did not mention climate change, an issue whose seriousness the President has downplayed.
He also questioned Mr Trump not referencing Russian election disruption efforts chronicled by American intelligence, which helped launch an investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“How do you not talk about that unless of course you have a special relationship with Mr Putin”? Mr Sanders asked, referencing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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While Democratic leadership tabbed Massachusetts Democrat Joseph Kennedy to deliver the party’s official response, criticism of that choice — and Mr Sanders’ decision to offer his own repudiation of Mr Trump, testified to fractures in the Democratic party.
Critics argued Democratic leadership erred in selecting the white scion of one of its most famous dynasties in Joseph Kennedy. Michael Steel, a former aide to Republican leader John Boehner, wrote in an op-ed that Joseph Kennedy was a “white son of privilege” and “an old Democrat’s idea of what a young Democrat should be”.
By contrast, Mr Sanders is a champion of the party’s progressive wing who mounted an unexpectedly strong presidential campaign from Hillary Clinton’s left flank. Also offering a separate rebuttal was California Democrat Maxine Waters, who has gained attention for her spirited denunciations of Mr Trump.