Sanders criticizes Trump, Kochs, media in fiery Kresge speech

But urges liberals to “seek common ground” with political adversaries

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Bernie Sanders calls for a grassroots progressive movement before a full-capacity crowd at Kresge Auditorium.
Robert C. Rusch–The Tech

Bernie Sanders, the junior senator of Vermont and candidate in the 2016 Democratic Party’s presidential primaries, spoke at a sold-out Kresge Auditorium Friday, telling a receptive audience that “the future of this country is a progressive, not conservative vision” and asserting that “despair is not an option” in the face of the Trump presidency.

Sanders took the stage in front of a standing ovation and a sea of raised smartphones. In his hour-long talk, the senator did not hesitate to criticize President Trump, whom he called “a fraud,” or the Koch brothers, whom he blamed for playing a major role in the radicalization the Republican Party.

“What am I supposed to say to people like that?” he said. Replying to an audience question on working with political opponents, he continued, “What’s the compromise? You tell me.”

At the same time, Sanders urged liberals to “seek common ground” with individual Trump supporters. Everyone wants health care for their family, he said, adding that “it’s not good enough to laugh with friends about how [Trump is] a jerk.” Instead, those who oppose Trump should emphasize to his supporters his failure to uphold his campaign promises.

Sanders also criticized the media for not being “interested in real issues,” such as conflicts on American Indian reservations.

Sanders did not address a potential second presidential run in 2020, but did spend about a quarter of his talk discussing his previous campaign and legislative successes as well as his policy platforms: he called for free public colleges to loud cheering from the audience.

The senator criticized “blue state, red state business,” or political polarization. Before a mostly white and graying crowd, Sanders preached the need for the Democratic Party to become a “50-state party” that addresses the concerns of all working class people.

Sanders said he would be introducing legislation in a few weeks to create a single-payer system under Medicare.

The audience chuckled appreciatively at quips the senator sprinkled throughout his talk. Asked if he could help the audience “make sense of the global rise of the right,” Sanders replied: “Probably not, but I’ll try.”

The event, which highlighted Sanders’ 2016 book Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, was presented by the Harvard Book Store, the Boston Review, and the MIT Department of Political Science.

Update 03/07/17: An earlier version of this article had an ambiguous statement about Bernie Sanders’ position in the presidential primaries.