Sanders brings his national message home

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders began his Labor Day weekend in Iowa, home of the nation's opening presidential caucus, and ended it in New Hampshire, site of the country's first primary. But that doesn't mean the 2016 Democratic candidate who serves Vermont as an Independent wants to talk about his much speculated plans for 2020.

"It is far more important," Sanders told a crowd at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO's annual Labor Day breakfast, "to ask questions that you don't see being discussed."

And so the septuagenarian socialist, who has hopscotched around half the country since the last election but hasn't said if he's running again, laid out his own agenda Monday at public events in the Granite and Green Mountain states.

Sanders started with 350 union workers gathered for pancakes, eggs and bacon at this city's Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Thanking voters who cast 60 percent of New Hampshire's primary ballots for him last year ("I appreciate that very, very much") he moved on to present-day politics.

"Today is Labor Day. We cannot forget about the struggles of working people. When we come together in solidarity, we win. That is an approach toward life very different than what we are seeing in the White House."

Sanders denounced President Donald Trump's reported decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that grants work permits to upward of 800,000 unauthorized young immigrants now shielded from deportation.

"What he is proposing right now," the U.S. senator said, "is one of the most cruel and ugly decisions ever made in the modern history of this country by a president."

"Our job," Sanders said of his congressional colleagues, "is to pass legislation to protect the young DACA people and to make that program permanent."

Receiving a standing ovation for those comments, Sanders reaped another when he noted he was set to propose a "Medicare for All" program to extend government-run health care services to all Americans.

"This is not going to be an easy fight. We're taking on the pharmaceutical industry, we're taking on the insurance companies, we're taking on Wall Street. But at the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of the American people understand that health care is a right."

Sanders, one of three U.S. senators at what was his fourth annual New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast appearance, was joined by Granite State colleagues Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen.

"It just wouldn't seem like Labor Day," Shaheen told the crowd, "if we weren't here at Saint George church with Bernie."

Sanders didn't address whether he'll return in advance of the 2020 election. Instead, he moved on to the New Hampshire capital city of Concord and the Vermont towns of Middlebury and White River Junction for rallies sponsored by the grassroots groups Our Revolution and Rights and Democracy.

"We are in a pivotal moment," he concluded in Manchester. "The bad news is we have a president who is standing with the billionaire class and is a pathological liar. The good news is the vast majority of Americans want progressive solutions to problems. Our job is not complicated. We have got to fight all efforts to divide our people up. We've got to bring people together."

Kevin O'Connor is a Reformer contributor and correspondent who can be contacted at


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