DETROIT – Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to Detroit on Tuesday evening, this time to make another impassioned pitch for single-payer, universal healthcare.
Sanders, who won the Michigan Democratic primary last year, joined U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Detroit, at Fellowship Church, 7707 W. Outer Drive, to speak and take questions during a packed town hall-style meeting.
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While the theme was health care in the President Donald Trump era, Sanders sounded as if he was still campaigning.
He offered praise to Conyers, whom he called one of the most progressive members of Congress. Supporters hung on his every word and gave standing ovations as he meandered through what sounded like 2016 stump rhetoric.
By all accounts, Sanders is still campaigning – if not for the presidency, for a push toward government-mandated health care.
“What this whole debate is about is what constitutes human rights,” Sanders said.
Sanders again called out billionaires, some living in Michigan, who he claimed want not just to cut social health benefits like Medicare and Medicaid, but want to eradicate them entirely.
“What they think America is about is everyone on their own,” he said.
“‘I don’t have to worry about your family, you don’t have to worry about my family.’ That is not my idea of America, and in truth, it is not the American people’s idea about America.
“If my grandchildren are in trouble, I want you to help them, and I want them to help you and your family. That’s called America.”
As he moved between his trademark talking points, Sanders wondered why the “richest nation in the world” still refused to catch up to nations like the U.K., Canada or Germany – all of which have some form of government-issued healthcare.
Sanders echoed Conyers, who spoke before him. The congressman from Detroit said that all Americans should be afforded the same basic human rights – including access to health care.
Conyers added that continued Republican oppostion to former-President Barack Obama’s signature health care law was counterbalanced by the GOP’s failure to repeal it.
That gives him hope for a path toward universal health care – Conyers’ longstanding Medicare for All bill now has more than 100 consponsors.
The event was a sort of rallying cry for progressives, capped off with Sanders taking aim at Trump and the GOP on multiple occasions.
His strongest rebuke of Trump focused on the president’s lack of immediate condemnation against white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in the wake of the violent attacks during a hate rally on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“What we saw last week of Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia was somthing that was troubling to us all,” Sanders said.
“But what was even worse than seeing Nazis march … we’ve seen that before, but we’ve never seen before, whether the president was a Democrat or a Republican, was a president who could not condemn in the strongest possible terms Nazism and white supremacism.
“‘Nice people on both sides.’ No, there are no nice Nazis.”
As the event neared its end, Sanders took questions from the audience.
Scott Devey, 30, of Detroit asked Sanders if Democrats and Republicans would be able to resist the type of “oligarchy” the senator from Vermont railed against during the 2016 campaign.
Devey also wondered if Sanders would throw Democrats to the curb and form a new party.
Sanders balked at the suggestion.
“The stakes we are playing with involve millions of people and the future of this planet,” he said.
“If you want to be critical of Democrats, I’m with you. The place I’m at now is to try and transform the Democratic party and to try and open it up to people.
“Let me be clear. I’m not going to say that effort isn’t meeting resistance.”