My ideas aren't radical, Sanders tells Democrat sceptics

2016-01-26 10:48
Bernie Sanders (AP)

Bernie Sanders (AP)

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Des Moines - Fighting tooth and nail against frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders said on Monday that he is no radical and that voters will embrace his agenda to end US income inequality.

Sanders, an independent senator putting up a challenge whose success to date has surprised even himself, is a self-described democratic socialist, a characterisation that flies in the face of the traditional norms of a Democratic-Republican US presidential race.

But he staunchly defended his record to a questioner asking about his socialist principles at a televised town hall event at a university in Des Moines, Iowa, the state where voters kick off the long presidential nomination race with their February 1 poll.

Clinton and Sanders are running neck and neck in Iowa, with former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley a distant third.

"In countries around the world, in Scandinavia and in Germany, the ideas that I am talking about are not radical ideas," said Sanders, referring to his plans to provide universal health care coverage, rein in Wall Street and involve government in helping students pay for college.

"We cannot continue to have a government dominated by the billionaire class and a Congress that continues to work for the interest of the people on top while ignoring working families," he said.

Sanders, aged 74, fumed at the inequality in the United States, where he said the top 0.1 percent of Americans owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

"So yes, people want to criticise me, okay. I will take on the greed of corporate America and the greed of Wall Street and fight to protect the middle class."

It was a robust argument from Sanders, who made one of his final pitches to the people of Iowa amid accusations from critics that he is a socialist who would expand government.

But Sanders said the success of his upstart, grassroots presidential campaign shows he is "touching a nerve" with Americans who are yearning for a fair shake.

"In my view we need a political revolution where millions of people stand up and say, 'You know what? That great government of ours belongs to all of us, not just the few.'"

Sanders, while insisting his battle with Clinton was not personal, also said her vote for the Iraq war in 2002 was a major misstep on the most consequential foreign policy vote of modern times.

"Experience is important, but judgment is also important," Sanders said.

Read more on:    bernie sanders  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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