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Sanders Speaks To People Who Haven't Had A Voice, Rocha Says

Feb 18, 2020
Originally published on February 18, 2020 10:45 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is leading all other Democratic presidential candidates by double digits. That is according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll out this morning. Now, we should say, Sanders' rise concerns people, like Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Third Way, which describes itself as a center-left think tank. We spoke to him yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MATT BENNETT: It isn't his policies; it's his prospects that - what terrifies us is that if we nominate Bernie Sanders, he is likely to lose Donald Trump, and there is nothing more scary to a Democrat.

GREENE: All right, let's hear this morning from a senior adviser in Bernie Sanders' campaign. It's Chuck Rocha. Thanks for being here.

CHUCK ROCHA: Hey. Good morning, David.

GREENE: So Matt Bennett and others have been pointing to this Gallup polling in which more than 50% of American voters say they do not want to vote for an otherwise qualified candidate who has the socialist label. So how do you get over that?

ROCHA: Well, there's been poll after poll all across America that shows that Senator Bernie Sanders absolutely beats Donald Trump in almost every head-to-head matchup. And what Americans - as I travel around the country with the senators and talk to them, they realize there's been rampant socialism in our American government, but it's been all directed towards corporations and rich people, while working middle-class Americans have been left behind. What...

GREENE: Well, I know you've been using that socialist label for President Trump. But, I mean, I want to talk about the socialist label with your candidate. I mean, he has called himself a democratic socialist. And clearly, this Gallup poll suggests there's some potential liability here. So how do you address that and win over some of these voters who seem to be, having supported someone like Joe Biden, now maybe turning to Michael Bloomberg to win them over? What do you say? What do you do?

ROCHA: We talk about the government, who used to work like a old-school Democrat, to really look after working-class Americans and turn this government back into that kind of government - not a socialist government like Venezuela, for God's sakes, but a government that works for the people. People really resonate and get that.

And the reason we use the corporate socialist tag is to say we're different than the corporate Democrats, like the one you had on your program yesterday, who only are scared about them losing control and losing power and us returning that power back to working-class Americans. That's why in your lead-up, Bernie Sanders is winning in all of those polls, and he's winning this nomination.

GREENE: Let me ask you this. I mean, you're going to be in a general election, if Sanders does get this nomination, with a president who is going to literally throw the socialist label at you every step of the way.

ROCHA: (Laughter).

GREENE: He's already been doing it. Obviously, a lot of Democrats have talked about not wanting to get into a tit-for-tat and labels with this president.

ROCHA: Sure.

GREENE: I mean, so what is the key to that debate when that fight might start with him?

ROCHA: David, I think that's a great question. And I think you're absolutely right. It don't matter if it's my dog Apache (ph) who's the Democratic nominee; he's going to call him a socialist. And we know that that's going to happen. The first day of early voting out here in Nevada - and I'm in Nevada right now - there was 2,000 people that showed up to early vote who had never voted before, who registered at the site to participate in that early vote. That's exactly how we get over these false labels, is bringing new people into the process and letting them be part of their government.

Bernie Sanders is speaking to those folks who feel like they haven't had a voice in their government in a long time. And to Donald Trump's credit, he brought a lot of those folks in the last time he got elected - none of us saw as well. There's an undertow of anxiety in America right now. And they want somebody who will speak truth to power and at least be like - to be honest and trustworthy. You may not believe or understand everything Bernie Sanders is saying, but he's said the same thing his entire life, so they trust him.

GREENE: Chuck Rocha is a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign. I look forward to talking to you more as this goes on. Thanks so much for joining us.

ROCHA: Thank you, David, and thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.