Sanders: Trump ‘most dangerous’ candidate ever

Jonathan Oosting, and Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

King of Prussia, Pa. — It is “absolutely imperative” that Democrats help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump in the presidential election, Bernie Sanders said Thursday in an impassioned plea to Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Oregon delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

The Vermont senator used his roughly 20-minute breakfast speech to describe ways his own policy proposals have influenced her campaign against Republican nominee Donald Trump, who he called a “demagogue” unfit to lead the country.

“Donald Trump is the most dangerous candidate to run for president in the modern history of this country,” Sanders told delegates in suburban Philadelphia.

He noted that Trump was part of the “birther” movement that questioned the citizenship of President Barack Obama.

“That was an effort to de-legitimize the election of the first African-American president we have had, based on racism pure and simple,” Sanders said. “That type of person must never, ever become president.”

The Vermont senator — who received a rock star reception Thursday morning with delegates standing on chairs to get his photo and take video — sought to bridge an ongoing convention divide between his supporters and those backing Clinton, who is expected later Thursday to accept the Democratic nomination for president. “Bernie or Bust” delegates allege the primary process was “rigged” to benefit Clinton, a claim they say was validated by a weekend leak of Democratic National Committee emails.

But even with Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, several Michigan delegates said his speech wasn’t enough to change their minds about the former Secretary of State. One “Berner” said she’ll vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November. Another said she isn’t sure, but it won’t be for Clinton. A third said Clinton needs to keep talking about the issues and pushing toward the left before he makes a decision.

“I’m not there yet,” said Christopher Geiger, 34, a Sanders delegate from Holland. “What I really want to see is Hillary Clinton talking about the issues. If she keeps talking about the issues, I think a lot of Sanders supporters could eventually get behind her.”

Leesha Fagan of Grand Rapids said it was “beautiful” to see Sanders speak Thursday morning. She even brought posters she designed for Sanders and gave him one.

“I got to give him a hug,” she said with tears in her eyes.

But Fagan, who was among dozens of Sanders delegates who walked out of the convention Tuesday after the roll call vote and later taped her mouth shut in protest, said she won’t vote for Clinton. She’ll vote for Stein.

“I don’t trust her word and I know her record,” Fagan said of Clinton. “Her record is you can’t trust her word.”

And while she’s “scared” of Donald Trump, “I think the Clinton campaign and the oligarchy will rig the election anyway.”

But another Sanders delegate, Ian Robinson of Ann Arbor, said “a vast majority” of the Sanders delegates understand the importance of supporting Clinton in the fall.

Sanders outlined how his campaign helped pushed the Democratic Party to the left. The Vermont senator, who proposed free college tuition for all, said his campaign worked with Clinton’s on her new proposal that would make college tuition free for families who earn less than $125,000 a year.

She doesn’t agree with his call for a single-payer health care system but has proposed doubling community health center funding, he said. And she now supports adding a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act -- creating a government-backed insurance plan that would compete with private plans on the health insurance exchanges. The public option was dropped from the final version of Obama’s health care bill in 2010 to help ensure its passage..

“This is not insignificant,” Sanders said to a crowd of hundreds. “These are major steps forward.”

He also noted the party platform, adopted Monday, includes issues he championed on the campaign trail.

“It is no longer a radical idea to say that we’re going to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he said to applause.

Sanders was greeted by chants of “Bernie! Bernie!” and received little pushback as he urged his fans to back Clinton. In a Monday afternoon speech to delegates, supporters had booed when he urged them to vote for the former Secretary of State and first lady.

More than 100 Sanders supporters staged a convention walkout on Tuesday after his unifying gesture to make Clinton’s nomination unanimous, and they later used a sit-in to shut down a media tent outside the Wells Fargo Arena.

Michigan delegation breakfasts this week had been marked by a series of interruptions from Sanders faithful.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who spoke at the convention this week in support of Clinton, on Thursday praised Sanders and his supporters, saying they “have changed the course of this country” by infusing new ideas into the campaign.

President Obama inspired Duggan to get back into politics, the former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center told delegates, and Sanders inspired him by running a presidential campaign without dark money or super PAC contributions.

“Bernie Sanders has shown us that something is possible,” Duggan said. “That there may be a handful of people with tons and tons of money, but when one person stands up and tells the truth, you can get millions of people to mobilize.”

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, also extended an olive branch to Sanders supporters, saying he was a needed voice at an important moment in the country’s history.

“You can stay with Bernie and vote for Hillary Clinton,” Lawrence told delegates.