When our last president-elect who lost the popular vote and dodged Vietnam, George W. Bush, set up his first Cabinet in 2001, the oil heir received considerable backlash for its combined wealth: $250 million, adjusted for inflation. That figure is less than one-20th the net worth of the family of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education.Yes, Trump’s Cabinet is the wealthiest in history, with a combined net worth in excess of $14 billion and counting. It includes three former Goldman Sachs bankers, an ex-Bank of America executive, and the CEO of ExxonMobil. And it’s presided over by Trump, a billionaire real-estate heir. These days, America is looking an awful lot like a plutocracy—something that is very worrying to Senator Bernie Sanders.
“[Trump] said, ‘We are going to be standing up for working people. We are anti-establishment.’ Well, if the Cabinet he appointed of billionaires and millionaires is anti-establishment, boy, I would hate to see what the ‘establishment’ looks like,” said Sanders.
The delightfully cranky former Democratic presidential candidate was speaking during an appearance on Tuesday’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, where he discussed the coming Trump presidency.
Asked about how “reality has shifted” during the past year, Sanders replied, “We have a president-elect who is not well-known for being scrupulously honest—let’s say that. That’s a nice way to say that.”
“He campaigned among working people, and he said, ‘I’m the only Republican out there [who’s] not going to cut social security, I’m not going to cut Medicare, and I’m not going to cut Medicaid,” Sanders continued. “Well you know, Mr. Trump, we’re going to hold you accountable for those statements.”
Sanders also gave Trump credit for finding common ground with working-class people “who are hurting,” from the one-half of elderly workers in America who “have nothing in the bank” to millennials who graduate college with $50,000 in debt.
“Trump tapped that. He tapped that. He said, ‘I hear you, and I’m going to do something about it.’ Well, between you and me, I don’t think he was honest. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think he was sincere. But he tapped that pain that people were feeling,” said Sanders. “And what we [Democrats] have got to do is to stand up for those people, and what we have got to do is to get to the causes of those economic problems, which in my view, has a lot to do with the greed of Wall Street and corporate America, whose greed is destroying the middle class of this country.”
Meyers asked Sanders how he envisions a successful Trump presidency, and the 75-year-old gave his usual spiel, saying he hopes Trump will fix wages and unemployment in depressed rural and urban areas, make public colleges and universities tuition-free, and improve infrastructure and trade.
“Let me tell you where we’re not going to work with him,” Sanders added. “We will not give one inch on bigotry. This country has traveled too far to try to overcome racism, and sexism, and xenophobia, and homophobia, and we cannot compromise one inch on bigotry.”
Curiously, Meyers failed to press Sanders on the biggest news story of late—namely, recent reports concluding that Russian campaign hacking was meant to swing the election in Trump’s favor, an issue that Sanders has not been all that vocal about for a Democratic Party leader.
He was, however, asked “how do we keep young people inspired for the next four years” under Trump. And Sanders delivered an optimistic response about the importance of grassroots work.
“Here is the truth: Trump can propose anything he wants, but he will not succeed in ugly decisions if millions of people stand up and fight back and tell him that’s not what America is,” said Sanders.