If this were four years ago and Bernie Sanders was less than two weeks out for a crucial primary in New York, he surely would have stopped by The Daily Show for an in-depth chat with Jon Stewart.
But while he may have found a sympathetic ear in Trevor Noah, the senator from Vermont chose instead to sit down Thursday with a late-night host who is in many ways Stewart’s successor these days: Seth Meyers.
When Sanders previously appeared on Late Night back in June, his candidacy was still considered something of a joke. Meyers made a joke about his hair looking less disheveled than usual and played a clip of the candidate singing “This Land Is Your Land” from his misguided 1987 folk album.
This time it was different. Sanders has bested Hillary Clinton in six out of their last seven contests, and while the delegate math is still in her favor, a revolution-fueled upset in New York is not entirely out of the question. That goes some to explaining why the Democratic primary race finally got truly nasty this week.
At a rally in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, Sanders claimed that Clinton “has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote unquote, not qualified to be president.” In turn he rattled off a list of reasons why he believes she is “unqualified” for the job.
During their interview Thursday, Meyers asked Sanders if he “regrets” making those comments.
“It was said after she and her campaign said that I was unqualified,” Sanders replied. But on this point, Meyers corrected him. Clinton herself never called him “unqualified,” but rather during an appearance on Morning Joe refused to answer that question one way or the other.
After his recent run of victories, Sanders said he believes the Clinton campaign has been getting “a little bit more nervous” and is starting to turn “negative.” While he maintained that he wants to run an “issues-oriented campaign,” he added, “If people attack me and distort my record, we will respond.”
Earlier in the show, Meyers brought out Sanders for a special edition of his regular segment, “Ya Burnt,” which was rebranded as “Ya Bernt.”
“Hey 1%, what do you need all that money for? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’re trying to compensate for something,” the senator said. “How is it possible that some of you are paying a lower tax rate than your secretaries? That makes less sense than the plot of Batman v. Superman. 1%, ya burnt!”
To the big banks he added, “My advice to you is the same advice I’d give to a couple contemplating an open relationship: It’s time to break up.”
Meyers also asked Sanders if he is surprised that so many people in this country have decided to rally around a Democratic socialist. “I’m really not, Seth,” the candidate said. “because I think if you look at the issues that are out there, people are asking why are we the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people? Why are we the only major country not to have paid family and medical leave? Why do we have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on Earth?”
But if Republicans have been “obstructionist” toward President Obama, “someone they call a socialist who isn’t,” Meyers asked, “Why wouldn’t they be obstructionist to you, who is one happily?”
Sanders touted his history of working with Republicans in Congress but acknowledged that would not be enough. “At the end of the day, the Republicans can do everything they want to represent the wealthy and the powerful,” he said. “But if we are able—and this is what I mean by a political revolution—if we are able to reach out to working people and the middle class and young people and get them involved in the political process in a way we have not seen for many, many decades, if they stand up and fight back, you know what? I think the Republicans will have no alternative but to go with them.”
Toward the end of their talk, Meyers asked Sanders to address Democratic voters who might “understand the Bern” but don’t “feel the Bern” quite yet out of fear that he either won’t be able to win in a general election or won’t be able to make good on his “pie in the sky” promises if he does.
“I would just ask people to look at virtually every single poll that’s taken place in the last couple of months,” Sanders said, citing one recent CNN poll that has him 20 points ahead of Donald Trump. “That is a higher margin than Hillary Clinton,” Sanders noted. On the question of what he can get done, he insisted there’s nothing “radical” about what he wants to do and said that if the people “stand together,” there’s nothing they can’t accomplish.
Finally, given all the talk about Clinton’s “qualifications,” Meyers asked Sanders to say if he thinks she will be more qualified than her competition should she hypothetically get the nomination. At first Sanders seemed to surprise the host by saying “no.”
But after Meyers rephrased his question a bit, Sanders allowed, “On Hillary Clinton’s worst day, she’s a hundred times better than any of the Republican candidates.”
So at least there’s that.