Stephen Colbert Grills Bernie Sanders: Isn’t This ‘Class Warfare?’

Sanders stopped by Wednesday night for a victory lap during his second ‘Late Show’ appearance, where the host made him defend his ‘revolution.’

Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Bernie Sanders continued his New Hampshire victory lap Wednesday night by making his second appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And while he was still a major underdog when he visited Stephen Colbert last September, this time he was riding high.

The senator from Vermont began by crashing Colbert’s monologue. When the host protested that the show should begin with him alone standing on stage and telling jokes, Sanders replied, “That’s what the elites want you to think.

“You’ve got to go your own way, follow your own heart, the revolution is possible,” Sanders told Colbert before delivering the final line of the monologue. “Last night, Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary by 22 points. No joke!”

When Sanders entered as Colbert’s guest later in the show, he quickly faced questions about how he managed to win 86 percent of voters 18-24 in New Hampshire. “By definition, young people are idealistic,” he said. “And they look at a world with so many problems and they say, why not? Why can’t all people in this country have healthcare? Why can’t we make public colleges and universities tuition-free?”

Playing devil’s advocate in the vein of his former Colbert Report character, the host argued that Sanders was promoting “class warfare” and reasoned that the 1 percent is not going to give up their power and influence so easily. “And I’ll tell you how I know, I am in the top 1 percent,” he said.

When Bill O’Reilly was on Colbert’s show earlier in the week, he said Sanders and Donald Trump were essentially the same person with different haircuts. While Sanders acknowledged that his and Trump’s supporters share a certain anger, he criticized the “false message” that Trump is pushing that discrimination will somehow lead to a better America. Sanders also noted that O’Reilly has said he will move to Ireland if he becomes president, an outcome he referred to as a “two-fer.”

Moving on, Colbert challenged Sanders by bringing up Hillary Clinton’s critique that he is promising solutions to the country’s problems that can never be achieved, for example his plan to provide single-payer healthcare.

“The question is, do we have the ability to stand up to the private insurance companies and the drug companies?” Sanders asked the host, before answering his own question. “I believe that when people are aroused, when they’re organized, when they’re prepared to stand up and fight back, yes, we can take on the drug companies and the insurance companies.”

As a South Carolinian, Colbert asked Sanders to explain how he plans to break Clinton’s alleged Southern “firewall.” At first, the candidate launched into what sounded a lot like a rehearsed campaign speech. “Why do we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, disproportionately black and Latino?” he asked. “Why is it that we have a system today where our campaign finance system is now corrupt, where billionaires are literally buying elections?”

But when Colbert pressed him to provide an overarching solution to those troubling questions, Sanders came back to the “revolution” rhetoric that has driven his campaign. Asked how he plans to break up America’s “oligarchy,” Sanders said, “The only way that I know how to do it is the way change has always come about, in this country and in the world.

“We used to have a segregated society,” he continued. “African-Americans couldn’t go to schools, couldn’t drink at water fountains. Millions of people stood together and said, ‘Hey, enough is enough. That is not what America is supposed to be about.’”

Warning against the risks of revolution, Colbert quoted John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” But Sanders resisted the idea that his revolution could go that way.

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“What the goal of this campaign is about is to look at the Civil Rights Movement, look at the women’s movement, look at the gay movement, understand that when people come together we can accomplish enormous things,” Sanders said. “But I think what people are saying is enough is enough. We need fundamental changes in our political system and our economic system.”

“Bernie Sanders, everybody, he’s running for president,” Colbert said by way of ending the interview. Not only is he running, but at this still early stage, he appears to be winning.