In scathing criticism of Donald Trump, Vermont Senator and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders branded the new US president a “pathological liar” who is intentionally eroding American democracy to further his own authoritarian ambitions.
In a Friday interview with the The Guardian, Sanders claimed that Trump’s “unprecedented” approach to leadership is a calculated maneuver to cement his power.
“We have a president who is a pathological liar. Trump lies all of the time,” he told the British daily from his Washington DC office.
“Trump lies all of the time and I think that is not an accident, there is a reason for that. He lies in order to undermine the foundations of American democracy.”
Sanders said Trump’s open hostility to mainstream media, unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, and delegitimization of the judiciary, were part of a wider strategy to drive the US towards authoritarianism.
The president’s attacks, Sanders said, aim to lead US citizens to a single conclusion, “that the only person in America who stands for the American people, who is telling the truth, the only person who gets it right, is the president of the United States, Donald Trump. That is unprecedented in American history.”
“What he wants is to end up as leader of a nation that has moved a significant degree towards authoritarianism; where the president of the United States has extraordinary powers, far more than our constitution has provided for,” Sanders said.
The lawmaker from Vermont, who was defeated by Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, said the party was partially at fault for the rise of the “phony billionaire” from reality TV star to the Oval Office, because it had ignored the American working and middle classes in favor of the rich elite.
“Over the last 30 or 40 years the Democratic party has transformed itself from a party of the working class – of white workers, black workers, immigrant workers – to a party significantly controlled by a liberal elite which has moved very far away from the needs of … working families in this country.”
But Sanders, a leader in the grassroots movement against Trump, said he was encouraged to see the large turnout of Americans at recent townhall meetings to speak out against Trump’s proposed repeal of Obama’s healthcare law.
“When Republicans now are literally afraid to hold public meetings – some of them are arguing, ‘Oh my God, we are afraid of security issues!’ – that tells me they know that the American people are prepared to stand up and fight,” Sanders said.
“The only way to defeat that trend is for massive grassroots resistance, and clearly we are seeing that right now,” he added.
Sanders urged Americans to stand up to the Trump administration, saying defiance against the threat of authoritarianism was the only effective form of resistance.
“Understand that absolutely these are very difficult and frightening times. But also understand that in moments of crisis, what has happened, time and time again, is that people have stood up and fought back. So despair is absolutely not an option.”