“In defeating the TPP trade agreement, we had to take on corporate America, the pharmaceutical industry, a majority of Congress and the president of the United States,” Sanders said Monday afternoon. “We won because we stood strong, were smart in our tactics and fought for what the American people wanted. In defeating the Dakota Access Pipeline, we had to take on the entire fossil fuel industry and, once again, a majority of Congress. When faced with a strong grass-roots movement, led by the Native American community and environmentalists all across the country, President Obama did the right thing — and deserves credit for it.”
Sanders, who last month became the leader of outreach for Senate Democrats, had previously run ahead of the party on both issues. While campaigning for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, he told protesters that he wanted to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline — even though the Democratic nominee remained neutral. He opposed TPP when the Obama administration worked to pass it, and played a role in turning Clinton against it.
With the election over, Sanders's positions were held by all but a few Democrats. The one receiving the most attention this week is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), one of a handful of Democrats to meet with president-elect Donald Trump. A reliable supporter of fossil fuel exploration, Heitkamp broke with most of her party to support the Keystone pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, both of which would have run through her state. “It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe,” she said Sunday.
As of this morning, there was still speculation that Heitkamp might leave the Senate — and a tough 2018 reelection in which she'd be narrowly favored — for a top job in the Trump administration. Doing so would undercut not just Sanders but the rest of the Democratic caucus, as North Dakota's Republican governor would appoint Heitkamp's replacement and reduce Democrats to 47 Senate seats.
But Sanders himself had been accused of giving too much slack to Trump, then rounded to oppose him. In interviews right after the election, Sanders suggested that he was “prepared to work with” the new Republican president if he bucked his party in favor of populist tax and trade plans. Since then, Sanders has found nothing to like about Trump, even describing the president-elect's lobbying of Carrier as a blueprint for corporations to sucker him into providing tax breaks.
“These are lessons that must not be lost as we enter the Trump era,” Sanders said in Monday's statement. “Whether the issues are economic justice, climate change, women's rights, immigration reform, health care, education, campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform and many other struggles, when we stand together we can accomplish great victories. This is not a time for despair. It is a time for being smart and going forward in building a strong and victorious grass-roots movement.”