DETROIT — At a town hall meeting that occasionally had the feel of a campaign rally, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opened a new line of attack against the president’s Charlottesville reaction, while urging activists to stay inside the Democratic Party.
“We have a president who was equivocal — nice people on both sides!” said Sanders in a nighttime event at Fellowship Chapel Church. “No! There are no nice Nazis!”
More than 2,000 people had streamed into the church to hear Sanders and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) pitch the vague outlines of a Medicare-for-all plan that progressives expect to rally around next month. Voters left the meeting after hearing about far more than health care — from Conyers’s full employment bill, to the legacy of the Ku Klux Klan, to whether agri-business was a corrupting influence on health care.
Toward the end, a 33-year-old metal designer named Scott Devey asked Sanders whether the Democratic and Republican parties were simply too far gone, and if he could help found a third party.
“I am not going to tell you that that effort is not meeting resistance, believe me,” said Sanders. “In some parts of the country, Democrats are smart enough to say, we want your energy. In other areas, they’re frightened. But what we are seeing all over this country I think is a remnant from my campaign — young people running and winning seats on city councils, in state legislatures.”
Even as some attendees cheered Devey on, Sanders said he had been wrong to suggest that the two major parties were identical. “I understand where you are coming from,” said Sanders. “I understand it better than anyone else in Congress. But I don’t want Trump around for another four years. I don’t want Republicans in control of the House and Senate. I want Democrats to open the door; I want Democrats to be the party not of corporate interests, but of the working class.”
After the speech, Devey said that he understood Sanders’s position, but begged to differ. In 2016, he’d written his own name in for president, and encouraged friends to do the same.