Democratic presidential contender Bernard Sanders said Sunday that his transformational message on income inequality hasn’t translated into victories in certain states because of a simple reality — poor people don’t vote.
Mr. Sanders was trying to explain why he keeps losing to front-runner Hillary Clinton in states with high income inequality, even though that’s his No. 1 issue.
Seventeen of the 25 states with the highest levels of inequality have held their primaries, and Mr. Sanders lost in 16 of them.
“Because poor people don’t vote. I mean, that’s just a fact. That’s a sad reality of American society,” Mr. Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“If we can significantly increase voter turnout so that low-income people and working people and young people participated in the political process, if we got a voter turnout of 75 percent, this country would be radically transformed,” he said.
Trailing by hundreds of delegates, Mr. Sanders acknowledged Sunday he has a narrow path to victory, though he vowed to “fight through that path.”
He plans to fight Mrs. Clinton through the California primary on June 7, saying the front-runner needs to grapple with pay inequality, runaway college debt and other factors that are holding Americans back.
“It’s good for democracy, it’s good for the Democratic Party,” the self-described democratic socialist told ABC’s This Week.
Yet his repeated attacks on Mrs. Clinton have appeared to dent her favorability ratings, prompting some Democrats to wonder if Mr. Sanders is doing the GOP’s dirty work for them.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said infighting between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders pales in comparison to the bare-knuckle fight on the GOP side, though she would like both candidates to keep an eye on the November election.
“It’s going to get a little more intense, but need to make sure that we focus on the endgame,” Mrs. Wasserman Schultz told “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Sanders said the Democratic contenders can agree on one thing — blocking Mr. Trump or another Republican from taking the White House.
“All of us are in agreement that Donald Trump would be a disaster for this country if he became president unites us,” Mr. Sanders told NBC. “The fact that we understand, for example, that climate change is real while Republican opponents ignore that reality unites us.”
“But on the other hand,” he said, “I think what divides us is the understanding on the part of millions of people who are supporting my candidacy that it really is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”
Indeed, Mr. Sanders isn’t apologizing for needling Mrs. Clinton on her ties to Wall Street and failure to push for single-payer health care, saying he, too, runs favorably in a head-to-head match-up with Mr. Trump.
“We need to continue this debate about what is happening to ordinary people in America,” Mr. Sanders said.
If Mrs. Clinton is the nominee, he said, it will be her responsibility “to convince all people, not just supporters, that she is the kind of president this country needs to represent working people in this country, to take on the big money interests who have so much power, to fight for what the American people want.”