AUSTIN — One of Houston’s hottest political races was on Bernie Sanders’ mind when he took center stage at South by Southwest on Friday.
Sanders ripped into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for trying to unload mounds of opposition research on a Democrat they think can’t win the 7th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston.
“I detest that type of politics,” Sanders said during a session moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And I think most Americans do.”
Just before the Texas Democratic Primary elections on Tuesday, the DCCC tried to derail Democrat Laura Moser’s campaign because they said she would be a weak general election candidate. Despite the DCCC’s role, Moser won enough votes to get into a primary runoff election on May 22 against attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.
Sanders said the DCCC shouldn’t be trying to decide who is the best candidate to take on the Republican. He said that is the job of the voters in Houston.
He called Moser, who is an activist and author, a “serious and strong candidate” who shouldn’t have to be fighting the DCCC for legitimacy.
“That is to my mind, absolutely unacceptable,” Sanders said. “And it’s got to end.”
Moser was endorsed by Our Revolution, an organization founded by Sander’s supporters after his presidential campaign ended.
The 7th Congressional District is seen as one of the Democratic Party’s biggest targets going into the mid-term elections.
Sanders, an independent who finished runner up to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2016, also used the stage to go after President Donald Trump. He said Trump is consistently trying to divide Americans and he’s made getting important legislation done in Congress difficult, specifically mentioning immigration reform.
“He lies all of the time,” said Sanders, a U.S. Senator from Vermont. “He lies day after day. What he says on Monday is not necessarily what he will say on Tuesday.”
Sanders said a month ago there was a bill going through the Senate that would have given legal status and a path to citizenship to children brought to the nation by parents who were not legal citizens. He said he voted for the bill even though it contained money for Trump’s wall, “one of the stupidest ideas in the history of the world.”
Trump’s administration lobbied very heavily against that bill, Sanders said, despite Trump saying before he wanted protections for the so-called Dreamers.
Sanders says to get Trump out of office, people have to reach out to Trump supporters – “respectfully” – and show them all the lies Trump made on the campaign trail. He said he was going to provide health care to everyone, yet backed legislation to cut health care for 32 million people. He said he was going to provide tax reform for working families, yet in the tax bill Trump signed more than 80 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent.
Sanders said he doesn’t not believe most people who voted for Trump are racists or sexist, but instead “people who are hurting, who want real change in the way our government works.”
“Our job is to talk about an agenda that speaks to the needs of the middle class and not just the 1 percent,” the 76-year-old Sanders said. “That’s going to take a lot of work.”
Asked about running for president again in 2020, Sanders said it was too early to consider and that he was focused on the issues facing the nation and in the U.S. Senate.
Sanders was in Austin as part of South by Southwest, a more than week long series of conferences and festivals that include music, film making, technology and politics. Sanders was also scheduled to make stops in San Antonio tonight and later in Lubbock over the weekend, he said.