Bernie Sanders: U.S. Can Learn From FDR's Stance Against Powerful Interests

Sanders draws parallels to his own fight against the 'billionaire class' while visiting former president Roosevelt's home.

U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders looks at a statue of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Roosevelt's home and Presidential Library, Hyde Park, New York April 12, 2016.
Brian Snyder, Reuters

AP — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Tuesday the nation can learn from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's courageous stance against powerful interests, drawing parallels to his own fight against the "billionaire class."

Sanders toured the grounds of Roosevelt's home and presidential library along the Hudson River, pausing to pay his respects at the grave sites of the late president and his first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. The impromptu visit ahead of New York's presidential primary offered symbolic meaning for a candidate who casts himself as the counterweight to Wall Street and establishment politics.

"I think there is a lot that we can learn today from Roosevelt's life and courage, from his willingness to stand up to the most powerful special interests of his time — people he called the economic royalists, people I call the billionaire class today," Sanders said.

"In 1936, when he was re-nominated by the Democratic Party for another term as president, he proudly proclaimed that he welcomed the hatred of the economic royalists — that he stood with the working class and the oppressed people of this country. And that's what he did," Sanders said.

Sanders has frequently expressed his admiration for Roosevelt as he challenges Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In a speech last year, he sought to connect his own views of "democratic socialism" to Roosevelt's push for economic security, a living wage and universal health care.

Later, at a rally at Marist College in nearby Poughkeepsie, Sanders praised Roosevelt's 1944 "Second Bill of Rights," which asserted that Americans should have the right to a job with a living wage, health care, education and economic protections for the elderly.

"Roosevelt was right back in 1944 and we still have not achieved that goal," Sanders said.