Trailing Bernie: Sanders takes on Colbert, attracts celebrities

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Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t drawn much support from the Democratic Party’s establishment, but his presidential campaign announced last week that plenty of celebrities are feeling the Bern.

According to the campaign, 128 musicians, actors and other artists are supporting the democratic socialist’s bid for the White House. Among the most famous are actors Will Ferrell and Mark Ruffalo, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, actor and musician Michael “Killer Mike” Render, Margaret Cho, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

“As artists and citizens we believe it is time for government to once again represent the people and not just big money,” writer and director Adam McKay, who co-wrote and directed the films “Anchorman” and “Step Brothers” with Ferrell, said in a statement. “Bernie Sanders is the only candidate speaking against the wide spread legalized corruption that has handed our government to billionaires, large corporations and banks.”

While Sanders would surely enjoy the support of his colleagues in Congress, who have votes at the party’s nominating convention, the celebrity endorsements should help further some of his core themes — addressing income inequality and racial justice issues.

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Sanders hit the late-night comedy show circuit Friday, appearing on CBS’s “Late Show” with host Stephen Colbert. Sanders brought a “Feel the Bern” mug for the host’s new show. And when Colbert asked why Sanders didn’t accept the labels of “socialist” and “liberal” as “the insults they were meant to be,” Sanders brought a defense.

“In Denmark, everybody has health care as a right and their system is high quality and more cost effective than ours. In Denmark, at a time in America where people can’t afford to send their kids to college, people go and get a higher education, go to college, for free,” Sanders said. “They have a very strong child care system, where the middle-class wages are higher. So what you have is a society where government, as I believe it should be in this country — radical idea, though it may be — should actually represent working people and the middle-class, rather than large campaign donors.”

Colbert also had plenty of jokes about the presidential campaign before interviewing Sanders. He noted Sanders’ surprising popularity in his primary battle against Hillary Clinton, and found a way to ding GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, too.

“A funny thing happened on the way to her nomination and it’s Vermont senator and guy in front of you at the deli trying to return salami, Bernie Sanders,” Colbert said. “His popularity is surprising because he’s a self-described socialist who would also be our oldest president ever. That’s five years older than Donald Trump and 50 years older than anyone Donald Trump would marry.”

Sanders, meanwhile, rejected any comparisons to Trump, who he said is “appealing to the baser instincts among us, xenophobia and, frankly, racism.” He said Trump’s campaign has been “disgraceful.”

“What I am talking about is a vision which goes beyond telling us we have to hate a group of people,” Sanders said.

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Sanders held a Manhattan fundraiser Friday, but as the New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore reported, it was not traditional fundraiser with “a few dozen deep-pocketed donors in a quiet room, a trimmed-down stump speech from the candidate, a pantomime of intimacy.”

Rather, Sanders’ event featured hundreds of supporters “in a sweaty concert hall cheering a stem-winder from the candidate about the evils of fund-raising in a post-Citizens United world, where candidates spend a significant amount of time wooing the superwealthy.”

Sanders railed against billionaires and super PACs at the event, which supporters paid at least $50 to attend. He also based the GOP debate last week and questioned why the candidates did not address the campaign finance system that allows super PACs to have such wide influence on elections.

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