In a town hall in rural McDowell County, West Virginia, on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told a crowd filled with supporters of President Donald Trump that “healthcare is a right”—and was met with cheers.
The town hall was broadcast Monday on MSNBC‘s “All In With Chris Hayes,” and featured discussion on a range of topics: jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, and the opioid crisis, among others.
The warm reception to Sanders’ views—that climate change is real, that universal healthcare is a right, and that free higher education is necessary, among others—demonstrated that residents of this county that voted 75 percent for Trump support far more progressive policies than those touted by the president.
“We are the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a right,” Sanders told a coal miner who voted for Trump. “Do you think we should join other countries in guaranteeing healthcare as a right?”
“Yes,” the Trump supporter said, and the crowd cheered.
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Earlier in that exchange, Sanders also appeared to find common ground on a topic widely seen as unpopular in coal country: climate change. Sanders explained that he believed in climate change—unlike the current administration—but he didn’t hold individual coal miners responsible for it, recalling that coal heated his “rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn” when he was a child. “You guys are my heroes,” he said.
The senator then called for job creation in infrastructure and renewable energy, to put former coal miners back to work in well-paying jobs that will help mitigate the climate crisis. “We are the richest country in the world,” Sanders said. “We can do this.” The crowd applauded.
Watch the exchange here:
Sanders also advocated for retired miners—many of whom suffer from black lung disease and other ailments from a lifetime of mining coal—to receive the pensions and healthcare benefits currently tied up in Congress. He specifically called out Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who represents voters in coal country, for advocating for coal company executives over their workers.
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