Vermont’s well-known incumbents who represent the state in the nation’s capital easily defeated their lesser-known conservative challengers Tuesday night.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who runs as an independent, beat Republican real estate agent Lawrence Zupan, of Manchester, with about 66 percent of more than 277,000 total votes cast. Zupan won nearly 27 percent of the vote.
In his acceptance speech, Sanders offered harsh and divisive statements while claiming Republicans are dividing the nation.
“We have a president of the United States who is a pathological liar and is doing something that no president in my lifetime has ever done — and that is, instead of bringing the American people together, he is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, based on where we come from, based on our religion … based on our sexual identity,” he said.
Without offering evidence, Sanders claimed that Republicans were trying to “throw 32 million people off their health care” and had “given a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent.”
“Our job is to tell this president that we will not tolerate policies that are racist and sexist and homophobic, and all over this country the American people, led by the state of Vermont, are going to stand up and fight back,” he said.
Zupan, a champion of free enterprise who gave a fiery debate performance against Sanders a week before the election, used his concession speech to thank Sanders before once again attacking the incumbent senator’s view of America.
“A few minutes ago I spoke with Senator Sanders and I thanked him for the campaign … and I wished him a long, peaceful, happy and healthy life, and he thanked me for a campaign well run,” he said.
Zupan then harkened back to the debate, which often focused on the differences between American capitalism and socialism.
“The biggest challenge facing America today, I said while looking at Senator Sanders, is the success that he has had in persuading millions of Americans that America is not the greatest country in the history of the world. That is what impelled me to stand up to race against him,” Zupan said.
He continued, “The United States of America is, was, and likely will remain the greatest country in the history of the world.”
Despite Zupan’s strong performance head-to-head against Sanders, it did little to turn the tide of liberal voter enthusiasm for Sanders.
Zupan, in various interviews, was critical of Sanders’ plan for Medicare for All. The ambitious plan, according to a Mercatus Center senior research strategist, is estimated to cost an astronomical $32 trillion for the nation. The Sanders campaign estimates the plan will cost $13.8 trillion.
Zupan also accused Sanders of having interests outside Vermont, including another run for the presidency, which Sanders has not yet ruled out. Sanders would be 79 years old by the 2020 election.
In addition to Medicaid for All, Sanders ran on a platform of expanding green energy, ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and breaking up large financial institutions which were involved in the 2008 recession.
In the race for U.S. House, incumbent Democrat Rep. Peter Welch beat Anya Tynio, of West Charleston, with about 68 percent of votes cast. Tynio, a strong conservative in her mid-20s, won nearly 26 percent of the vote.
In his acceptance speech, Welch appeared to cast his win as a victory for collectivism and government programs for all Americans.
“What this election is about, across this vast country of ours, with all of the different people and all of the different groups … the question is, are we in it together, or is it ‘winner take all’ and you’re on your own. That is the simple question that America is deciding across this land tonight,” he said.
Tynio met Welch in a single radio debate, which in part discussed the job performance of President Donald Trump.
“[Republicans] wanted to know that there was somebody that was going to be a fighter, and he showed right off the bat that ‘I’m going to be a fighter for you,'” Tynio said in the debate.
Welch, in contrast, accused Trump of damaging the country with his strong rhetoric.
“When I see the president attacking the press, attacking the rule of law, being too cozy in my view with dictators and authoritarians, I think that’s very dangerous,” he said.
Incumbents winning elections by large margins is nothing new. In 2016, incumbents won 88 percent of their legislative races, according to FollowTheMoney.org.