Bernie Sanders: Everything isn't awesome

Story highlights

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders was dour on the state of the United States in a speech on Monday
  • "I worry very, very much of the future of democracy in our country," he said

Washington (CNN)If Sen. Bernie Sanders were the director of the Lego Movie, whose catchy song blares, "Everything is awesome," the animated film's title track would have been decidedly less upbeat.

For Sanders, everything in the United States isn't awesome -- far from it, in fact.
"I know that people aren't comfortable when I say this, but I worry very, very much of the future of democracy in our country," said the Vermont independent, speaking at the Brookings Institution on Monday.
    Sanders is known for highlighting what he sees as the ills that plague the United States in speeches and interviews. He regularly decries the amount of money in politics, frets about the growing income inequality gap and attacks the "greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street."
    But Monday's was down even more dour than usual.
    Sanders says everything isn't awesome.
    Sanders said former President Abraham Lincoln's vision of "government of the people, by the people, for the people," was not only "perishing" but "coming to an end."
    Instead, Sanders argued the United States was becoming a country "of the billionaires, by the billionaires, for the billionaires" who are now able to "purchase the candidates of their choice."
    "The most serious problem we face is the grotesque and growing level of wealth and income inequality," Sanders said. "This is a profound moral issue, this is an economic issue and this is a political issue."
    After a 30-minute prepared speech, one questioner joked that Sanders wasn't laying out a positive agenda like Ronald Reagan's "morning in America." Moderator E.J. Dionne quickly joked it was more like "mourning in America."
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    "I have been trying to be more cheerful," he said, adding that his wife jokingly says he should hand out "tranquilizers and anti-suicide kits," after he speaks.
    The senator, who is entertaining a 2016 presidential run, wasn't without ideas to combat these problems, though.
    Sanders urged breaking up big banks, backed a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure and proposed making college free to anyone who wants it. He also urged raising taxes on Wall Street -- whose business is based on "fraud and deception" -- and passing "real tax reform" to pay for his plans.
    He also came out against Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress.
    "I am not going," he said.
    The speech has rankled some in the White House because it did not follow traditional protocols for foreign leaders visiting the United States.
    The message, however dour, seemed to connect. After the event, people could be heard asking about the senators presidential aspirations and urging him to run.
    Sanders will travel to key presidential states like Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming months where he will take this message on the road.
    If he runs, Sanders will likely face Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
    Clinton is "a woman I respect, clearly a very intelligent person who I think is interested in issues," Sanders said, adding that if he challenges her, he hopes to have a debate over climate change, the war in Iraq and other issues.
    "It is not my style to trash people," Sanders said, hinting that he wouldn't go negative if he runs.