Bernie Sanders: 'This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy'

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued a stirring rebuke of President Trump on Thursday after the president declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power, saying the election is a contest between Trump and democracy. 

"This is not just an election between Donald Trump and [former Vice President] Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy - and democracy must win," Sanders said, speaking at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Sanders went on to cite peaceful elections throughout American history, spanning back to the Civil War. 

"But today, under Donald Trump, we have a president who has little respect for our constitution or the rule of law," he said. "Today, that peaceful transition of power, the bedrock of American democracy, is being threatened like never before."

The former presidential candidate even quoted conservative icon and former President Reagan in making his point, citing Reagan's call to protect "orderly transfer of authority." 

Sanders's comments come less than a day after Trump repeated his attacks on the integrity of elections, citing unproven allegations of voter fraud. 

"We're going to have to see what happens, you know, but I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots. The ballots are a disaster," Trump told reporters in the White House on Wednesday when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

"Think about what that statement means. What he is saying is that if he wins the election, that's great," Sanders said on Thursday. "But if he loses, it's rigged, because the only way, the only way, he can lose is if it's rigged. And if it's rigged, then he is not leaving office.  Heads I win. Tails you lose. In other words, in Trump's mind, there is no conceivable way that he should leave office."

Sanders and Democrats were not the only public figures to push back on Trump's comments. Several Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) distanced themselves from the remarks. 

"The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792," McConnell said in a tweet.