Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders charged forward in his campaign to “make the establishment nervous” Sunday night as he told a Greensboro crowd that it’s time to close the income gap in America and level the playing field in education, healthcare and the job market.
With stops in Georgia Friday, South Carolina Saturday and Virginia Monday, Sanders’ call for a “political revolution” to the roughly 9,100 in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex was a part of his larger campaign strategy to garner more support from the black caucus and mobilize Southern voters.
Though moving ahead in the polls with a 10-point lead in Iowa over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and nearly doubling Clinton in his New Hampshire point advantage, Sanders has yet to stump the former first lady in South Carolina, drawing only 23 percent support in comparison to Clinton’s 46 percent.
North Carolina’s move to an earlier, mid-March primary has made the swing state even more of a priority. Though losing out to Barack Obama in the North Carolina 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Clinton, who has already fundraised throughout the state, still has a strong base. With 37 percent of the ballots coming from black voters in the 2008 primary, the Tar Heel state plays a major role in Sanders’ attempts to galvanize the black electorate into action.
Sanders launched into his unchanging criticism of U.S. income inequality and his charge for universal education — something he says will cost $50 billion a year, but that taxes on Wall Street will fund — and a universal health care system offering a medicare-for-all, single-payer program. However, his chief emphasis was on the plight of millennials, specifically blacks and ethnic minorities.
“One of the fun things about running for president is you can try to force discussion on issues which the establishment chooses not to talk about,” Sanders said as he began throwing out statistics related to unemployment among young people.
Sanders cited an economic think tank he partnered with, saying that the “real” unemployment rate of white high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20 is at 33 percent, and for hispanics it is at 36 percent.
However, he emphasized for the overwhelmingly white audience the unemployment rate among young blacks, saying the number is at 51 percent and that 69 percent of black Americans who drop out of high school end up in jail.
“What we are doing is turning our backs on an entire generation of young people,” Sanders said. “Investing in education and jobs makes a lot more sense than investing in jails and incarceration.”
The Vermont senator, hailing from a state that is 95 percent white, said that the U.S. has made leaps and bounds in combating racism, but the goal now has to be ending “all forms of institutional racism” and reforming a “broken criminal justice system.”
Hinting at the issue of police brutality, Sanders said he believes the vast majority of law enforcement officers are good people “but when a police officer, like any other public official, breaks the law, that police officer must be held accountable.”
“A good police department is a police department that is part of the community — not seen as an oppressive force,” Sanders said, going on to argue that a police force should not resemble “invading armies.”
Sanders also pointed his finger at Republicans, especially the conservative lawmakers in North Carolina and several other states who endeavored to alter voting laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to overturn portions of the Voting Rights Act.
The North Carolina legislature incited outrage when Republican lawmakers pushed to reduce the number of early voting days and eliminate same-day registration. Most contentious of all, however, was the provision mandating photo identification in order to vote.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, said his Republican colleagues are attempting to “suppress votes.”
He averred that politicians who support such voting legislation are afraid they can’t win the votes of the constituents they are trying to “suppress.” Sanders told the zealous crowd that these politicians should “get another job.”
Sanders asserted that his talk about jobs is what makes people gravitate toward him, saying that older Americans fear showing up to work and discovering they’ve been booted out of a 30-year career and they’re being replaced by someone half their age and for half their pay.
Sanders said younger Americans, in turn, can’t find work commensurate with the education they’ve obtained.
His solution is a massive federal jobs program, saying that if the U.S. were to put a trillion dollars into fixing the nation’s infrastructure, 13 million company jobs would be created.
Sanders called into question Republican “family values,” saying the $210 billion in tax breaks given to the “top two-tenths of the top 1 percent” would do nothing to help generate jobs.
Sanders stated that programs need to be protected and that cutting spending was hurting people.
“Cutting programs for the elderly, and the children, and the sick are not American values. Giving tax breaks to billionaires are not American values,” Sanders said.