DES MOINES, IOWA — VICE News wanted to know why voters should back Bernie Sanders given the “gamble” his ”radical” agenda might be in the general election.
He wasn’t having it — so he put it to the audience at 2020 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum.
“Guaranteeing healthcare to all people through a Medicare for All program, is that radical?” Sanders asked the crowd.
“Raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, is that radical? Making all public colleges and universities tuition-free, canceling all student debt through a tax on Wall Street speculation: radical? Dealing with climate change: radical? Immigration reform: radical? Criminal justice reform — radical? Protecting a woman's right to control her body, — radical? Sane gun policy — radical?” Sanders said. “I beg your pardon.”
With each question, the diverse audience responded with a louder “no,” before giving him a round of applause.
“You’ve already got audience participation, right? Let’s just roll with it,” VICE News host Alzo Slade said to laughs.
Sanders’ handling of some tough questions shows Sanders’ growth as a candidate since his first run for president — though he still has a long way to go with black and brown voters if he hopes to be the Democratic presidential nominee.
Sanders struggled with minority voters in his 2016 presidential run, as Hillary Clinton’s strength with Hispanic and African American voters helped power her to the Democratic nomination. He was dogged in that campaign for his earlier opposition to some immigration reform bills and was criticized for largely focusing on economic solutions to societal problems rather than identifying how systemic racism has played a role in holding back brown and black communities.
But in his 2020 campaign, Bernie’s made a concerted effort to improve his outreach to both communities. He hired a diverse campaign staff, named people of color as three of his four campaign co-chairs, prioritized issues that matter to brown and black communities and campaigned more often in diverse South Carolina and Nevada than he did last election.
On Monday, Sanders highlighted his plans to help brown and black communities.
Sanders’ immigration reform proposal is one of the most expansive and progressive of the entire Democratic field, including a moratorium on deporting undocumented immigrants. (He clarified Monday that it’d be applicable to “99% of deportations” — not including of people with violent criminal records.)
And he was the first 2020 candidate to back the Green New Deal, a plan that includes extensive support for historically marginalized communities. He said Monday the would “take on the greed and corruption of the fossil fuel industry” and help poorer and less white communities.
Sanders also slammed President Trump’s border wall. But interestingly, he wouldn’t commit to tearing it down if he became president.
“I don’t know how much money it would take to tear down the wall,” he said. “We should be investing in the needs of the American people and not in building the wall.”
But would he tear it down? “How much is it going to cost to tear it down?” Sanders responded. “If it’s going to cost me millions to tear it down, maybe the money would be better spent on child care in this country.”
Cover: Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to VICE News at the 2020 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum in Des Moines on Monday, January 20, 2020. (Justin Hayworth/VICE News)