Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made a strong case to the American people in tonight’s Democratic debate.
“This campaign is about a political revolution, to not only elect a president, but to transform this country,” Sanders said in his opening statement at Sunday night’s Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina.
The first question of the night was asked to all candidates, and was about how each of them would define their presidency. Senator Sanders said jobs and wages were important priorities for him.
“What my first days are about, is bringing America together, to end the decline of the middle class,” he said.
“We are going to have a government that works for all of us, and not just big campaign contributors.”
Sanders was pressed on guns, with debate moderator Lester Holt making note of Hillary Clinton’s recent attacks on him.
“I think Secretary Clinton knows what she says is very disingenuous. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA,” he responded.
“I have supported from day one, an instant background check, to make sure people who should not have guns, do not have guns.”
“I support what President Obama is doing in terms of closing the gun show loopholes.”
Asked about his electability, especially in the context of the African-American community, Sanders was quick to respond. “In Iowa, New Hampshire, the race is very, very close.”
Senator Sanders pointed to recent polls showing him beating Donald Trump by wider margins than Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical general election match-up.
A video question from Youtuber Franchesca Ramsey focused on the investigation of incidents of police violence.
“This is a responsibility for the US Justice Department to get involved in,” Sanders said.
“Whenever anyone in this country is killed in police custody, it should automatically trigger a US Attorney General’s investigation.”
“If a police officer breaks the law, like any public official, that officer must be held accountable,” he said to applause from the debate audience.
The debate quickly turned to health care.
“What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide health care in this country to every man, woman and child as a right,” Sanders said.
“29 million people still have no health insurance. We are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. We are spending far more per person on health care than people of any other country.”
On bi-partisanship and working across the aisle in congress, Sanders re-framed the question and said the main issue was that congress was owned by big money and refused to do what the American people wanted.
“We have got to make congress respond to the needs of the people,” he said.
Sanders was asked how he would win a general election labelling himself as a democratic socialist.
“I am very proud that in this campaign, we have seen an enormous amount of excitement from young people, working people.”
Bernie’s plan to take on Wall St.: ✅Break up the big banks ✅Reestablish Glass-Steagall ✅Make them pay their fair share #DebateWithBernie
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 18, 2016
Asked about his new TV commercial about breaking up the big banks, Sanders responded by saying he does not take money from big banks, and does not get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.
“Can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions, and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals?” Sanders asked.
“I have doubts when people use huge amounts of money from Wall Street. I am very proud. I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money.”
The candidates were questioned about climate change and how they would convince Americans that action must be taken.
“The debate is over. Climate change is real. It is already causing major problems,” Sanders said.
“We have a major party called the Republican Party that is so owned by the fossil fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they don’t even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists.”
Turning to foreign policy, Sanders said it was important to build a coalition to defeat ISIS, including Muslim countries in the region.
Sanders said sending American troops into Syria would be “an unmitigated disaster that as president I would do everything to avoid.”
Asked about members and advisors in a potential administration, Sanders said, “If elected president, Goldman Sachs is not going to bring forward a Secretary of Treasury to a Sanders administration.”
If elected president, Goldman Sachs will not be in my cabinet. #DebateWithBernie
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 18, 2016
In his closing statement, Senator Sanders touched on the Flint water contamination, calling for the resignation of Governor Rick Snyder.
“Very little is going to be done to transform our economy, and to create the kind of middle class we need unless we end a corrupt finance system that undermines American democracy,” Sanders said.
“We have go to get rid of Super PACs, we have got to get rid of Citizens United, and what we have got to do is create a political revolution that revitalizes American democracy.”
“The government of the Untied States of America belongs to all of us and not to a handful of wealthy campaign contributors,” he concluded.