Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., said Sunday there's nothing more important than tackling institutional racism. In an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sanders addressed the issue just one week after black activists forced him from the stage during a rally in Seattle.
"On this issue of Black Lives Matter, let me be very clear. The issue that they are raising is a very, very important issue," the Democratic presidential hopeful said Sunday. "And there is no candidate for president who would be stronger in fighting against institutional racism, and by the way, reforming a broken criminal justice system."
Sanders called for an end to minimum sentencing in the justice system and other programs. "We need to do away with minimum sentencing, we need education and jobs for our young people, rather than jails and incarcerations," he said, also calling for an end to the "militarization of local police departments."
Asked about a headline on Buzzfeed reading, "Sanders Campaign Reaches Out to Black Lives Matter Activists," and the quote "I apologize it took our campaign so long," Sanders said it was a staffer, not he, who issued the statement. He said he has met with Black Lives Matter activists as well as Latino groups, unions and seniors. "We're reaching out to everybody," he added.
Sanders said one of his main objectives as president would be to create a healthcare system that guarantees care for everyone.
"So what we want to do is expand on Medicare," he said. "Medicare is a popular, good system. It covers people who are old, I want to see Medicare cover everybody. A Medicare for all, single-payer program, is the way, in my view, that you provide universal, quality, cost-effective healthcare, and we join the rest of the industrialized world."
Sanders has been drawing record crowds to his rallies and said both he and Republican juggernaut Donald Trump have tapped into voter disaffection. Sanders said he is talking about "life-and-death issues" and addressing the collapse of the middle class, citing "the massive and grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in this country, the fact that we are the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all people, the fact that millions of working-class families are now finding it very, very difficult to send their kids to college."
Sanders noted middle-class voters have been marginalized by campaign finance laws "that allow billionaire families like the Koch brothers and others, to literally buy politicians and corrupt the American political process."
And money is where Sanders draws a sharp distinction between himself and Trump, who has said he would be willing to put up $1 billion of his own money to finance his campaign.
"You know, I am not a billionaire. My family doesn't have a whole lot of money," Sanders said. "We are raising our campaign contributions from 350,000 people who are contributing … on average, $31.20 apiece. That's our response. To go out to working-class people, to go out to the middle-class people, and getting support. I think that's a little bit different approach than Donald Trump's."