Sanders unveils black colleges plan

Riley Bunch | The Valdosta Daily TimesBernie Sanders talks criminal justice reform and Medicare for all Thursday during a rally at Morehouse College in Atlanta. 

ATLANTA — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd in Atlanta Thursday he knows what systematic racism looks like: drawing similarities between the murder of his relatives during the Holocaust and the discrimination African-Americans face today.

The Vermont senator held a rally at Morehouse College the day after taking the presidential debate stage to woo young black voters — among the many candidate campaign events aiming to garner the favor of black voters in Atlanta.

“Our pledge together is we will do everything humanly possible,” he said, “to end all forms of discrimination in this country.”

Sanders attacked what he called the “bigotry” that exists under the current administration and the wealth gap that disproportionately affects black Americans. Today, he said, he and his supporters will send a message to the upper class that “this country belongs to all of us, not just the 1%.”

Sanders used the HBCU location to unveil a billions-of-dollars proposal to pour funding into Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He proposed a $5 billion investment in training more teachers at HBCUs and another $5 billion to support black health-care professionals.

He promised the young crowd to make all public colleges and universities tuition-free and to cancel all student debt.

“With Medicare for all, we are guaranteeing health care for every man, woman and child and that is enormously important,” he said, “but we also have to make sure that in African-American communities there are the doctors, there are the nurses, there are the psychologists that are there to provide the care that the people in those communities need.”

Sanders said with his universal health-care plan, premiums, co-pays and deductibles at the doctor’s office will be eliminated.

U.S. Census Bureau data ranks Georgia as the state with the third highest uninsured population in the country. While the percentage rose just slightly, up from last year, to 13.7%, it lost ground to other states. Across the country in 2018, 8.5% of Americans, or 27.5 million people, went uninsured — up from 7.9% or 25.6 million people in 2017.

Brian Rosser, 30, of Calhoun said Sanders is the only candidate who recognizes that thousands of people die every year because of lack of access to health care.

“He doesn’t want to put a band-aid on that,” Rosser said, “he wants to do away with it.”

But what really makes the Georgia native want to canvass for Sanders, he said, is his goal to do away with the private prison system.

Sanders took on what he called the broken criminal justice system — he touted his efforts to make marijuana legal in every state and expunging all marijuana charges and ending capital punishment.

“We are going to invest in more jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration,” he said. “We are going to end all private prisons and detention centers in this country.”

Sanders didn’t miss an opportunity to directly address the Georgia state legislature for voting in favor of the state's controversial “heartbeat bill” that made abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat illegal. He also addressed what he identified as voter suppression that he believes swung the last governor's race toward Gov. Brian Kemp.

“Here in Georgia and all over this country, you have cowardly Republican governors who can’t win elections on their ideas and are suppressing the vote,” he told the crowd. “And I say to those cowardly governors and others if you can’t win on your ideas, get out of politics, get another job.”

Sanders said he would never nominate an individual to the Supreme Court that isn’t “100% Roe vs. Wade.”

The candidate's large appeal with young voters hasn’t gone unnoticed. Brother and sister Danielle Hix, 22, and Matthew Hix, 21, from Buford, said it’s more important than ever for young voters to get involved and the Vermont senator’s ideas align with their ideas the best.

“I think with most of the candidates, especially later in the race with Democrats, I think they have sold out a little bit,” Matthew Hix said, “but Bernie has been preaching the same thing his entire career.”

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