Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brought his populist call for a “political revolution” to Rock Hill on Saturday, capping a daylong South Carolina tour with a rally that drew more than 3,000 chanting supporters to Winthrop University.
“We need a government that represents all of us and not just the billionaires,” he told a packed Byrnes Auditorium.
The U.S. senator from Vermont spoke for more than hour in a speech frequently interrupted by chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie!”
Sanders’ second visit to South Carolina came two days after a new Quinnipiac poll showed him virtually tied with rival Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Though Clinton leads in national polls, he has outpolled her in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first 2016 primary.
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The Clinton campaign said this month they see South Carolina, which holds the Democrats’ second primary, as their firewall, along with the rest of the South. That’s because more than half the state’s Democratic voters are African American.
On Saturday, Sanders spoke first to students at historically black Benedict College in Columbia, where he decried institutional racism. In Rock Hill, he was introduced by Cornel West, an African American scholar who praised the candidate’s civil rights record and said Sanders “came out of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.”
But Sanders has said his message should appeal to all voters, regardless of race.
“The people of this country are sick and tired of establishment politics,” he said. “They’re sick and tired of establishment economic … They understand that America is dominated by big-monied interests. They want a government to represent working families and not just the people on top.”
Sanders, who turned 74 on Tuesday, aimed his harshest criticism at the “one percent” of the wealthiest Americans, Wall Street bankers and what he called “the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America today.”
“Today, sadly, the United States of America has more income and wealth inequality than any other country on earth,” he said, “worse than at any time since 1928 …
“This campaign is sending a very simple message to the billionaire class – you cannot have it all. You cannot continue to get huge tax breaks when children in South Carolina and Vermont go hungry.”
Sanders spoke out against the high youth unemployment rate, particularly among black youth. He promised to work for a $1 trillion public investment that would not only build new infrastructure but create millions of jobs. He also promised to invest in education and nominate Supreme Court justices who promise to overturn Citizens United, the decision that opened the door to big money in political campaigns.
Sanders pledged to fight for a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave and free tuition at public colleges and universities.
While Sanders didn’t mention any opponent, he alluded to Republican Donald Trump’s criticism this week of an opponent’s appearance.
“I don’t get involved in personal attacks,” he said. “I don’t comment on how people look. Given the way I look, that would be the last thing I’d do.”