After speaking to supporters outside of his Columbia office, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-V.T., sat down for an exclusive interview Saturday morning with The Daily Gamecock to discuss his plan for America.
Before the interview formally started, Sanders reflected on some of his recent travels as a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
“Last night, we were in Iowa City and it was, what, 50 degrees? I was wearing this big heavy coat. And we come here, and it's 80 degrees, so it’s an improvement,” Sanders said.
Q: In the state of South Carolina right now, going through the Senate Committee of Medical Affairs, is a fetal heartbeat bill. It’s one of the strongest in the United States; it removed exemptions for rape and incest. If you’re elected president, how will you protect your female constituents’ reproductive rights?
Sanders: Well, I believe that a woman’s right to control her own body is a constitutional right. I am appalled by states, not only South Carolina, but all over this country, who are trying to take away that basic right. As president, we will fight for the codification of Roe v. Wade, and make it into law. I will never appoint any nominee to the Supreme Court who is not 100% Roe v. Wade. And let me also say this: I think if the shoe was on the other foot, if it was men who were getting pregnant, you would not be having this type of legislation. And by the way, let me also say to the young men out there, that this is not just a woman’s issue. This is an issue for all of us, and I hope that the men of this country will stand with women, and make sure it is women who can control their own bodies, and not politicians at the local, state and federal level.
Q: The event this weekend at Benedict is about criminal justice reform. If you could change one single thing about criminal justice in America, what would it be?
Sanders: It’s not just one thing. I wish I could tell you it was one thing; it’s not. You have a criminal justice system which is rotten to its core. It is profoundly broken, and it is racist. It is an international embarrassment that we have more people in jail, disproportionately African American, Latino, Native American. We have more people in jail, over 2 million people, than any other country on Earth, including communist China, a country four times our size. So what we have got to do is begin to invest in our young people, and that means jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.
What we have got to do is end the very destructive war on drugs, and as you may have known just the other day, we came out with, I think, an extremely bold proposal which will legalize marijuana. We take it, we take marijuana out of Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act, which essentially then legalizes it. We will fight to expunge the records of those people arrested [for] possession of marijuana, and we will in fact help those people who are hurt the most by the war on drugs be able to start selling marijuana if they want when it is legal. So I don't want large corporations taking over that industry. So, this is one important step forward.
There are a lot of other issues that we have to deal with. Right now, you have private prisons, and there are prisons and detention centers that are privately owned. We're gonna end private ownership of those detention centers. We're gonna do away with minimum sentencing. We are also, importantly, going to do away with cash bail. Right now, I don't know if you know this, that 20% of the people in jail as we speak, do you know why they are in jail? Because they are too poor to put up bail. That’s wrong. So, we have a very long criminal justice program, a very detailed program, which will result in a substantial reduction of the number of people in jail, and we are going to fight hard to implement that.
Q: This race for the 2020 Democratic nom-
Sanders: You didn’t ask me about climate change. Climate change is a global crisis, it’s hitting South Carolina as I think people see it right here. There are folks who tell us that if we don’t get our act together, a good part of Charleston may end up being underwater, along with Miami, New York City and other major communities in the United States of America, not to mention the entire world. We have introduced the most comprehensive, boldest climate change proposal of any candidate, and we are going to take on the fossil fuel industry, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy and do everything we can for a Green New Deal to create up to 20 million jobs as we lead the world in trying to save our planet.
Sen. Sanders proceeded to Benedict College that afternoon to lay out his plan for criminal justice reform at the Presidential Justice Forum.