COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As he vies for the chance to replace President Donald Trump, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders said Sunday that he is running a campaign that, like Scripture, calls for a renewed focus on justice in the way all people should be treated.
It’s a broad-based approach that the Vermont senator said he believes will mean victory in his pursuit of the nomination, as well as in next year’s general election.
“When we read from the Scriptures, the calling for the moment now is for nothing less than justice,” Sanders told a congregation at Reid Chapel AME, a black church in the heart of Columbia’s historic Greenview neighborhood. “It is not justice when so few have so much, and so many have so little.”
Stressing what he calls equal treatment on a number of issues, including health care, wages, education access and criminal justice, has been at the heart of Sanders’ 2020 campaign.
It’s a message that has been well-received as Sanders, whose struggles with black voters helped cost him the 2016 nomination, has campaigned in South Carolina. The state hosts the South’s first primary vote and is a place where support among the heavily black Democratic electorate is crucial for a candidate’s success.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has traditionally led the candidate field in the state, both overall and among black voters. A recent Monmouth University poll shows Biden earning support from about 4 in 10 black South Carolina voters, while Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren trailed with 11% each.
Like some of his fellow presidential contenders, Sanders has rolled out endorsements from a number of black state lawmakers. Many of the Democratic candidates often campaign in South Carolina’s black churches while making weekend visits to the state.
“Justice says that black women should not die in childbirth at three times the rate as white women,” Sanders said Sunday, to frequent applause and affirmations from the congregation. “Brothers and sisters, in this difficult moment, we need leadership in this country which does not lie every single day.”
During an interview later with The Associated Press, Sanders said he sees his path to victory as based on the broad appeal of what he calls his justice-themed campaign, again relating biblical teachings to his outlook on what the country needs.
“Maybe the most important phraseology in the Bible is, ‘Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.’ And in a sense, that’s what justice is about, and that’s what we are trying to do in this campaign,” Sanders said. “If you’re working for starvation wages, you’d say, `Gee, I wish somebody would help me earn a living that I can take care of my family on.’ If you can’t go to a doctor when you’re sick, you’d say, `I wish that we had a system, like many other countries, where I could go to the doctor, regardless of my income.’”
Noting that many of the candidates have co-opted or at least partially bought into some of his ideas previously thought of as too extreme, such as a single-payer health care system, Sanders said that as the nominee, he would work toward unity instead of the divisions that fractured Democrats during the bruising 2016 primary campaign.
“I think what will happen is that all Democrats will come together with the understanding that it is imperative that we defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said. “We need a government based on compassion and justice, not on greed and corruption, and that’s the campaign we’re running.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP