MSNBC’s Chris Hayes moderated an hour-long town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders today at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The town hall aired on MSNBC this evening at 8 PM ET.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said he didn't have a chance.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember, when we began this campaign, we were 60 points behind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until his message started a movement.
SANDERS: We're doing something pretty radical. We are telling the truth. Have the courage to take on the special interests who are preventing us from going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But how does Bernie Sanders bounce back this time?
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will stand up and fight for you (INAUDIBLE) all the way into the White House.
SANDERS: If you believe that issues can be addressed by the establishment politicians, you've got a very good candidate to vote for, but it's not Bernie Sanders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Tuesday, he'll have to prove he has a path to victory.
SANDERS: When we stand together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an MSNBC exclusive town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Here now is Chris Hayes.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Welcome.
HAYES: Welcome to the National Constitution Center here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of five states that will be voting tomorrow. And when this whole campaign began, there were more than 20 candidates in the race. And if you took bets when it began on who the last five would be, a lot of people would have lost money. And one of the reasons they would have lost money is the man I can introduce right now.
It's my great pleasure to welcome senator of Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
HAYES: How are you, Senator?
HAYES: Does this -- does this happen everywhere, like when you go to get coffee now or is that...
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE).
Um, we're here in Pennsylvania. You've got five states tomorrow. Those five states are -- are Northeastern, Eastern Seaboard states. They're not the deep South, where you had a hard time. They're not the Plains States, where you had some real good wins.
Um, how do you feel about tomorrow?
SANDERS: I feel pretty good. I think if the turnout is high, if -- if working people come out in large numbers, if young people come out, I think the message, Chris, that we are bringing forth, that it's too late for establishment politics, that it is insane that today, almost all new income and wealth has gone to the top 1 percent, that we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave, not to guarantee health care to all people, that is a message resonating in Pennsylvania, it's resonating in Connecticut, it's resonating all over this country.
HAYES: The primary calendar, uh, June 7th is a big date. It's the California and some other states.
HAYES: The 14th is DC.
HAYES: As of the 14th, everyone will have voted...
HAYES: -- in the territories. Right now, you're at 45 percent of pledged delegates, Secretary Clinton is at 55 percent. She's got about 2.7 million more votes.
SANDERS: By the way, that's not quite accurate, because I think a lot of the votes cast in the caucus states have not been counted and we've won some of those states by 70 percent.
HAYES: But you would agree that she's won more?
HAYES: On the 14th, um, do you agree that the person who's won the most pledged delegates and the most votes is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party?
SANDERS: This is what I believe. Now, I know the media has got into all of the process issues. What this campaign is about is transforming the United States of America. What this campaign is about is bringing millions of people into the political process. And I'm very proud of the -- the fact that we have had (INAUDIBLE) to do that.
Now, at the end of the process, you know, frankly, if we are behind in the pledged delegates, I think it's very hard for us to win. But I think we are going to make the case, also, that if you look at the polling and if you look at reality, I believe -- and I'm not the only one who believes this -- that we are the stronger campaign in taking on Donald Trump or any other Republican candidate. And I think that most of -- most Democrats out there, more than anything -- correctly so -- want to make sure that some right-wing Republican doesn't become president of the United States.
HAYES: Let me ask you about that because...
HAYES: -- and I -- I sort of share your feeling about process, frankly. I mean I know the...
SANDERS: My response is then let's now talk about process all afternoon.
HAYES: Well, but -- but -- right. On, and I agree. But -- but there's also a principal aspect to it.
HAYES: I mean the -- the principle is Democrat control of the Democratic Party...
HAYES: -- in the sense of you want the person who got the most votes to be the nominee.
SANDERS: Look, you also -- let's talk about principles. Hundreds and hundreds of super delegates, parts of the Democratic establishment, voted for Hillary Clinton...
SANDERS: -- or pledged to come on board her campaign before I even announced my candidacy.
SANDERS: And those people have a right to rethink the decision that they made. And if they conclude, for a dozen different reasons, that we are a stronger campaign -- and by the way, this is not just talking off the top of my head, virtually every poll that's out there, as you know, shows that Bernie Sanders is better against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton because nobody gets other Republican candidates.
Should that be taken into consideration?
Yes, I do. I think so.
HAYES: How hard do you see yourself pressing that case?
SANDERS: Look, again, the issue to me right now is we've got five states tomorrow, if -- we've got 10 remaining states, including the largest state in this country. And what I'm going to focus on is the burning issue facing the American people that we have got to talk about.
Why is it that the middle class has been declining for the last 35 years?
Are we happy that 58 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
Are we doing enough to address the crisis of climate change and make sure that the planet that we leave our children and grandchildren is a healthy planet.
Are we happy with the corrupt campaign finance system, which super PACs and billionaires are buying elections.
Those are the issues that we have got to focus on.
HAYES: One of the...
HAYES: -- one of the sort of sources of your -- of your -- your critique, right, when you talk about why the system is broken, um, has to do with an answer you gave to my colleague, Chuck Todd, about turnout in states and, um, you said something about, you know, a -- lower voting turnout of poor people, right?
HAYES: And -- and you got some heat for that. It is (INAUDIBLE)...
SANDERS: Why did I get heat on it?
SANDERS: -- voted for -- voted (INAUDIBLE)...
SANDERS: Look, let's be clear, this is the (INAUDIBLE)...
HAYES: And that -- and it explains a lot, right?
SANDERS: Let's be clear, the Clinton campaign has a super PAC. They have 30 people on the Internet who pick up on everything and then they create this kind of, you know, narrative.
Here is the facts, all right, dispute it if you want with me. In the last election in 2014, 63 percent of the American people didn't vote.
SANDERS: It's not a very vibrant democracy, to my mind. Eighty percent of young people, and as I understand it, 80 percent of low income people did not vote. That's a fact.
SANDERS: All right?
So what was my point?
Low income people are not voting in large numbers. I think that's a tragedy. I want to see if we can change that.
HAYES: That -- that brings me to what...
HAYES: -- ultimately you set up -- you set up this campaign that, in some ways, cast its own (INAUDIBLE), right, because the -- the campaign is about this political revolution, as you say. It's about breaking down the barriers of who does and doesn't participate.
SANDERS: This campaign is about...
HAYES: You said...
SANDERS: -- taking on the entire establishment, the Democratic establishment, the financial establishment and in Clinton's campaign, the most powerful political organization in the United States of America.
This campaign is about starting off 60 points behind Secretary Clinton and, by the way, in the last couple of weeks, a few polls had us ahead of her nationally.
All right, that's what this campaign is about.
HAYES: What have you learned, then, about what you've succeeded and failed at when you think about turning out precisely the kinds of people that don't -- that under vote in American politics?
SANDERS: I think it's very difficult. I think there are -- and this is a real American tragedy. There are millions of people, working class people and low income people who turn on the television and you know what they see?
Nothing being talked about the reality of their lives. They listen to what goes on in Congress, they can't for -- afford to feed their kids. They can't pay for their electric bills because we have 47 million people living in poverty. And they see Congress debating tax breaks for billionaires and candidates taking huge sums of money from the wealthy and the powerful.
And they conclude -- and it's kind of hard to argue with them -- that the system is -- the political system is corrupt. And they are saying and candidates taking huge sums of money from the wealthy and the powerful.
And they conclude -- and it's kind of hard to argue with them -- that the system is -- the political system is corrupt. And they are saying to themselves, why do I want to participate in this charade?
Now, we are trying -- and we've had really good success with young people. I think we're bringing out a whole lot of young people, to some degree with working class people and maybe with low income people.
But it is very, very hard to tell people who are struggling now and seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1 percent, that they should get involved in the political process, that their voices actually matter.
HAYES: So there's -- there's other folks, um, who have been running -- talking about some of those same things. Um, you've -- you've endorsed a few of them, raised money for a few of them.
There's a guy here in -- in Pennsylvania named John Fetterman. He's the mayor of a town named Braddock.
HAYES: I had him on the show, an interesting guy. The town has had a really hard time because of trade, because of the steel industry essentially dying.
He endorsed you. He says he feels basically like he's a -- sitting there without a -- with a corsage, waiting for the -- (INAUDIBLE) the Sanders mutual endorsement.
SANDERS: Well, I -- I honestly don't know John and I've heard just a little bit about him. Um, what we are trying to do now, we have endorsed and gotten some money to some candidates and I hope they win. I just don't know enough about, uh, John, to be honest with you.
HAYES: Um, there's -- this -- this connects to another question people have, which is about this movement that you've built.
SANDERS: I haven't built it. This is a movement of millions of people who are beginning to stand up and fight back.
HAYES: But you've -- you've facilitated (INAUDIBLE)...
SANDERS: I am the candidate for president that many of them...
SANDERS: -- are supporting.
HAYES: And so then the question becomes, to a lot of people, you know, you -- look, a year ago, I don't -- you were not a Democrat, right?
You -- now you are one of the most powerful Democrats in America.
Whatever happened after that?
You've raised more money than anyone ever, right?
SANDERS: No, I've raised more money than anyone ever?
HAYES: Up to this point, you are (INAUDIBLE)...
SANDERS: Oh, you mean...
HAYES: -- in primary hard dollars.
SANDERS: -- no, Hillary Clinton -- Clinton has raised more money than we have. She has a couple of super PACs (INAUDIBLE)...
HAYES: Right. In hard -- in hard dollars, and particularly in small donors, right, you've done (INAUDIBLE)...
SANDERS: We have -- this is -- let me be very clear about this. I am enormously proud. This campaign, our campaign, does not have a super PAC, does not want a super PAC. What we have done is received over seven million individual campaign contributions, averaging $27 apiece.
I am enormously proud of that.
HAYES: So the question then is...
HAYES: -- we have seen before, um, campaigns -- we have seen before campaigns that were able to ignite, uh, tremendous passion from folks, volunteer, knock on doors, give money, right, because of all of the things you're talking about.
HAYES: And then the campaign goes away and what do you say to those folks that are supporting you about what endures from this, no matter what happens...
HAYES: -- in this outcome?
SANDERS: -- what I would say, for a start, it will be a lot easier for us to mobilize and endure if I am elected president of the United States (INAUDIBLE)...
SANDERS: -- because this is why.
SANDERS: And every day I say this, Chris, and I suspect you've heard me say it more than one, and that is that no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can transform this country in the way we have to transform it, because of the power of the big money interests. Wall Street has an endless supply of money. Corporate America would shut down a plant in Pennsylvania tomorrow if they can move to China and make another five bucks. The corporate media very much determines the kind of conversation we have.
Your particular station is owned by whom?
HAYES: NBC Universal.
SANDERS: There we go, one of the more popular corporations in America.
SANDERS: And -- and, you know, and you've got wealthy campaign contributors. And the only way -- and let me -- let me repeat it again -- the only way we transform this country, and this I believe from the bottom of my heart -- is when millions of people stand up, fight back and demand that we have a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent.
HAYES: So we've got some great folks here, uh, in the audience. We're going to take some audience questions.
The first comes from David Zakubuwetz (ph).
He's a 20-year-old U Penn student who supports you.
SANDERS: Hi, David.
DAVID ZAKUBUWETZ: So, first, I want to say as a student, I'm very excited to be voting for the first time tomorrow for you.
So thank you.
ZAKUBUWETZ: My question is, many of your supporters are staunchly opposed to Hillary Clinton and are considering writing you in, voting for a third party candidate or not voting at all if you don't win the nomination.
I believe you will win the nomination and the presidency, but if you don't, will you encourage your supporters to vote for Secretary Clinton?
SANDERS: Well, David, thanks for the question.
And let me answer it, uh, in this way. Um, first, um, I think it is, you know, we are not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do, because you won't listen to me. You shouldn't. Uh, you'll make these decisions yourself.
I think if we end up losing -- and I hope we do not -- and if Secretary Clinton wins, it is incumbent upon her to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests.
She has got to go out to you and to millions of other people and say, yes, I think the United States should join the rest of the industrialized world and take on the private insurance companies and the greed of the drug companies and pass a Medicare for all.
I think that says Secretary Clinton, that for the young people in this country, you should not have to leave college $30,000, $50,000, $70,000 in debt because we're going to make as many other countries around the world do, public colleges and universities tuition-free. I think Secretary Clinton is going to have to explain to millions of young people and a lot of other people that climate change is a real crisis and incrementalism is just not going to solve it. That's...
SANDERS: And she is going to have to come on board and say, yes, I know it's hard, but I am going to take on the fossil fuel industry and pass a carbon tax.
So the -- the point that I am making is, it is incumbent upon Secretary Clinton to reach out not only to my supporters, but to all of the American people, with an agenda that they believe will represent the interests of working families, lower income people, the middle class, those of us who are concerned about the environment and not just big money interests.
HAYES: There is -- there are Hillary Clinton supporters who I talk to, um, people who -- some of whom are -- are die hard (INAUDIBLE) they voted for her, they like you, they like your politics. But it -- but there is concern that thing you said at the beginning of that answer strikes me as important. You can't snap your fingers. I mean people -- this thing is big and people are very passionate.
Um, you know, you have Tim Robbins' gun event for you. He Tweeted something today about the elections being stolen. And Rosario Dawson mentioned Monica Lewinsky and all of that is going to come out in the wash, I agree.
But the question for you is, if it's incumbent on her, what role do you have if and when you come to that moment?
SANDERS: Good (ph).
SANDERS: Fair question.
SANDERS: I work with Republicans in the U.S. Senate and I see what they do in the House. I think the Republican Party today has moved so far to the right that they are way, way, way out of touch with where the American people are.
These are people who almost without exception do not even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone want to anything about it.
They want to cut Social Security and give tax breaks to billionaires. They want to end the Affordable Care Act, but they have nothing to replace it with.
I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle.
HAYES: Um, all right, we are going to take a quick break and we will be back right here at the National Constitution Center with more questions from the (INAUDIBLE).
HAYES: We are back here in the National Constitution Center with Bernie Sanders in a town hall.
We have a question now from Becky Cerna (ph), who is at U Penn studying nursing and is undecided.
BECKY CERNA: Hi. My name is Becky and my parents are undocumented immigrants who arrived from Mexico so that I could have opportunities that they could only dream of. This has come with a life full of personal sacrifices and economic hardship.
You propose to implement immigration reform that will create a path to full and equal citizenship.
How will you ensure that after implementation, immigrants like my grand -- like my parents, aren't treated as second class citizens?
SANDERS: Um, Becky, thank you for the question.
Uh, we have 11 million undocumented people in this country today. Many of them are being exploited because when you don't have any legal rights, your employer can take advantage of you.
Many of them are living in fear and living in the shadows.
So I believe absolutely that we have to move aggressively toward comprehensive immigration reform.
My dad was an immigrant. He came to this country at the age of 17. I know a little bit about the immigrant experience.
Comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.
Now, my concern is that if Congress does not do what it should do and pass that legislation, I will pick up where President Obama left office and use the executive powers of the presidency to do everything that I can to make your parents safe in this country and not afraid.
And the other thing that I will do, where I do disagree with President Obama, I will end the deportations (INAUDIBLE).
HAYES: All right, um, we now have Natalie Herbert.
She is getting a PhD from the Annenberg School of Communications at U Penn and supports Hillary Clinton.
NATALIE HERBERT: Thank you, Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Thank you.
HERBERT: So much of your campaign rhetoric is about revolutionary politics. But so much of a president's job is inherently tied to institutions and bureaucracies as they exist.
So, how do you keep the revolutionary spirit alive despite these constraints?
SANDERS: OK. Thank you.
Um, you're right in saying that a lot of the day to day work is going to take place in Capitol Hill and it's messy and there's a lot of negotiating. What I will tell you is that when I was in the House, in a given number of years, I ended up passing more amendments on the floor of the House working with Republicans than any other member of the House. I can work with Republicans.
Just a few years ago, I helped pass, as chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, the most comprehensive veterans legislation in modern history...
SANDERS: -- working with John McCain and a number of other Republicans.
So if the question is, can I sit down, you know, with conservative people like Chris here and negotiate with them...
SANDERS: -- yes, I can do that.
But let me also say this, and this is important. At the end of the day, the powers that be, the powers who control -- people who control the Congress, the big money interests and Wall Street, they are not going to allow the kind of real change that this country needs, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ending our disastrous trade policies so that corporate America starts investing in this country rather than China, making sure that women do not continue to earn 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, aggressively addressing climate change, making sure that public colleges and universities are tuition-free.
That is not going to be done by Congress itself. That requires a political revolution. And as president of the United States, what I would do is use the bully pulpit in an unprecedented way to rally the American people to demand that the Congress listens to their needs, not just the needs of wealthy campaign contributors.
HAYES: President Obama...
HAYES: -- President Obama, when he came into office, had this new, unprecedented thing called Obama for America, right, where they...
HAYES: -- they basically preserved the campaign organization...
HAYES: -- and...
HAYES: -- full disclosure, my brother worked for them. He was an organizer. Um, and that proved tough, in a lot of ways, for it to work. Um, part of that, I think, had to do with the inherent tension between being the president of the United States and outside power.
What have you learned from that?
What is the model, if that -- if that seemed to not do what you're talking about...
SANDERS: Actually, I talked to the president about that. And from what he, you know, indicated, it's tough. And it is tough. It is really tough.
Uh, but I think that one of the most important things that a president can do is to help ordinary people come together in a variety of grassroots organizations to put the pressure on the Congress to counterbalance the pressure that Wall Street and wealthy campaign contributors now exert.
For example, let me just give you one example and on this one, I am 100 percent sure that I'm right.
If the young people of this country stood up and were very loud and clear that they are sick and tired of leaving college $30,000, $50,000, $70,000 in debt, that they want public colleges and universities tuition-free, and if millions of them stood up, started emailing, writing and demonstrating, without the slightest doubt, that is exactly what would happen.
SANDERS: So the question is, this is what the American people want.
The question is, how we put together...
SANDERS: -- that type of grassroots organization...
HAYES: But that's a hard thing to do.
SANDERS: It is a hard thing to do. But for the future of this country, that is exactly what has to be done.
Let me say this about the president...
SANDERS: -- somebody I love and have enormous respect for. I think because he is such a decent guy, in many respects, he actually believed that he could walk into the Oval Office and sit down with Republicans and negotiate in good faith. He was wrong about that. Republicans had no intention of ever negotiating in good faith. What they wanted to do was obstruct, obstruct, obstruct in an unprecedented way.
And it took the president a number of years to learn that lesson. He knows it now and that's why his pen (ph) and executive orders are flying out. I have learned that lesson. I will know that when I get into the Oval Office.
HAYES: Do you predict that would -- whoever the Democratic president, should there be a Democratic president elected in January of next year, do you believe they will be met with functionally that same attitude?
SANDERS: Yes. I think the Republican Party, as I mentioned a moment ago, has moved very, very far to the right. Obviously they are beholden to the wealthy corporate interests, but they are now also beholden to an extreme right wing base, you know, people who are active in the horrific, you know, Trump ethic, on the birther movement, people who are very hostile to immigrants.
You see Trump talking about and referring to Mexicans as racists and criminals, wanting to ban Muslims from coming into this country. And those concepts do have a certain support.
So do I think if I became president that we'd run into that type of obstructionism? Yes, I do.
HAYES: Terry (ph) Smith, legal aid lawyer, undecided until the issue that she is going to, I believe, ask you a question about.
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, I was surprised and disappointed to hear you oppose Philadelphia's efforts to bring universal preschool to all kids through a tax on big soda distributors. Here in Pennsylvania we have a state legislature that doesn't adequately fund our existing public schools, and importantly, we also have a constitution that prohibits us from taxing just the wealthy.
So given those constraints, I'm interested in hearing your ideas for funding winnable anti-poverty agendas like pre-K for all.
SANDERS: First of all, please do not be disappointed in my views on pre-K. I believe that we have right now in my state and in Pennsylvania a dysfunctional pre-K system, which is a national disgrace. That we have child care workers who make less than McDonald's employees, where we have parents who cannot find quality affordable childcare.
We have kids who are entering school way behind because they are not getting the intellectual or emotional nourishment that they need. I believe absolutely, and if elected president one of my priorities would be to establish a cutting-edge high-quality pre-K system in every state in this country. I can't think of many things that are more important to me than that.
But when it comes to funding these programs, at a time when we have massive income and wealth inequality, when the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, when 58 percent of all the income goes to the top 1 percent, to ask poor people to pay for that, it's wrong. You are taking money from the people who are hurting the most.
So please count me in as somebody who will aggressively lead the effort for universal, high quality childcare, but I believe it has to be funded in a progressive way. The wealthy and large corporations are going to have to pay for it.
HAYES: A follow-up on that because I think it's a really tricky issue and there are people of all kinds of politics on either side of the issue. You know, the big soda companies are on the same side of that, right. And they have poured -- I saw them pour millions of dollars in New York City to fight that. And that's their argument, right. I mean, how do you feel when you end up on the same side as them?
SANDERS: Look, big soda companies will do what they do. And let me also be clear. I am more than aware of the negative role that sugar is playing in terms of obesity and health in the United States. But what we have got to do is to have progressive taxation.
Look, and I don't want to have to repeat it, the truth is the very, very rich are becoming much richer. Almost everybody else is becoming poor. It is absurd to go to some of the poorest people and raise their taxes. And by the way, this tax, if I recall, is three cents an ounce. Twelve ounce bottle of soda, that's 36 cents, times five sodas week, that's two bucks, 100 bucks a year. If you don't have a lot of money, you know, that's a lot.
So I think what we have got to do is to understand that nationally we need progressive taxation. There are corporations, Chris, right now who make billions of dollars a year in profit, stash their money in the Cayman Islands, not paying a nickel in federal taxes. I intend to and that.
There are multimillionaires and hedge fund operators who pay an effective tax rate lower than many of the people here. I intend to end that.
So the argument is not whether we have a high quality pre-K system. We must do that. The argument is that we have got to fund it by asking the wealthiest people who are doing phenomenally well to start paying their fair share of taxes.
HAYES: Going to take a quick break, and we've got some more from the National Constitution Center in just a minute. Don't go anywhere.
HAYES: We are back at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We've got a whole bunch of folks with questions on the issues, and Senator Bernie Sanders who wants to answer those questions. Do not go anywhere. We will be back with much, much more.
HAYES: We are back at the National Constitution Center with Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic nominee for president. And our next question comes from Suleiman Rahman (ph), who is 48 years old and undecided. Mr. Rahman.
QUESTION: I want to ask a similar question that was posed to Secretary Clinton about there has been a lot of talk around mass incarceration. Can you speak to, as president, how you will address the issue around the collateral consequences of convictions around housing, around employment, around education.
SANDERS: Thank you for that important question. As a nation we should be profoundly embarrassed that we have more people in jail than any other country on earth. We spend $80 billion a year locking up 2.2 million people, disproportionately African-American, Latino and Native American.
For a thought, what I would propose is when we have unemployment rates of minority kids of 40 or 50 percent, that maybe it makes more sense to invest in jobs and education for those kids rather than jail and incarceration.
Second of all, we need to end over-policing, and we need to de-militarize local police departments so they don't look like occupying forces.
Thirdly, we need to make police departments reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Number four, we need to make sure that we end private ownership of prisons and detention centers. And very importantly, and Secretary Clinton and I have a big difference of opinion on this, I think we really need to rethink the war on drugs.
Now it turns out that in the last 30 years millions of people have received criminal records because of possession of marijuana. And it turns out also, interestingly enough, that the white community and the black community do marijuana at about equal levels. But blacks are four times more likely to be arrested than whites. So this becomes a racial issue and not just a criminal justice issue.
I would take marijuana out of the Federal Controlled Substance Act.
HAYES: Senator, some of sort of the knock-on effects of a criminal justice conviction, particularly a felony conviction, that Mr. Rahman just mentioned, are punitive across the board, right. Student aid, living in public housing. Some of that comes from the '94 crime bill.
That was a bill that you got on the floor and said there was a lot about this bill I don't like. You also voted for it. Was that a mistake?
SANDERS: Well, it's one of these things where you have a -- has the bill had absolutely horrendous impact in terms of mass incarceration? Absolutely. Is that an awful thing? Yes it is. It also had in it, when you sit there and vote, the Violence Against Women Act. And I worked very hard as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, trying to end domestic violence.
It also had in it, as you know, the ban on assault weapons. And I have believed from way back when that assault weapons should not be sold or distributed in the United States of America. These are weapons design not for hunting but to kill people.
So, you know, I could see if I had voted against the bill, you know, there would be 30-second ads saying, Bernie Sanders didn't vote to ban assault weapons, didn't support women in the fight against domestic violence.
But here is the more important point. It has had a disastrous impact and we've got to undo the damage that it caused.
HAYES: Obviously you can't go back in time, right. But you learn things about votes -- because all votes, frankly, have some stuff on one side or the other. I mean, do you wish you had that vote back?
SANDERS: I wish I had a different piece of legislation. I wish that I could vote for the Violence Against Women Act. And I want to see assault weapons banned in the United States, weapons that were used in Sandy Hook and in other areas.
So what we need to do, it doesn't -- you know, 1994 was a long time ago. What we need to do now is address this very serious issue. And I have said this. Let me repeat it again, that if elected president, by the end of my first term we will not have more people in jail than any other country.
Now the other point that you made, and I thought you were going there, is many people who have felonies in this country, believe it or not 2 million people, lose their right to vote and participate in the political process. My state of Vermont is one of the few states that allows felons to vote. I think we should do that nationally.
HAYES: It's been interesting to watch the '94 crime bill being debated in this. I think in the case of Secretary Clinton, if you asked her or people said, what's the biggest vote she regrets, I think people would say it's Iraq. I think she would say that. That's a sort of obvious answer to that.
What is your answer to that question? What is the piece of legislation in the 40 years you have done this where you think to yourself, I got that one wrong?
SPEAKER: (OFF MIKE)
SANDERS: Well, you know, Chris, it's hard. I've cast many, many thousands of votes, and there was one vote where it was almost unanimous in the House on de-regulating derivatives and so forth. I should've voted the other way. I mean, like four people -- you know, I had help lead the effort against de-regulation. That was a bad vote.
But I'll tell you something. As I look back on my voting record, you know, Secretary Clinton -- and I don't mean to be overly partisan here -- supported DOMA in 1996, and that is the Defense of Marriage Act, which I think she has since apologized for. It was a homophobic piece of legislation. Back then it was not easy to vote against that piece of legislation, all right. I voted against that piece of legislation.
Back in the early 1990s, when all of corporate America and all Republicans and many Democrats were pushing these disastrous trade agreements, NAFTA and later CAFTA and permanent noble trade relations with China, I didn't vote for any of them. I helped lead the opposition to them.
So I'm not saying by any means that after thousands of those I did not cast a bad vote. I did. But I will say that time and time again I took on issues and voted -- cast votes that were unpopular at the time but turned out years later -- whether it's the vote against the war in Iraq, the vote against trade agreements, voting against DOMA, voting against the first Gulf war. Those are votes that I cast. They were not popular votes. Those are the votes that I cast, and I'm proud of casting those votes.
HAYES: We'll be back with much more with Senator Sanders and live questions at the National Constitution Center in just a bit. Don't go anywhere.
HAYES: We're back at National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, site of one of tomorrow's five big contests in the primary, and we have a question now from (Miguel Garces), he's 29 years old and he is supporting Senator Sanders.
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, you said that you think that the U.S. airstrikes are authorized under current law, but does that mean that the U.S. military can lawfully strike ISIS-affiliated groups in any country around the world?
SANDERS: No, it does not mean that. I hope, by the way, that we will have an authorization passed by the Congress, and I am prepared to support that authorization if it is tight enough so I am satisfied that we do not get into a never-ending perpetual war in the Middle East. That I will do everything I can to avoid.
But the President, no President, has the ability willy-nilly to be dropping bombs or using drones any place he wants.
HAYES: The current authorization which you cite in what Miguel just quoted which is the authorization to use military force after 9/11. That has led to the kill list. This President -- literally, there is a kill list. There is a list of people that the U.S. government wants to kill, and it goes about doing it. Would you keep the kill list as President of the United States?
SANDERS: Look. Terrorism is a very serious issue. There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a lot of right to defend ourselves. I think as Miguel said, though, it has to be done in a constitutional, legal way.
HAYES: Do you think what's being done now is constitutional and legal?
SANDERS: In general I do, yes.
HAYES: One more question -- the announcement today that the U.S. is going to send 250 Special Forces operators on the ground in Syria. Do you agree with that? Do you think that's permissible, given the fact that there has not been an authorization?
SANDERS: I think the -- look. Here's the bottom line. ISIS has got to be destroyed, and the way that ISIS must be destroyed is not through American troops fighting on the ground. ISIS must be destroyed and King Abdullah of Jordan has made this clear, that the war is for the soul of Islam and it must be won by the Muslim nations themselves.
I think what the President is talking about is having American troops training Muslim troops, helping to supply the military equipment they need, and I do support that effort. We need a broad coalition of Muslim troops on the ground. We have had some success in the last year or so putting ISIS on the defensive, we've got to continue that effort.
HAYES: All right, the next question comes from (Monica Hunt).
QUESTION: Hello. How do you plan on protecting women's reproductive rights in all states?
SANDERS: You got it. I do. And I'll tell you how.
I have a 100 percent, lifetime pro-choice voting record. I believe --
Not only do I vigorously oppose Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, I think we should expand funding for Planned Parenthood ---
And it is no secret that in states all over this country, in a dozen different ways, there are governors and legislatures who are trying to make it impossible for a woman to control her own body.
I will use the Department of Justice to go after those states in every way that I legally can. I believe that in the United States of America women have that right to control their own body, and I find that, I must say, completely hypocritical for my Republican colleagues who tell us every day how much they hate government, how they want to get government out of our life, but they think that local state and federal government have the right to tell you and every woman in America what she can do with her body.
That is hypocrisy.
HAYES: There's a very big abortion case before this eight member Court that is a challenge to the Texas law. That Texas law -- many people believe essentially it upheld death-row inmates in all but name. Meaning it wouldn't overturn it (CROSS TALK) how bid a deal is that court case to you?
SANDERS: Of course it's a big deal. And by the way, that is why it goes without saying, that if elected President, I will appoint or nominate people to the Supreme Court who number one are prepared to overturn Citizens United, a disaster and a (poor decision) and number two, absolutely protect a woman's right to choose.
HAYES: This has obviously been a contentious fight, on the Democratic side, although not, I think, the most contentious. There have been -- I went down in the archives to look at 2008, it got pretty ugly --
SANDERS: Yeah it did.
HAYES: -- and you know 1980 on the Republican side got pretty ugly and Kennedy and Carter -- there's a long list. One of the things that happens, sometimes in those contested intramural disputes is someone had the other person serve on their ticket or in their administration. Would you consider that in this case, either having Hillary Clinton on your ticket or being on hers?
SANDERS: Well let me just answer that question in exactly the way you knew I would answer it. And that is to say right now we are running as hard as we can to win this thing, and at the end of the process we'll take a look at what's going on, but right now my job is to get as many delegates as possible and try to win the nomination for President.
But you knew that that would be my answer.
HAYES: Well we try.
I've interviewed you probably dozens of times since you started running for President, and before that. And what’s happened in this campaign in some ways is things you've been talking about haven’t changed that much between before you were running for President and running for President. But you have found an audience for them that is bigger, I think it's fair to say, than when you were just a United States Senator from Vermont.
You have also had to go out and politic in places where you didn't have to politic before. You're from Vermont. You've been in Baltimore, you've been in Philadelphia, been in Chicago. You are trying to run the Obama coalition, right? You are trying to -- you're running in the party of the first black president. What have you learned on this campaign about race in America, about the way this coalition operates? What have you learned -- what have you come away thinking, "I did not know before I ran for President, this, and now I know?"
SANDERS: How many hours do we have to discuss that? I mean, one of the extraordinary things about the experience of running for President is you learn just so, so much, and you meet so many extraordinary people.
We have been -- I have been, obviously, to Flint, Michigan -- and let me tell you something Chris. I will never forget that experience as long as I live talking to a mother who described to me the breakdown of the cognitive capabilities of her daughter because that daughter was drinking poisoned water.
And you ask yourself how that could possibly happen in the United States of America. You've heard me being critical of media more times than one, but I think people in America really don't know, not only what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, they don't know that the Detroit public school system is on the verge of a fiscal collapse. They don't know that in Baltimore, Maryland there are tens of thousands of heroin addicts. They don't know that in inner cities all over this country people are paying 40, 50, 60 percent of their limited incomes for housing, that there is not enough affordable housing. People do not really know what is going on in African-American communities where kids are suffering 40, 50, 60 percent rates of unemployment and what I have learned in this campaign, is if I get elected President we are gonna change national priorities.
We're not just gonna rebuild communities in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're going to rebuild them in the United States of America.
Hayes: Senator Sanders, thank you very much. Everyone here at National Constitution Center, we thank you very much, (regret to leave) all these wonderful folks.
Up next don't go anywhere, Rachel Maddow hosts another super town hall event with Hillary Clinton.