On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appeared at Liberty University — yes, the private Christian college that threatened to fine students if they did not watch Ted Cruz announce his candidacy — to, as the Vermont Senator says, find some common ground with conservatives in his war on corruption and income inequality in America.
Liberty University, a heavily conservative private Christian college established by evangelist Jerry Falwell, seems a strange place for Sanders to visit. For one, it is almost shocking that the school allowed the Democratic Socialist on campus, let alone allowed him to speak. Students are fined heavily for smoking cigarettes, attending a dance, going to an R-rated movie, and a host of other nonsensical “infractions,” so it seems almost a certainty that having an original thought is out of the question. In 2009, the school earned the ire of anyone who values freedom of expression by revoking its recognition of a club for college Democrats.
Nevertheless, Jerry Falwell, Jr. allowed Sanders to visit — probably because, as a nonprofit, the school is required to invite all presidential candidates. Last week, Falwell said he was “pleasantly surprised” that Sanders would be visiting. Though the school has to host candidates of all persuasions, the school’s president says he hopes the appearance by the democratic Socialist will reverse the impression that Liberty University is not open to opposing views.
“We’ve always tried to present both sides because we believe that college students are at an age where they need to hear viewpoints from all ends of the spectrum,” Falwell said. “We’re proud of our students for treating speakers that are not in line with their views with respect.”
Responding to a question from a student, Sanders called out Republican hypocrisy on a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to (or needs to) have an abortion. “Senator Sanders, you have talked in your campaign about how it is immoral to protect the billionaire class at the expense of the most vulnerable in society — children,” the student said, setting up the inevitable abortion question. “A majority of Christians would agree with you, but would also go further and say that children in the womb need our protection even more. How do you reconcile the two in your mind?”
“I understand that,” Sanders replied, “but I do also understand this is an area where we disagree. I do understand and I do believe that it is improper for the United States government or for state government to tell every woman in this country the very painful and difficult choice that she has to make on that issue.”
“And I honestly don’t want to be too provocative here, but very often conservatives say, ‘Well, you know, get the government out of my life!’ I don’t want the government telling me what to do,” Sanders continued. “But on this very sensitive issue on which this nation is divided.” Sanders said that his view is that he respects a family that chooses not to have an abortion, but he “would hope that other people will respect the very painful and difficult choice that many women feel they have to make and don’t want the government telling them what to do.”
“But, I want to take that question a step further,” he said. “Here is where I hope we have common ground.” Warning that he was about to unleash his inner liberal, Sanders really let the Republican party have it: “I want to tell you what was in the Republican budget that passed a number of months ago.” He explained:
“When you talk about issues of children, understand the Republican budget threw 27 million people off of health care, including many children, at a time when many families cannot afford to send their kids to college. And I am running on a program that says every public college and university in America should be tuition-free. But at a time when families could not afford to send their kids to college, the Republican budget cut $90 billion dollars in Pell grants over a 10-year period.
At a time when children in America are going hungry, the Republican budget cut billions of dollars in nutrition programs, including money for the WIC program, which goes to low income pregnant women and their babies. And to add insult to injury in that budget, the Republicans provided over $250 billion dollars over a 10-year period in tax breaks to the top two tenths of one percent.”
“I don’t think that is a moral budget,” Sanders said, driving the point home. Watch the Senator shame Republicans, who love the fetus and hate the child until he or she is of military age, below:
What do you think?
Colin Taylor is the managing editor of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.