Killer Mike and Senator Bernie Sanders agree on a lot, and now there’s video to prove it.
In November, the rapper Michael Render, known as Killer Mike, introduced Sanders with a powerful message of support at a rally in his hometown of Atlanta after spending hours with the candidate. It wasn’t revealed at the time, but Render asked Sanders questions in a recorded interview released today, on subjects ranging from Donald Trump’s fascism to legalizing marijuana and the nature of socialism.
Senator Sanders’ relationship with black communities has been unusual Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted one of his rallies over the summer, though Render praised him for his response to that event, which has involved a major reorientation towards racial justice beyond that of his fellow Democratic candidates. Still, Sanders trails badly among black voters, mostly due to his very low name recognition versus Hillary Clinton.
On the other hand, Sanders has been surprisingly popular among prominent rappers. Besides Killer Mike, Texas rappers Bun B of the legendary duo UGK and Scarface of the Geto Boys, and Bay Area rapper Lil B, have publicly endorsed Sanders, among others. Bun B’s announcement took place on a new Hip Hop For Bernie Sanders podcast, implying that more artist endorsements are soon to come.
Render is a rapper from Atlanta who started his career in association with Outkast’s Dungeon Family and has seen huge success most recently as half of the duo Run The Jewels. Run The Jewels deals head-on with issues of power, inequality, and racism, so it was a natural step when Mike spoke out on police violence in Ferguson and around the nation, and riots. He has been an increasingly vocal supporter of the democratic socialist presidential candidate since he first announced his endorsement of Sanders in June. He described himself in the Sanders interview as “a capitalist that’s backing a socialist for president,” and he set out to find out what made Sanders different from other candidates.
Health Care Is A Right
“Why are we the only major country that doesn’t have health care for all of our people? It’s not a radical idea,” Sanders said.
“The first thing I ask Americans who preach fear of a one-payer health care system,” Render said, “I ask, ‘Have you ever been to Europe?'”
“I see in Europe, I see other things working. And I’m wondering how long before we catch up?” Render continued. “We could see a good idea and say we can implement this idea… Free health care makes sense to me. [Free] college makes sense to me… I travel and I see things that work other places and I know they would work here.”
Socialism Can Take On Greed
“There’s an African proverb that says ‘many hands make for light work,'” Render said. “And a lot of the tenets of socialism or social democracies are about everyone having some input.”
“I don’t have a problem with people making money,” Sanders said. “But I do have a problem with these guys who are worth billions spending money… to destroy Social Security. You’ve got people in this community trying to get by on 12, 13 thousand dollars a year. Why in god’s name would somebody stay up nights trying to cut their Social Security benefits, cut their Medicare, Medicaid benefits.”
Nobody Is Free Without Economic Freedom
“When we talk about rights, you have freedom of speech,” Sanders said. “You have the Constitutional right to do that. But to be truly free, you need economic rights as well. You can go out and give a speech but you don’t have food in your stomach, you don’t have a house, a roof over your head, you don’t have any education. Are you really free?” “We can do infinitely better in providing economic rights to our people.”
“So at the end of the day,” Render responded, “people want to get paid a fair wage. Because people get paid a fair wage, people get to have fairer living conditions. People get to spend more time at home with their children which gives children a bonus of confidence of ‘I can go to school and perform well, because now I have a parent in the household who can help me.'”
Incarceration And Justice Are Top Issues
Render described seeing the city workers who cleaned the sides of roads, well-paid with a union, be replaced with prisoners. “I thought you went to prison as punishment,” he said, “not to be punished.”
Sanders called mass incarceration of young black men and women ‘a tragedy almost beyond words.” “You are talking about a higher percentage of blacks in jail in America today than was the case under apartheid in South Africa.” Sanders endorsed giving felons the right to vote, doing away with minimum sentencing, reforming police departments, and taking marijuana out of the Controlled Substances Act, making it federally legal and allowing states to make it entirely legal.
CREDIT: Andrew Breiner
Inequality Is Terrible For Workers
“As a result of technology, the average worker in America is producing a lot more. Why is that person, all else being equal, earning less money?” Sanders asked. “Why is the U.S. the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people? Is it moral that the top 1/10 of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent?”
“I’ve been around long enough to see this country be a very very selfish country,” Render said. “I saw steel leave, industry leave in the 80s. I saw arts and trades get pulled out of public schools. So we have children who are not only not graduating and going to college, but kids who are graduating and don’t know how to build a wall, kids who don’t know how to do auto mechanics and aviation. We’ve lost a whole brain trust of people simply for our own greed.”
Voting Rights Are Under Attack
Render said what first drew him to Sanders was seeing him on TV speaking out for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. “I have lived in Atlanta all my life, and I’ve heard virtually no black politicians outraged about it. You were the only voice of outrage.”
“As a result of the Supreme Court decision to gut the voting rights act, day after, they’re sitting up thinking ‘Alright, great, how do we deny people the right to vote?’ They are cowards. They’re cowards because they’re afraid to contest a free and fair election. They can’t win it. So they’ve got to figure out, how do I come up with some cockamamie scheme to deny some little old lady the right to vote because she’s going to vote against me. That disgusts me. Profoundly disgusts me.” He went on to propose automatic voter registration for every American over 18.
Gun Control Is More Contentious
Though Render and Sanders agreed on most issues that came up, gun control was the biggest difference. Though they agreed on enforced, strong instant background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and stopping straw purchases, Render emphasized the need for gun ownership for defense against the government and police, and stated his opposition to an assault weapons ban. “That’s one we disagree on,” Sanders responded, saying he supports such a ban. “That doesn’t jump me off your boat,” Render said. “That’s not enough to get me off the Bernie Sanders bus and I’d just like other gun owners to know that.”