Dr. King’s Influence On Bernie Sanders Evident In His Policies

As the Democratic primary race heats up, we take a moment to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mission. In 1963, King gave his historically significant “I Have a Dream” speech, which helped propel the Civil Rights Movement to the forefront of public consciousness.

On that day, Bernie Sanders marched on Washington, and he is the only presidential candidate that was there to see MLK speak.

In June, 2015, Sanders wrote about his experience.

“I was there for his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and I heard him say that African-Americans live ‘on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of materiel prosperity.’ Dr. King taught us that the struggle for justice is economic, as well as social and legal.”

He also iterated something that has been a common theme for his campaign: the income inequality among black people is even more striking than it is for the general population overall.

“One think is clear: We are not making the progress that Dr. King called us to achieve in the 1960s. More than one in four African-Americans live in poverty, while that figure is less than one in ten for whites. The median income for African-American households is less than 60 percent that of white households. And a recent study from Brandeis University shows that the wealth gap between black and white families has nearly tripled over the last 25 years.”

A large part of the reason for the lack of progress is, indeed, economic. Who is in charge of the money? As Bernie Sanders indicates, fewer than 100 people in the country control 90 percent of the wealth. And because black people have been historically oppressed through official and unofficial means since before the United States even became a nation, the struggle for true racial equality remains an uphill battle.

COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (2nd L) marches in the King Day at the Dome parade January 18, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. The event at the South Carolina State House drew appearances from Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC – JANUARY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (2nd L) marches in the King Day at the Dome parade January 18, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. On the left is prominent Ohio Democratic leader, Nina Turner, who has been stumping for Sanders. [Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images]
After his mother passed away, Bernie Sanders left Brooklyn and went to University of Chicago, where he was arrested for being an “outside agitator” during the Civil Rights Movement. Again, he is the only candidate to have been arrested for fighting for minorities.

During Sunday night’s contentious debate, Hillary Clinton attempted to paint Bernie Sanders as the candidate who wants to destroy health care. She conveniently forgot that right up until the day she announced her candidacy that she had advocated for a universal health care system since her own husband was president. That’s 20 years for a single payer system. But when Bernie Sanders stood up and implored Americans to embrace his own plan, she attempted to tear him down.

And rapper Killer Mike, who is stumping for Bernie, had some choice words to say about his favorite candidate.

“Look at their policies, look at their philosophies. Look at that picture of Dr. King that’s been on your grandma’s wall for your whole life, and say to yourself: Whose policies best identify with that that? In my case, that’s Senator Sanders.”


And Killer Mike is right. When comparing Sanders and Dr. King, it is clear that the Vermont senator’s policies and philosophies most closely align with those of Dr. King, who had some choice words of his own for the income inequality he saw day-to-day.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

MLK also had harsh words for the very wealthy who benefited from corporate welfare.

“This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.”

Bernie Sanders was obviously influenced heavily by Dr. King’s words and beliefs, because, as Killer Mike has said many times, Sanders’ policies are the only ones that most closely resemble MLK’s hope for the future, for both black and white people. As Hillary Clinton tries to smear his clean record of actually working for people and not corporations, Bernie Sanders continues to work for the future that Dr. King envisioned.

[Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty]