By Amrit Singh
Last week, Bernie Sanders accepted REVOLT's offer (in conjunction with Vote America Now) to join us in-studio for a social conversation with likely young voters. And so, the U.S. Senator from Vermont rolled into Hollywood, walked through our studio doors and joined me for a 90-minute conversation with young voters from across California, all with an eye toward the state's June 7th primary. It's embedded below! (And it's worth noting that REVOLT 2 Vote is a non-partisan initiative, and that we have extended invitations to the Clinton and Trump campaigns for similar events.)
With the goal of this "Social Conversation" series being to maximize access to the candidate's ideas while also giving the voters an opportunity not only to ask questions but also to express their ideas, we created this structure for the program, which can double as your viewing guide.
The show is formatted into seven acts. For Acts I and II, I spoke with voters in the studio audience—as well as those joining us by satellite link-up from USC and UCLA and those on social media using #REVOLT2Vote—about everything from student loans and criminal justice reform to how they define "authenticity" in a presidential candidate.
Act III is Bernie's address, which begins at 23:30 and runs for a half-hour, and touches upon the core issues that have animated his campaign to date. These included economic concerns like treating America’s deep financial disparities with higher taxes on the highest earners and on "Wall Street speculation"; criminal justice issues like restructuring the prison industrial complex, decreasing the recidivism (i.e. the return-to-jail) rate by increasing resources in impoverished areas, demilitarizing the police, and reclassifying marijuana’s controlled substance status; making college tuition free and reducing existing student debt by refinancing high-interest loans; social issues like marriage and wage equality, regardless of sex; and making health care available to all.
Then we heard from The People, with Acts IV focusing on Student Loans (at the 55:00 mark) and Act V framing Criminal Justice Reform (starting at the 1hr 07mm mark). The Senator left the building at the end of Act V to attend another rally, and the final two acts (beginning at 1:18:00 and 1:28:00) were given over to deconstructing and analyzing what the Senator just spoke about, and also what the students perceived to be the most important issues and characteristics of this campaign season.
In addition to his tried and true issues, the Senator offered made some specific and unprecedented points. When I asked him about how we should handle the fact that our nation has the highest incarceration rates in the world (100 of every 724,000 are in prison), often for nonviolent crimes stemming from lower-income areas, the Senator laid out a bit of a clemency agenda, saying "We have to look at these on a case-by-case basis." (This happens at 1:08:00.) The Senator also made waves by accepting Donald Trump's apparent invite to debate (before Trump changed his mind). (This goes down early in his speech in Act III.)
It wasn't just the Senator who offered revealing remarks, of course. During Act II, a student named Crystal joined me for a conversation that began about criminal justice before becoming a larger conversation about authenticity, and how candidates can achieve this characteristic which is at a premium in 2016. Per Crystal: "It's in the way they talk to their audience...it's a feeling and a vibe." (This begins at the 16:00 mark, and also incorporates students from the USC campus.)
The perspectives here are instructive and invaluable to all candidates. REVOLT 2 Vote exists to help young voters instruct the campaigns on how best to talk to them, and we thank Senator Sanders for helping kickstart this Social Conversation. Looking forward to furthering the dialogue as the electoral stage continues to take shape. (So, Hillary, Donald, check your cell. We out here.)