[image-1] Bernie Sanders appeared as spirited as ever during a speech at a church banquet hall in North Charleston Tuesday afternoon.
Over the course of 20 minutes, Sanders railed against the federal government shutdown, President Donald Trump, and the political influence of “oligarchs” and “billionaires” like the Koch brothers, who are known to pour their vast fortune into conservative, corporate-friendly causes.
“We have a president who is a pathological liar,” Sanders said. “This is a president who is intentionally and purposefully trying to divide our people up based on the color of their skin, where they were born, their sexual orientation.”
The Vermont senator has served an independent since he was first elected to Congress in 1991, but caucuses with Democrats in the Senate. He previously served as the mayor of Burlington, Vt. for eight years.
On Tuesday, Sanders criticized Trump’s standoff with Congress over funding for a border wall, which has forced much of the federal government to stay home or work without pay for a month.
“They got kids they gotta feed,” Sanders said of federal workers. “They got mortgages they gotta pay. You do not deny a paycheck to 800,000 workers and their families. That is not being a friend of working families.”
Sanders delivered a litany of goals, ideals, and grievances that echo his platform in the 2016 Democratic primary race. The democratic socialist lost the presidential nomination to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after capturing just 43 percent of the national Democratic vote, but only 26 percent in South Carolina.
South Carolina is a key early primary state where, in 2016, non-white voters made up 66 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, according to the State Election Commission.
Sanders’ trip to the state is just one of a few being made by potential 2020 contenders.
On Monday, the senator attended Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances in Columbia. Earlier on Tuesday, Sanders visited Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, and spoke to state lawmakers including the Legislative Black Caucus.
“Each member of each caucus was really moved because they felt he stuck to his message,” said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard of Charleston. “He hadn’t changed or wavered.”
Tuesday’s event at Royal Missionary Baptist Church was organized by the political action committee Friends of Bernie Sanders along with Our Revolution S.C., Sanders’ 2016 campaign arm in South Carolina. Before the senator took the stage, organizers asked members of the media to leave the “closed event.” The press was eventually allowed to stay.
The event was promoted as a “meet-and-greet,” though the senator had a plane to catch and left after shaking just a few hands near the stage.
Ultimately, the 77-year-old senator from Vermont did not announce any plans for the 2020 race.
“I’m hoping he’ll run,” said Veronica Polite, a Ladson resident and a member of Royal Missionary. “Age shouldn’t be a factor like everybody says.”
“Personally, I hope he would announce,” Gilliard added.