Sanders: Clinton a 'good candidate' if you believe in 'establishment politics'
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Bernie SandersBernie SandersMusk's SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos' Blue Origin New York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas MORE branded Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE an entrenched establishment figure in front of a group of black liberal activists on Thursday, as the presidential hopeful sought to make inroads with African-American voters.

Speaking to the National Action Network, a group founded by civil rights activist Al Sharpton, Sanders argued that only a disruptor like himself is capable of bringing about change on issues like economic inequality and criminal justice reform. 

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“If you believe that those issues can be addressed by establishment politics and establishment economics, you’ve got a very good candidate to vote for, but it’s not Bernie Sanders,” the Vermont senator said.

“If you think you can run for office, have a super-PAC, and raise tens of millions of dollars from wealthy special interests and then go out and take on the big money interests and protect working families — well if you think that, you’ve got a very good candidate out there, but it’s not Bernie Sanders,” he said.

He also sought to draw a distinction between himself and Clinton on the minimum wage. Sanders has advocated for a $15 minimum wage, while Clinton has said that raising it that high could negatively impact employers in states where wages are below average.

“My opponent doesn’t think that’s right, still doesn’t, but I think it is right,” Sanders said.

Clinton addressed the same group a day earlier, where she slammed Sanders as weak on gun control and painted him as a Johnny-come-lately to causes that are important to black voters.

Sanders largely passed on criticizing Clinton directly on Thursday, but pushed back at the notion that he’s only now taken an interest in issues that concern African-Americans. 

He noted that he marched on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. 

“What Dr. King understood is of course you have to destroy segregation and open opportunity for all,” Sanders said. “But he also said, what does it matter if you desegregate the lunch counter but don’t have the money to buy the damn hamburger?”

And Sanders said he burned bridges with establishment Democrats by supporting Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid in 1988. At the time, Sanders was the mayor of Burlington.

“It wasn’t a popular thing to do,” the Independent recalled. “I had to take on the whole Democratic establishment in the state of Vermont. I stood up at a meeting in Burlington and people turned their backs on me, that’s how much they disliked what I was doing. But he won the state of Vermont.”

Both Clinton and Sanders are seeking Sharpton’s endorsement. He has indicated that he plans to endorse before New York’s primary on April 19.

The endorsement would be a huge boost to Sanders, who has struggled to win the support of black voters nationally.

Clinton has built up a healthy lead in delegates based on huge victories across the South, in which she ran up the score with overwhelming support from African-Americans.

And she appears poised to win in New York on Tuesday in part because of her big lead among black voters.

A Monmouth University survey released this week found Clinton leading Sanders by 13 points but taking 65 percent support among black voters, compared to 28 percent for Sanders.