On Sept. 28, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders returned to the college he graduated from, the University of Chicago. The Vermont Senator, a self-proclaimed Democratic-Socialist, told students that they must be engaged in the 2016 election and repeated his pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Citizens United, arguing that the big money in politics has undermined American democracy.
“They (Republicans) love it when voter turnout is low,” Sanders said during his speech.
He added that he will need a high turnout from the younger voting block if he is to go all the way to the White House.
“I need you,” he told the students.
Sanders promises that, if elected, he will impose a “litmus test” on any Supreme Court Justice he appoints.
"No nominee of mine to the United States Supreme Court will get that job unless he or she is loud and clear that one of their first orders of business will be to overturn Citizens United,” he said.
The Citizens United ruling in 2010 turned political contributions into a form of free speech, lifting limits on how much private interests could fund political campaigns. Since its passing, spending has ballooned in presidential elections.
Many politicians -- both Democrats and Republicans -- have denounced the controversial ruling.
Sanders favors public financing, meaning that politicians running for office would be given tax dollars to fund their campaigns but could not raise more than the set amount.
When Sanders talks about appointing Supreme Court Justices, it is more than just a hypothetical: many estimate that the next President of the United States could tip the ideological scales of the court astronomically, Talking Points Memo reports.
Several aging Supreme Court Justices are expected to retire within the next decade, creating numerous opportunities for a President to appoint a justice who would further their agenda at the highest court in the land.
“Appointments to the Supreme Court are always extraordinary consequential," Caroline Fredrickson, the president of the progress legal advocacy group American Constitution Society, told TPM. " But certainly under the circumstances, considering the age of a number of justices and the 5-4 splits in so many cases, it's now more important than ever."
Sanders also took aim at the influential industrialists, brothers Charles and David Koch, during his speech, and singled them out as bad for democracy. The Koch Brothers are expected to spend $900 million on the Republican party during the upcoming general election, according to The Daily Beast.
“When you have one family who spends more money than either political party, you are not looking at democracy, you are looking at oligarchy," Sanders said. "I do not exaggerate when I tell you that the foundations of American democracy are being undermined. American democracy is not supposed to be about billionaires buying elections.”
Many students appeared to respond positively to Sanders' speech, The Daily Beast reports.
“Hillary’s really willing to get down and dirty, play political games and take money from Super PACs,” student Eric Holmberg told The Daily Beast. “Whereas with Bernie, he’s funding his campaign with individual donors. That’s something I can do, that’s something that I can be a part of.”
“While they have the money, and they have the power,” Sanders says of his competitors in the presidential race, who are using Super PACs to fund their campaigns. “We have something that they do not have: We have the people!”