The 77-year-old Vermont senator and 26-year-old Bronx rapper met in a Detroit nail salon to talk police brutality, the economy, and health care


Tara Golshan and Emily Stewart

The 77-year-old Vermont senator and 26-year-old Bronx rapper met in a Detroit nail salon to talk police brutality, the economy, and health care

Sen. Bernie Sanders sat down with Cardi B at Detroit’s TEN nail salon to discuss politics, Screenshot via Bernie Sanders campaign


Bernie Sanders wants to be Cardi B’s favorite president.

Last month, we learned that the 77-year-old Vermont senator met with the 26-year-old Bronx rapper in a Detroit, Michigan nail salon to talk about the issues central to his 2020 presidential campaign. The video of their exchange is finally here.

Sanders at a nail salon with Cardi B is inherently funny. The pair were clearly in on the joke, as seen in a behind-the-scenes clip the Sanders campaign posted on Instagram. But the two talked through serious issues like police brutality, student debt, wages, taxes, and jobs. They admired Cardi’s nails and gabbed about her favorite president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom Sanders incidentally cites as an inspirational figure in his campaign for the White House.

“Well, I want to be your favorite after I’m elected,” Sanders also told her.

He’s well on his way in her book.

In April, Cardi said, “I’ma always go with Bernie,” in a video with Teen Vogue. Sitting across from Sanders in Detroit, she made the pitch for him once again.

“Let’s feel the Bern,” she said.

Cardi B and Sanders make the case for young people to get involved in politics

Cardi, who has a long history of being political — and of being a Sanders supporter — has been pushing for her fans to pay attention to the coming election, calling on people to get “educated” on the issues and to understand what the Democratic candidates are proposing.

She worked to facilitate that understanding while promoting Sanders’s ideas in a wide-ranging conversation in which the candidate reiterated his support for student debt cancellation, explained how taxes would change with single-payer health care, and called President Trump a racist. The two also addressed police brutality right off the bat.

“If a police officer kills somebody, that killing must be investigated by the United States Department of Justice,” Sanders said, repeating a position he took in 2016 calling for automatic federal investigations into police-involved shootings.

“I don’t want people thinking that we’re trying to attack the police. Because let me tell you something, there was this one time that I started to feel like I hate the police, they’re pigs. But there’s a lot of cops that go in their jobs and they want to protect their people,” Cardi B said.

“So we need police departments that look like the communities that they serve — we get rid of a lot of this militarization of the police department, which is a form of intimidating people,” Sanders responded.

While the conversation inarguably gave Sanders a unique platform, in the end, the whole exchange was about getting young people involved in politics. Sanders’s campaign has always had an advantage with younger voters, and energizing them is core to his electoral strategy.

“I will say this to you: The future of American politics depends on whether we can significantly activate this younger generation,” Sanders told Vox in an interview last week. “We have a generation of very decent young people who want a change. There are a lot of young people out there that are very distressed. But living in despair is not an option.”

Sanders made that point again with Cardi B by his side in his closing message to viewers:

Cardi, can I just say one thing before we get off? A lot of people moan and groan, right? They don’t like Donald Trump, they don’t like the low wages, they don’t like spending 50 percent of their income on housing, they don’t like student debt, they don’t like the fact they can’t go to college. But all of that moaning and groaning and complaining doesn’t mean anything unless we change the system, okay.

Young people have got to get involved in the political process. Register to vote. It is not hard. It takes you five minutes. Register to vote. Trump does not want people of color to be participating in the political process. Participate in the political process. And then think about who the candidate is that is speaking the issues that are important to you, and then vote. If we have young people voting in large numbers, you know what, I have zero doubt that Donald Trump would be defeated.

In the past 30 years, voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds has only surmounted 20 percent three times, in 1986, 1994, and 2018. In 2018, nearly 36 percent of 18- to 29-year-old citizens reported voting, a 16 percentage point jump from 2014, according to the US census — thanks in part to a midterm cycle that served as a referendum on Trump. And a lot of these young voters support Sanders.

“Vote Daddy Bernie, bitch”: Cardi B’s political history, explained

Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, has been into Bernie Sanders for a while now.

In 2016, she said she wanted to vote for the democratic socialist in an interview with the New York City radio station Power 105.1, though she was skeptical he could actually accomplish all he set out to do. “Like, for example, he wants to stop racism. It’s like, that’s not going to happen! There’s certain things you just can’t do. What are you going to do? Go burn a bunch of Confederate flags in Virginia Beach and goddamn Mississippi?” she said.

She also made a video in which she encouraged supporters to “vote for Daddy Bernie, bitch.”

Who remembers when @iamcardib endorsed Bernie Sanders for president?#DaddyBernie

— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) April 18, 2018

In 2016, Cardi B said she liked Hillary Clinton because she was a “strong woman” but did feel like Clinton was a “little fake.” Still, she was hypercritical of Trump and ultimately backed Clinton in the general election, telling her social media followers to do the same ahead of Election Day.

Lol yes!! what she said! @iamcardib

— Alicia 🇲🇽 (@Aliciaxo93) November 8, 2016

After 2016, Cardi B has remained engaged — and the affinity between her and Sanders has continued. In 2018, Sanders retweeted Cardi B’s comments on FDR and Social Security. “Cardi B is right,” he wrote.

Cardi B is right. If we are really going to make America great we need to strengthen Social Security so that seniors are able to retire with the dignity they deserve.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 18, 2018

Now that Sanders is in the 2020 race, Cardi is firmly in his corner.

She told Teen Vogue in April that she likes Sanders because he doesn’t say things to “be cool,” but because he means them. “Like, there’s pictures of him being an activist from a very, very long time [ago],” she said.

She tweeted in mid-July that she is “really sad how we let [Sanders] down” in 2016. “Seeing this country become a better place been really his passion for a long time not a new front for a campaign,” she wrote.

I been reading about Bernie Sanders and I’m really sad how we let him down in 2016 This man been fighting for equal rights,HUMAN rights for such along time.Seeing this country become a better place been really his passion for a long time not a new front for a campaign.

— iamcardib (@iamcardib) July 16, 2019

Sanders has publicly welcomed her support. In an interview with MSNBC following her tweet, he thanked her for her backing and said he had spoken with her and found her “very sharp,” with a good understanding of politics and history. In a subsequent interview with Jimmy Kimmel, he reiterated his appreciation for her support, and said she is “deeply concerned” about what’s happening in the country. Cardi B published the clip on Instagram and said she was sure her high school history teacher was happy.

And if Sanders wins the White House, Cardi B might expect an invitation. In an interview on Pod Save America, host Jon Favreau asked Sanders whether she would perform at the inauguration. “We’re putting together a committee to take a look at that,” Sanders replied.

It’s worth noting that Cardi B isn’t the only rapper in Sanders’s corner. Atlanta rapper Killer Mike was a vocal supporter of the Vermont senator in 2016 and still believes he’s the one candidate who can beat Trump.

“The Keep It Real Party”

Sanders is not wrong in his assessment that Cardi B is well versed in politics and history. She’s been weighing in on political issues for a while, and she’s made no secret of her disdain for President Trump.

In January, Cardi B posted a video addressing the government shutdown and blasting the president for his antics. “This shit is crazy,” she said. “Like, our country is a hellhole right now, all for a fucking wall. And we really need to take this serious.”

The video quickly went viral, with some Democratic lawmakers even weighing in.

Senators reacting to Cardi B’s video about Trump.

It was hardly the first instance in which Cardi B had made her thoughts known in the political realm — she’s weighed in on various issues, including the United Nations’ role in LibyaUS gun laws, and tax policy.

“I love political science. I love government. I’m obsessed with presidents. I’m obsessed to know how the system works,” she said in a 2018 interview with GQ.

In the same interview, she said she was constantly in tune with the news. “I’m always looking at it on my phone,” she said. “I hate when you talk about something that’s going on in the community, people think because you’re famous, you doing it for clout. But you concerned about it because you are a citizen of America; you are a citizen of the world. If I want to get cool points, I could take a picture with a thong and my ass and y’all gonna give me the same amount of likes. I’m gonna trend even bigger.”

Cardi B has said her favorite president was Roosevelt because of his work to get the United States out of the Great Depression. It’s an affinity she shares with Sanders, whose vision of democratic socialism is a callback to FDR and a revival of New Deal politics.

She is not a fan of Trump. She has attacked the president over his inaction on Hurricane Maria in Puerto Ricohis criticism of kneeling football players, and his family separationpolicies. She was one of multiple stars tapped to read parts of Michael Wolff’s Trump exposé Fire & Fury for the 2018 Grammys.

Cardi B’s political activism even led to a Twitter spat with conservative commentator Tomi Lahren in January, in which the former at one point legendarily replied, “Leave me alone I will dog walk you.” (Lahren may have wanted to look into Cardi B’s feud with Nicki Minaj before wading into that one.) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) even got in on the action.

I’m sure you would. Still doesn’t make your political rambling any less moronic. #BuildthatWall

— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) January 20, 2019

Aren’t you the same girl who whines about Trump inciting violence? Now you applaud it because it’s against a female conservative you disagree with politically? Convenient. P.S. I do fully acknowledge @iamcardib is smarter than YOU.

— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) January 20, 2019

The same month, Stephen Colbert launched a petition-by-tweet for Democrats to let Cardi B give the rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union.

More recently, she responded to conservative pundit Candace Owens, who apparently did not learn the Tomi Lahren lesson about fighting with Cardi and challenged her to a debate. Cardi B’s response: She is uninterested in arguing and only wants to get young people to pay attention to politics while advocating for whoever they choose to support. She took the high road.

My actual goal is to educate the Youth on our advocate and spread the message on ANY candidate they chose to support .The same way you do for your favorite.That is all.

— iamcardib (@iamcardib) July 30, 2019

And Cardi’s interest doesn’t stop at federal politics; she knows what’s up in her home state of New York. She endorsed Cynthia Nixon in her Democratic primary bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and encouraged New Yorkers to vote.

She’s even joked about running for office herself. She told Kimmel in 2018 that she recognizes if she were New York City mayor, there would be “so many things that I’m responsible for, and so many things to do,” including getting rid of rats and raccoons. And in 2016, while part of the cast of Love & Hip Hop, she made a video declaring her fake bid for the White House under the “Keep It Real Party.”

For now, however, it appears Cardi remains more interested in empowering voters than running for office herself.

Cardi’s no Oprah, in terms of endorsements — or is she?

Most of the time, celebrity endorsements of political candidates don’t matter. But there is one exception: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah endorsed Barack Obama in 2007 during the Democratic Party primary against Hillary Clinton, made campaign appearances with him, and donated to his campaign. And, as Vox explained last year, it appears to have made a difference:

University of Maryland researchers Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore estimated in a 2008 paper that Winfrey’s endorsement of Obama was responsible for 1 million additional votes for him in the primaries. They also found that Winfrey’s endorsement increased the overall voter participation rate and the number of contributions Obama received.

They found the so-called “Oprah effect” — the same thing that boosts the sales of books she recommends or products she endorses — also translated into support for Obama, and in a significant way.

Though she does have nearly 50 million Instagram followers and 6 million followers on Twitter, Cardi B doesn’t have the amount of media prowess and celebrity power that Oprah had at the time. It’s not clear whether her endorsement will make much of a difference for Sanders; Nixon, for instance, did not win her race against Cuomo. But it’s not a bad thing for her to make her opinions known — and, more broadly, to encourage people to get involved in the political process.

Tara Golshan covers Congress, elections, and just about anything in politics that needs explaining. RSS.

Emily Stewart is a Vox reporter. RSS.

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