ELKO – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 500 residents and others from across the country a day before the First in the West Caucus.
“I’m here to introduce one of the greatest candidates I’ve ever been around to see and one of the greatest one’s I’ve ever read about, said local resident Heidi Allen, explaining the Vermont senator is a candidate who finally speaks to her not only as a woman, but also as a mother, a member of the middle class, a feminist and as a member of the LGBT community.
“What occurred to me very clearly is that no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, could do it alone. What really we needed to bring is a political revolution,” said Sanders, telling the crowd at the old gymnasium at Elko High School that established politics will only deepen the issues the country is facing.
The candidate spoke to the audience about racism, women’s rights – specifically maintaining funding for Planned Parenthood – the billionaire class and education. He proclaimed that throughout American history that no one gave revolutionaries the right to create change, they took it for themselves.
While Sanders spoke to segments of the Elko population, he did not address many larger issues for rural Nevada or the state, but mostly stayed in the generalities of his campaign platform.
“The only way that real change ever takes place in this country or around the world, it’s not from the guy on top … the only way that change ever takes place is when millions of people, at the grassroots level, say what’s going on today is not acceptable, the status quo is not acceptable … that is what American history is about,” he said.
“What we need to bring about is a political revolution,” exclaimed Sanders to the crowd.
He echoed the voices of early political theorists; Sanders repeated to the audience, many times and in many ways, the people need a government created by them that works for them.
Race in America
Sanders spoke of the evolution of the Civil Rights movement by saying significant progress was made in ending segregation and racism when protestors marched on Washington.
“What change is about throughout our painful, painful history, with regard to race, is hundreds of years ago incredibly brave African-Americans and their white allies began … saying, ‘How do we end this horror of racism and segregation,’” he said.
This change was made “from the bottom on up,” he said, articulating grassroots politics.
Looking back 100 years ago, which he said is not that long ago from a historical perspective, women did not have the right to vote in the United States.
Sanders said women, and their male counterparts, decided it was wrong to treat women differently. As citizens of this country, they are able to reach their potential, be educated and choose their careers.
“This is America and we’re going to break down sexism,” he said.
Women have a right to control their bodies, he said, explaining his Republican counterparts do not believe this. Sanders said he would increase funding for Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t have to go through history to tell you about the gay rights movement. If we were sitting in this room 30 years ago, and somebody stood up and said, ‘You know, by the year 2015, gay men and women will be able to legally be married in 50 states in this country,’ the person next to them would have said, ‘What are you smoking?’” Sanders told the crowd.
Sanders said when he speaks to people – specifically teens in his state of Vermont – those he poses the question of whether or not they support gay rights are confused. He said it’s “such a nonissue” they don’t even understand the question.
He called that what “revolutionary change is about.”
The Billionaire Class and the Economy
Much more progress has to be done to further American democracy, Sanders said.
“I do not represent the billionaire class,” he said, expounding the point he has made throughout his entire campaign.
He said he did not want a Super PAC because it is about “everything that is undermining American democracy.”
Sanders’ campaign is funded by individual contributions.
“In the last nine months, three-and-half billion individual contributions came into our campaign,” he said.
Those contributions are more than any campaign in history and the average amount was $27, Sanders said to a roaring crowd.
“Together what we are going to do is overturn this disastrous Citizens United,” he told the audience, referring to a Supreme Court ruling on campaign contributions.
Sanders said people in the United States work longer hours than any other country in the industrialized world.
In discussing the economy, especially, the wealth disparity, he said it was rigged and there is “welfare abuse.”
Sanders specifically pointed to the Walton family, saying “one family owns more wealth … than 40 percent of the American people.”
He also said Goldman Sachs is the story of political power in America and it has produced two secretaries of treasury.
Criminal Justice System and Free Public Education
Sanders called the criminal justice system broken, saying a young adult who is caught possessing drugs will live with that record, but an executive connected to the 2008 financial crash would not.
The United States has “more people in jail than any other country on earth,” Sanders said, telling Elko there needs to be more investment in jobs and education.
This brought him to speak about free public education in America. He said this country needs the best educated workforce.
“People should not be punished for getting an education,” he said, bringing forth his idea to refinance student loans at the lowest interest rate.
The senator’s speech was multi-faceted, and he touted many of his ideologies which he has espoused numerous times throughout the country.
These included single-payer healthcare to revolutionize the medical system; expanding Social Security and that Congress “must pass a comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.”
In a brief aside to his statement that climate change is real, Sanders said the public utilities decision in Nevada on solar energy is the exact opposite of what the state should be doing.
He added that taking on the fossil fuel industry is a “moral responsibility.”
Sanders said the overall issue is whether Nevada will play a leading role in moving the country toward a political revolution.