CEDAR RAPIDS — She’s wrong about gun control, paid family medical leave and a host of other issues, and her proposals to rein in big banks and Wall Street don’t go far enough, but Bernie Sanders will concede Hillary Clinton is right about one thing: Electability matters.
“The question is,” he said in Cedar Rapids on Friday night, “who is the stronger candidate?”
When the crowd of 1,600, according to the Sanders campaign, began chanting his name, he replied: “Not me. Us.”
That’s because, the Vermont independent who is seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination said, his is a “people’s campaign of the people, by the people and for the people, and that’s why we’re going to win this election.”
“It’s time to make some history,” Sanders told the Veterans Coliseum crowd that was larger than the one in that venue when Republican Donald Trump, who Sanders referred to as “my dear, dear friend, Donald,” visited in December.
Sanders, who visited Toledo and Waverly earlier in the day, was interrupted several times by cheering and applause as he delivered his stump speech in which he called for a political and economic revolution to take back the country from Trump and “the billionaire class whose greed is destroying this country.”
America’s working class has to “stand together as a people and have the courage” to tell the wealthiest one percent they can’t have it all.
That’s what Sonia McQueen came to hear.
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“I’ve never been to one of these,” said McQueen, who was visiting from Indio, Calif. “It’s an exciting process, and I love Bernie.”
She believes the proposals “Mr. Bernie” is offering — higher taxes on the wealthy, lower taxes on the middle class, and free tuition at public colleges and universities, for example, will help middle class families like hers and create more opportunities for young people.
That also appealed to her daughter, Kayla Newman, a Coe College nursing major, and her boyfriend, Chris Piplani, who’s working on his MBA at the University of Dubuque.
“I like his economic outlook,” said McQueen, who works two jobs. “If you make more, you should pay more taxes and it would be nice if I could keep more of my money in my pocket.”
Bev Hannon likes Sanders’ economic policies, but she’s been a supporter since he voted against the Iraq War.
“It wasn’t a popular thing to do,” the former Jones County legislator said, “but there’s no better way to support our military than to keep them safe.”
Khadidja Elkeurti, a 17-year-old Muslim-American native of Cedar Rapids, agreed that Sanders is not afraid to do what’s right, such as supporting the rights of women and the LGBT community “before it was politically expedient.”
When IBEW activist Cindy O’Meara started reading about Sanders, she discovered “he seemed to be talking about everything we were fighting for.”
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Sanders acknowledged that he was virtually unknown in Iowa when he began campaigning here and was not given much of a chance to compete for the nomination.
The professional political class, he joked, described him as a “nice guy, combs his hair very nicely, a GQ dresser,” but said he would never be president because he didn’t have a super PAC and big money behind them.
However, more than 450,000 people, including 35,000 in Iowa, have attended his campaign events and Sanders has received more contributions than any presidential candidate in history with the average contribution being $27.
That makes him confident he will win the Feb. 1 Iowa precinct caucuses.
“I think the word has gone out and people now understand that given the enormous problems facing this country, it is just too late for the same old, same old type of politics and economics,” he said.
So on Feb. 1 when the eyes of the nation and world are on Iowa, Sanders said the people of Iowa can play a historical role, “a role that people for years will look back on and say, ‘It began in Iowa, the political revolution.’
“Let’s make history,” Sanders said. “Let’s make a political revolution.”