DES MOINES — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders urged Iowans on Wednesday to elect Democrat Hillary Clinton for president in November as the first step toward ushering in a progressive agenda.
That agenda would elevate working Americans and make the wealthiest pay their fair share in taxes, he said in Des Moines.
Sanders, a political independent who lost the Democratic nomination to Clinton, said the “unfavorables” among voters for both Clinton and GOP rival Donald Trump are high, but he said voters should “think big” by looking beyond the personalities to policy positions where he said “the choice is absolutely clear” for Clinton.
“Go beyond personalities,” Sanders told more than 300 supporters at Drake University. “Look at the issues that impact you. Don’t worry about Trump, don’t worry about Clinton, worry about yourself, worry about your family and, if you look at the candidates issue by issue, you will find that Secretary Clinton has the progressive agenda.”
Sanders touted Clinton’s plans to boost the minimum wage, promote equal pay for women, invest in infrastructure, expand health care coverage to more Americans, lower the cost of prescription drugs, reform the criminal justice system, expand renewable energy to combat climate change, help students lower college debt and provide tuition-free education to families making less than $125,000 a year.
By contrast, he said, Trump brags about not paying taxes that support vital government programs and services while wanting to eliminate the inheritance tax and cut rates for the richest Americans. Sanders added Trump wants to “throw 20 million people off of health insurance” and push ideas rooted in racism and bigotry that divide rather than unite.
“The days of racism, the days of sexism, the days of homophobia, I want to see those days behind us,” Sanders said. “I don’t want to see a president elected who will continue that kind of ugliness. We need a president who brings us together, not divides us up.”
The social and economic revolution he championed goes beyond Election Day, Sanders said.
“I’m here to say vote for Hillary Clinton on Election Day and the day after that we’re going to roll up our sleeves and make sure that we bring forth the most progressive agenda in the history of the United States of America,” Sanders said.
Lindsay Jancek, Iowa communications director for the Republican National Committee, said the Clinton campaign is attempting to play damage control after reports last week that Jacek characterized as demeaning Sanders supporters.
“Clinton’s dishonesty and lies have demonstrated she is the wrong person to lead our country,” Jancek said. “As her surrogates visit colleges across the Hawkeye state, it’s become crystal clear that no one is inspiring the enthusiasm Hillary Clinton desperately needs, especially among millennials.”
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said Wednesday’s Iowa campaign stops by Sanders and Chelsea Clinton “reflect a nervousness at the very least, a panic at the most” by the Clinton camp that they are not getting support from young people who voted for President Barack Obama.
“They have a problem, and they have a significant problem right now,” he said.
At a rally last month for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, a number of former Sanders supporters said they felt betrayed in the 2016 nominating process and were looking to back a third-party alternative in next month’s election.
However, Chris Petersen, an Iowa farm leader who was a Sanders delegate to the national convention, said there is no room for protest votes in a key swing state like Iowa and — while “not a huge Hillary fan — he noted that Clinton agreed to adopt some of Sanders’ key ideas in the party’s platform.
“I’m sorry I’m going to hold my nose and I’m going to vote for Clinton,” Petersen said. “I can’t trust Trump. The first reason is I have kids and grandkids. I want him totally staying away from the opportunity to use nuclear weapons.”