DES MOINES — Perhaps planting the seeds for the “political revolution” he calls for, Bernie Sanders on Thursday implored an auditorium full of Iowa high school students to get involved in the political process.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport. What this country is supposed to be about is all people being able to play a role in changing the future of America, not a few,” Sanders said at Des Moines Roosevelt High School. “I certainly hope in years to come you will be actively involved in the political process.”
From the very beginning of his presidential campaign, Sanders has called for a “political revolution” in hopes of achieving his stated goals of limiting the influence of money in politics, reducing wealth inequality and raising incomes, among others.
His pitch to a room full of high schoolers sounded like a call to join that revolution. He urged students to worry less about television and sports and to get more involved in politics and learn about the issues facing the country.
And yet it fell short of a full-throated campaign stump speech.
Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont who is seeking the Democratic nomination, is in a close race in Iowa with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to most recent polls on the race here. He and Clinton plan to barnstorm the state in the final days before Monday’s caucuses, motivating their supporters and hoping to sway anyone who still is deciding between them.
But in Thursday morning’s remarks to those students, Sanders did not implore the older students who would be eligible to support him in the caucuses. Instead, he asked them just to get involved.
“It really doesn’t matter to me whether you agree with everything I said,” Sanders said near the end of the 60 minutes he spent on stage speaking and answering questions. “What is important is that you think about these issues. And don’t let anybody tell you that you are wrong for getting involved in the political process.”
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Turnout is critical to Iowa caucuses success, but it may be even more so to Sanders, who is popular with people who fit the profile of first-time caucusgoers: young people and those who are turned off by politics and the political process.
Actor Justin Long touched on that sentiment when introducing Sanders on Thursday.
“Bernie Sanders represents the people,” Long said. “He’s a man of such time-tested conviction and decency and moral fiber that frankly it’s shocking that he’s in politics,”
Sanders was scheduled to hold three more events Thursday in Iowa: in Ottumwa, Fairfield and Burlington. He has 14 events scheduled in Iowa through Monday.