Government

In Iowa City, Sanders picks up where he left off 4 years ago

Democratic presidential hopeful credits Iowa for his ideas taking hold

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, speaks to a capacity crowd at the University of Iowa Memorial Union during a Friday evening campaign rally in Iowa City. Sanders’ staff estimated the crowd at 1,800, including 400 in an overflow room. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, speaks to a capacity crowd at the University of Iowa Memorial Union during a Friday evening campaign rally in Iowa City. Sanders’ staff estimated the crowd at 1,800, including 400 in an overflow room. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
/

IOWA CITY — Bernie Sanders’ ideas about health care, a living wage and economic inequality were called “too radical,” in 2016.

Today, the Vermont senator told an Iowa City audience Friday night, those ideas are supported by a majority of the American public — thanks to Iowa.

“This is where the political revolution began,” Sanders said.

When he came to Iowa four years ago, he said, he was at 3 percent in the polls, “and the ideas we were talking about then were considered by establishment politicians as radical and extreme ideas that nobody in America would support.”

“A funny thing happened in Iowa. On caucus night, we didn’t win 3 percent. We won 50 percent,” Sanders said, rounding up his 49.6 percent that was just shy of the 49.9 percent Hillary Clinton captured in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Sanders went on to victories in 22 states, receiving 13 million votes — including more votes from young people than Donald Trump and Clinton combined — and took 1,700 delegates into the Democratic National Convention.

“Iowa began the political revolution and, with your help, we are going to complete what we started right here,” Sanders said as he launched into familiar topics and themes.

Sanders was “electrifying,” said David Schaffer of Fairfield, who was among an audience Sanders’ staff estimated at 1,800 people, including 400 in an overflow room at the University of Iowa Memorial Union. “He’s starting where he left off” in 2016.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Sanders promised that when he and the political revolution defeat Trump, the “underlying principles of our government will not be greed, will not be kleptocracy, will not be hatred and lies. It will not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry.”

While there was a clear difference between Sanders and Clinton four years ago, this cycle, perhaps as a result of his success in 2016, the field is crowded with candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination who are talking about progressive change.

Sanders is the original progressive champion, the one who fought for the progressive agenda before the others, Aarushi Dervesh and Mahrer Josephson said as they waited for the rally to begin.

“He changed the political sphere,” said Dervesh, a University of Iowa student from Des Moines.

She attributes the success of candidate such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to the progressive movement Sanders ignited. “The far left is not afraid to speak out now.”

It matters that Sanders has been a “career-long progressive from back when that wasn’t in style,” said Josephson of Iowa City.

“That shows you he’s genuine and not just saying this to get elected,” Dervesh said.

Schaffer agreed that Sanders is the real deal and questioned why the others are running “when Sanders is the true progressive.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

After two years of the Trump administration, Dervish thinks Sanders’ message will still resonate with voters who are seeing that his warnings about the president come true.

Younger voters, Dervesh said, are very aware of how the political climate has changed under Trump.

“I think his message will resonate with younger voters despite him being the oldest candidate,” she said.

Philip Kern of Fairfield, who as a self-described “radical old person” was a bit of an outlier among an audience heavy on Gen X and Z enthusiasts, doesn’t think Sanders’ age — 77 — will be a negative. Nelson Mandela was older than Sanders when he governed South Africa “and look what he accomplished.”

In one of the most populous counties in Iowa, Sanders called for federal policies to address the “many, many crises facing rural America.” That includes the loss of young people because of the lack of good jobs; schools, hospital, nursing homes and churches closing; and “once vibrant Main Streets boarded up.”

Family farms are failing because of low commodity prices, but factory farms get 77 percent of agriculture subsidies, Sanders said.

Despair, depression, suicide and opioid addiction are increasing.

“The struggle we are engaged in is not just about defeating Trump,” he said. “This struggle is about taking on the incredibly powerful institutions that control the economic and political life of this country.

“You can’t have Medicare-for-all for all unless we have the guts to take on the insurance companies,” Sanders said.

Despite the odds, Sanders said his “Not me. Us” revolution has something that all of the wealthy and powerful interests don’t.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“We have the people,” Sanders said “Welcome to an unprecedented campaign, which intends not only to win this election, but to transform this country.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.