Democratic presidential primary candidate and junior senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders held a rally at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center Saturday evening.
The standing-room only crowd of over 500 area Sanders supporters welcomed the senator back to Fairfield where he appeared during the 2016 Democratic primary season. An overflow room was available for those unable to gain admittance.
The Fairfield rally was the final stop on the day’s run through southeast Iowa and the middle of a three-day string of Iowa rallies and town-hall appearances. The candidate and his peers tread a long road leading to the July 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The senator laid out the planks of his platform with a compelling personal style and a sense of urgency. Topics like minimum wage, climate change, tuition-free higher-education and wealth disparity drew applause from the supportive crowd.
Forcing large corporations to pay their fair share of the tax burden and to pay living wages also drew a warm response. Sanders pointed to Amazon as having earned $11 billion in profit, without paying federal taxes.
“Tonight we say to the 1 percent and to the large, profitable private corporations, things are going to change for you when we get into the White House,” exhorted the senator. “You’re not going to get a trillion and a half dollar tax break. In fact you’re going to start paying your fair share of taxes.”
Sanders’s democratic-socialist messaging gained a significant grass-roots following in the 2016 primary season and this year’s “Not me - Us” theme reflects his more collectivist vision. Sanders is technically an independent, but caucuses with the Democrats, having signed a pledge to serve as a Democrat if elected president.
Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential primary race to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sanders conceded and endorsed Clinton when she gained the nomination.
Sanders offered criticism of President Donald Trump, calling out his recent statement about the sound of wind turbines causing cancer. The candidate ironically referred to Trump in the president’s own words as a “stable-genius.”
While Sanders went on to describe President Trump’s leadership style as “dividing up America.”
“For cheap political gain, what he has done and is trying to do today is to divide our nation up based on the color of our skin, based on where we were born, based on our sexual orientation, based on our gender, based on our religion,” said Sanders, who spoke about those divisions in general terms, and did not mention specific examples.
The candidate received perhaps his warmest applause of the evening when decrying the endless wars the county has engaged in during recent years. Both houses of congress recently passed a resolution based on the War Powers Act of 1973 directing the president to stop supporting the Saudi intervention in the Yemen civil war.
“What that resolution recognizes is that Yemen right now is suffering the worst humanitarian disaster on earth,” said Sanders. “Tens of thousands of children have already starved to death. The experts fear that there could be widespread famine with millions of people literally facing starvation. Instead of bombs for the people of Yemen, we need humanitarian aid for them.”
The event opened with a number of warm-up speakers including Maharishi University of Management student Chris Evergreen, Diane Rosenberg, local organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke and Ohio state senator Nina Turner.
Once Sanders got started, he invited area resident and agricultural economist John Ickerd on stage to share his perspectives on the problems that small and family farms face in a market dominated by large agro-corporations.
After the event, The Ledger spoke with local residents Emily Fotis and Andy Soares, who were both supporters of Senator Sanders in 2016. After seeing the candidate again, both affirmed they were on board with Bernie again.
“A lot of people have disagreements with his stance on things, but he’s been consistent the whole time. I’m probably to the left of Bernie, but I just love everything he says because it’s just a breath of fresh air to hear a politician that is actually going to do what he says he will,” said Soares.
“For me the climate change thing is most important because that affects literally everybody, every country and everything on this earth,” Fotis said. “We’re just ignoring it, and it’s a big deal.”