With the 2016 Presidential Race officially up and running, Wednesday produced the largest campaign rally of the season thus far. But it wasn’t Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush bringing in the crowd. It was the self-described “democratic socialist,” Bernie Sanders. The Independent Senator from Vermont, running for the Democratic Party’s nomination, drew a crowd larger than 10,000 at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin.
The location, while unorthodox for primary campaigns that focus on Iowa and New Hampshire early on, was intentional for Bernie’s image. His speech echoed the great progressive heroes like Wisconsin-native Robert La Follette and his Progressive Party (AKA the Bull Moose Party) of the early 1900s that nominated President Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election. As Sanders is poising himself as the liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary, he definitely hit the rhetoric and atmosphere to do so.
He was quick to take on his opponents on the left and right, calling out Republicans and many Democrats as owned by big money interests, not representing their constituents, but rather merely a few special interests.
He argued that the fabric of American democracy was under attack by unregulated campaign spending, partisanship, and media spinning. Politics in a democratic society, Sanders stated, should be about “people coming together, taking a hard look at the problems we face, hearing different ideas, and going about solving those problems.”
Sanders laid out some key aspects of his platform in the speech, from income inequality, which he called the “great moral issue of our time,” to his recent proposal to make all public universities in the United States tuition-free.
He channeled the Teddy Roosevelt-trust-busting persona when he argued that in regards to Wall Street, if a bank is too big to fail, it’s too big to exist, calling to break up the largest financial banks.
In response to Republicans and some Democrats calling him “extremist,” he countered by stating that Republicans are the real extremists. He claimed that they hold a misconstrued notion of family values, which he believed is merely just anti-women and anti-LGBT. He introduced his version of “family values,” which includes guaranteed 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, so mothers are able to bond with their children in the most important stage of their child’s development, and guaranteed two weeks paid vacation time for all full-time workers, so they can spend leisure time with their families and loved ones.
Once considered a virtual long-shot in the Democratic primary, Sanders has been making major headway and is currently sitting only a few percentage points behind Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire and Iowa primary polls and is continuing to close the gap with every passing week.
And a reminder for those of you who think a 73 year-old, Jewish socialist has no chance of becoming President, just remember it wasn’t too long ago that the same thing was said about an African-American man with the middle name, “Hussein.”
Watch the full rally here:
Image Credit to Chicago Tribune and MaseTV