Vermont U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at UMass Amherst last night, about a week before the Massachusetts primary.
Sanders, who lost the Nevada caucus to Hillary Clinton Saturday, echoed his message of income equality, expanded healthcare and tuition-free college during a rally at the Mullins Center.
“The people of our country are tired of establishment politics,” Sanders said. “They’re tired of establishment economics. They want a government which is going to represent all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors.”
Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, spent most of his roughly 45-minute speech talking about economic and social issues, staying away from national security. Frequently using the term “political revolution,” Sanders says real change always comes from the bottom up — a principle he says his campaign is based on.
“This is about our history in which not 100 years ago, not 50 years, but 10 years ago if somebody was here and said ‘You know, I think that gay marriage will be legal in 50 states in America in 2015.’ The person next to him would have said ‘What are you smoking?’” Sanders said. “Which raises another issue.”
Sanders also said one key difference between him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is that he believes the campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Clinton has said no one is more committed to aggressive campaign finance reform than her. Sanders also took a shot at Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“When millions stand together refusing to allow the Trumps of the world to divide us up, when we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” said Sanders.
The Vermont Senator went beyond Trump and challenged other Republican presidential candidates.
“When they talk about family values, what they are saying is that no women in this arena, state or country should have the right to control their own body,” Sanders said. “I disagree!”
Instead, Sanders says the federal government should increase funding for Planned Parenthood. One question that’s been repeatedly lobbed at Sanders is how he intends to pay for his ideas such as major infrastructure investments meant to create jobs and tuition-free college. He says he would raise taxes on income above a quarter of a million dollars a year and close what he calls loopholes for major corporations.
“People once again say ‘Well Bernie, you’re Santa Claus. You’re giving away all of this free stuff. How are you going to pay for this one?’” Sanders said. “I will tell you exactly how we will pay for it. That is when Wall Street destroyed our economy; they went begging the United States Congress and the taxpayers of this country to bail them out. Now it is Wall Street’s turn through a tax on speculation to help the middle class of this country.”
Massachusetts and Vermont are among about a dozen states voting on Super Tuesday, March 1. A recent poll from Emerson College Polling Society shows Clinton and Sanders tied at 46 percent in Massachusetts, while a survey from Public Policy Polling has Sanders up by 7 points. That’s drastically different from polls in the fall that had Clinton ahead by as many as 34 points. Still, Clinton does have the support of Democratic leaders in Massachusetts including U.S. Senator Ed Markey and western area Congressmen Richard Neal and Jim McGovern. But U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s support is still up for grabs. And Sanders made sure to mention the Democrat, who is very popular among liberals.
“The fact that we have a rigged economy, something that your Senator Elizabeth Warren has talked about a lot,” said Sanders to cheers from the crowd. “Thank you all for sending Elizabeth to the Senate.”
In 2008, Clinton won the Massachusetts Democratic primary against then-Senator Barack Obama 56 to 41 percent. The next primary between Sanders and Clinton is in South Carolina on Saturday.
A Clinton campaign spokesperson said a trip to Massachusetts was not planned as of Tuesday morning.