St. Paul, Minn. – Sen. Bernie Sanders made a campaign stop in Minnesota at the St. Paul RiverCentre Tuesday for his 2016 White House bid.
The senator from Vermont, known for his brand of fiery liberal populism, attracted a crowd of over 14,000 people to the RiverCentre, a third of which were fitted into an overflow room. This was his second speaking event in Minnesota for the day, making an earlier appearance in Duluth to a crowd of about 6,000.
While the crowd was waiting for Sanders as he was speaking to the overflow audience, Farhiya Ali, a student at Hamline University, welcomed them.
“I’m proud to have a strong connection with my Somali community and call myself an American,” said Ali, in reference to her dual cultural identities.
Ali echoed Sanders populism stating, “This country belongs to all of us, not just billionaires. My first vote as an American will go to Bernie Sanders,” she pledged the audience, ensuing a loud cheer. “Let’s get him nominated and in the White House 2016. Let’s do this – feel the Bern!” she said, and walked off stage.
US Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., made a follow-up speech.
“You better be sure America, the richest country in the world, can do better,” Ellison said to the crowd.
Sanders then took to the podium and acknowledged the crowd’s mass stating, “God, what a turn out.”
“Real change never takes place from the top down, it always takes place from the grassroots up,” said Sanders in homage to his grassroots campaign.
Sanders recognized his potential voters’ frustration with establishment politics stating, “People are sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics.”
Sanders soon broke into the mantra that his presidential campaign has been championing, stating that, “We have a rigged economy, we have a corrupt campaign finance system and a broken criminal justice system.” Sanders railed against the economic top of one-tenth of the countries top 1 percent, referring to them as what he calls a “billionaire class,” who own as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
Sanders singled out the Walton family of the Wal-Mart empire, accusing them of owning as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent of Americans. Sanders presented the argument that the Walton’s are the biggest welfare recipient in the United States because they pay their workers so little that they have no other option but to take up welfare.
“I say to the Walton family, get off welfare and pay your workers,” said Sanders. Sanders then promised the audience that night to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.
Sanders addressed the countries wage gap between sexes as what he called “old-fashioned sexism.” He stated that he hopes every man in the room stands with all of the women for equality.
“Pretty soon here in Minnesota, you’re going to see a bunch of Republicans trumping through your state,” he said. Sanders spoke against the Republican Party for their attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.
Critical of globalized trade policies, Sanders promised to enact effort to overturn the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trading deal between the United States and Pacific countries that was fast-tracked in Congress last year. Critics warned that it could pose as a threat to blue collar American jobs.
Sanders promised to appoint a Supreme Court justice only on the condition that it was “crystal clear” that they would overturn Citizen’s United. Citizen’s United was a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that spawned the creation of super PACs, and has become the strife of the Sanders campaign.
He then touted his own campaign, which is notable for running without a super PAC, proudly stating that he has received two and a half million campaign contributions.
Sanders, who wants to enact free public college, lamented, “Why are we punishing millions of people for choosing to get an education? That makes no sense.” He then went on to address the economics of this plan.
“How am I going to pay for it? I’ll tell you how. We are going to impose a speculation tax on Wall Street,” said Sanders.
Sanders announced that the science is out and climate change is real. “We have a moral responsibility to leave this planet in a way that is habitable,” said Sanders.
He proposed that it’s time to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels. He griped at the difficulty of that because if a Republican admits that climate change is real they will lose their donations from the Koch brothers or Exxon Mobile.
“I say to those Republicans, stop worrying about the campaign contributions and start worrying about the future of this planet,” said Sanders, receiving an applause from the audience.
He also called for the demilitarization of police, tarnishing the police treatment of black communities.
He touted his own foreign policy as a legislature, saying how he had voted against the war in Iraq. He stated it brings him no pleasure to have rightly predicted the destabilizing effect the war would have on the Middle East that led to ISIS or ISIL.
“The political revolution starts with you, that’s what this campaign is about. Thank you all, thank you all very much,” said Sanders before he walked off stage.
The race toward the White House officially begins Monday with a caucus in Iowa. According to a poll by Overtime Politics, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in Iowa by five points.
The Sanders campaign has gained significant momentum over the past months as he’s gained media exposure and it’s expected to keep growing, posing a bigger threat to Clinton than anticipated. Clinton is currently leading Sanders in Minnesota by three points, according to a poll by Overtime Politics. Minnesota’s caucus for presidential nominee will be held March 1.