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Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders returns to Denver

Thousands in crowd feel the Bern

Sanders appeared at Denver’s Civic Center Park on Sept. 9.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

“I am asking you to help me wage a political revolution,” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said at his Denver rally on Sept. 9. Sanders, having just celebrated his 78th birthday a day earlier, urged the crowd to “join the revolution.” As one of the top three candidates in recent polls, Sanders’ platform is based on economic equality, climate change reform, and healthcare reform. Sanders is particularly popular with young Americans, as, according to a recent poll collected by Chegg, 31 percent of college students across the country support Sanders as a Democratic candidate.

This is not the first time Sanders made a visit to the 303. In early 2015, Sanders’ rally in Denver garnered over 5,000 supporters. Almost five years later, that number doubled to 10,000, according to Sanders’ team. Over the course of an hour, the crowd cheered energetically, electrified by the promise of a revolution.

Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-described Democratic-Socialist, has hailed both praise and criticism for his far-leftist politics. His political ideology is shared by several prominent Colorado politicians, including Rep. Emily Sirota and former Rep. Joe Salazar, both of whom joined him on stage at the rally. Sanders endorsed Rep. Sirota’s campaign for legislative office in 2018, and her husband is one of Sanders’ speechwriters. Sanders has also been endorsed by Auraria Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and the national DSA has endorsed his climate change policy.

An ardent opponent of the “billionaire class,” Sanders advocates for the increase of minimum wage to $15/hour and an increase in trade unions. He demanded that wealthy corporations and Wall Street pay higher taxes. “Today, we have in this country a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality,” Sanders said in Denver. According to a 2017 study conducted at UC Berkeley, the top 0.1 percent of the population receive 188 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.

One of Sanders’ most noteworthy characteristics is his consistency in his political message. As the longest serving independent in congressional history, Sanders has rarely swayed from his left-leaning tendencies. During his college career in Chicago, Sanders joined the Young People’s Socialist League, the youth group with the Socialist Party of America, and was active within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

His activism throughout the Civil Rights Movement landed him a seat at Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Sanders resisted arrest at a sit-in protest the same year. A photograph of him being arrested at the protest went viral during his 2016 campaign.

Sanders leads one of the most socially-liberal political platforms out of all of the Democratic candidates. His approval ratings for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Abortion Rights Action League are all over 90 percent, indicating a strong passion for civil rights throughout his career.

Climate change was one of the major focuses of his Monday night rally. In recent months, Sanders announced his Green New Deal, one of the most comprehensive and drastic climate reform plans in American history. According to his website, the Green New Deal plans to reach “100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050 at the latest.”

The plan is intended to pay for itself over 15 years, particularly through “making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution.” The Green New Deal is also sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) of New York.

“Some believe climate change is a hoax. I believe Donald Trump is the hoax,” Sanders said as the Denver crowd erupted into cheers. His Green New Deal would officially declare climate change a national emergency. According to a poll from AP News, 64 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s current climate change policies.

One of Sanders’ most contentious, yet unique, campaign platforms is universal healthcare. “The American people want free healthcare,” Sanders said. Medicare for all is arguably one of Sanders’ most socialist policies. His website claims that his presidential goal for the United States is “Joining every other major country on Earth and guaranteeing health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.” This universal healthcare proposal mirrors others in countries like Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Notably, in 2011, Sanders’ home state of Vermont enacted the Green Mountain Care Act, which was a form of single-payer, near-universal healthcare. However, the plan was abandoned earlier this year when Vermont officials couldn’t agree on a revised tax plan to meet the program costs.

For many college students, Sanders’ plan for education reform stands out. “We need radical changes in the way we do education in this country, from childcare to graduate school,” Sanders said as the crowd in Denver went wild. Like universal healthcare, tuition-free college education is a notably socialist policy.

Several other candidates have also proposed their own versions of free college education. Fellow Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s plan for higher education is strikingly similar to Sanders: free college for all, and the cancellation of all student debt.

Colorado felt “the Bern” in 2016, as Sanders won the Democratic caucus with 59 percent of the vote, awarding him 41 delegates, according to AP. Clinton, by contrast, only had 25 delegates from Colorado. A recent Emerson poll shows Bernie at 26 percent in Colorado for the 2020 election, with Biden close behind at 25 percent. In 2016, Sanders won the primary vote in 23 states, with particularly high support in Vermont, Alaska, and Washington.

But the Sanders campaign continually faces questions regarding his electability. According to an interview with Politico, Sanders’ campaign co-chair Ben Cohen stated, “For most people, the general idea that’s out there in the mainstream is that the person who is going to beat Trump is the centrist, Biden. But the reality is that in poll after poll after poll, Bernie beats Trump.” According to a comprehensive national poll collected by Real Clear Politics on Sept. 17, Joe Biden is at 26 percent, while Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are tied for 17 percent.

In a comprehensive, head-to-head poll collected by Real Clear Politics, Sanders is 7 percent ahead of Trump. However, the same poll reports Biden is 11 percent ahead of Trump, while Warren is 5 percent ahead.

Right now, there are only four Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump. Trump is expected to be the Republican 2020 nominee, as the other Republican candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, are currently polling between 0 and 3 percent.

Sanders remained passionate, positive, and poignant throughout his Denver rally. “Let us come together and create the kind of nation based on love, compassion, and justice that we know we can bring about,” Sanders said before waving goodbye to the crowd.

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