On the eve of Idaho’s Democratic caucus, Bernie Sanders revved up thousands of Boise supporters Monday in a speech that covered all his themes of racial and gender inclusion, economic fairness and political empowerment for a swath of Americans who feel left out.
“Please do not accept the status quo as something that has to go on forever,” Sanders said near the end of his 70-minute speech. “We can make change. If we have a vision of where we want this country to go. If we do not allow Donald Trump and the others to divide us up.”
The crowd, which started gathering about 9 a.m., filled half the 14,000-capacity arena. Lines wound around Taco Bell Arena before the doors opened.
“He’s the real deal,” said just-retired Boise resident Allen Jones. “Everybody else in this race wants to be president. He wants to help the country.”
The senator from Vermont took the stage about 12:20 after an introduction from actress Susan Sarandon, who was in Boise helping campaign workers on Sunday. “We have a candidate who’s only special interest is you,” she said.
The candidate said his campaign had listened to women, to people of all races, to the working poor, to the politically disenfranchised, and he urged supporters to work for him in Tuesday’s “enormously important caucus here in Idaho.”
“I think it would be just extraordinary for this country if what is perceived to be a conservative state like Idaho stood up and said we are part of the political revolution,” he said.
He stitched together his broad themes of fairness, inclusion and equality with statistics.
“You’ve got mom working hard, you’ve got dad working hard, you’ve got the kids working hard, and yet 58 percent of new income being generated today is going to the top 1 percent,” he said. “You want a radical idea? Together we are going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
Sanders was gratified by the size of the crowd at Taco Bell Arena, estimated by organizers at 7,000.
“You know, I thought I walked into the wrong state,” Sander joked. “I was told Idaho was a conservative state.”
Sanders’ speech was similar to the one he gave to about 3,200 Friday in Idaho Falls, hitting on health care, environmental and economic themes:
▪ Sanders spoke of the “rigged economy” and about “working people paying higher taxes” to subsidize the wealthy. “What democracy is not about is when a handful of billionaires can control the political process in this country,” he said.
▪ He said that at the end of the last Republican presidency in 2008, the U.S. economy was in freefall and losing 800,000 jobs a month.
▪ If any GOP candidate told truth about climate change, Sanders said, he “would lose his funding from the fossil fuel industry.”
▪ Sanders advocated a single-payer health plan: “In my view, healthcare is a right of all people, not a privilege.”
His populist themes resonated with an audience that saw him not only as a defender of the common folk, but one of them himself.
“He started with so little, and now, from campaign contributions, he’s a major contender,” said Susan Rudofsky of Boise.
Tylana Meadows, also of Boise, attending with her husband, Tim, said she got the same feeling at the Sanders rally that she had eight years ago, when then-Sen. Barack Obama filled the same arena.
“You can just feel that this is something,” Meadows said. Sanders appeal, she said, is “all about his equality.”
“He wants to include everybody,” she said. “He doesn’t want to dismiss anybody just because they don’t have money or can’t get health care. He wants to give us all of that and make America what it should have been before it crashed.
I RECOGNIZE THAT IDAHO IS A CONSERVATIVE STATE, ALTHOUGH IT DOES APPEAR THAT EVERYONE IS NOT CONSERVATIVE.
Bernie Sanders to about 3,200 supporters at an Idaho Falls high school Friday
VISIT COMES ON EVE OF CAUCUS TUESDAY
Sanders visit came the day before Idaho Democrats caucus in all 44 counties Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. (Find locations and get details at the Idaho Democrats web page. Reserving in advance will cut your check-in time, but you can just show up. Click here to find out what goes on at the caucus).
In Idaho Falls Friday, Sanders hit on health care and took a dig at the Idaho Legislature, which he said for “ideological reasons” has thus far refused to expand Medicaid coverage to about 78,000 people in the state.
“Health care is a right of all people, not a privilege,” Sanders said. “It’s not something that’s radical. In fact, health care for all is something that exists in every other major country on Earth.”
Sanders trails far behind Clinton in the delegate count, 856 to 1,614. A recent poll said he was slightly favored over Clinton in Idaho, where 27 delegates are up for grabs. There’s no sign that Clinton plans an Idaho campaign stop.
Even in conservative Idaho, he said last week, many people could come to agree on topics such as reforming the campaign finance system or the wealth income gap, where top 1 percent has approximately the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
“I think sometimes the divisions may not be as deep as we make out,” he said.
SANDERS ON THE ISSUES IN IDAHO FALLS
Campaign finance reform: Sanders said he doesn’t need a political action committee, or “super PAC,” because he’s received more than five million individual campaign contributions, averaging $27 each. Billionaires “spending hundreds of millions to buy elections” is “not democracy,” he said.
Hillary Clinton: Sanders hit the frontrunner for “going another route” than him when it came to raising money for her campaign using PACs. He criticized her for previously accepting large sums of money to give speeches on Wall Street, and poked fun at her for once attending Donald Trump’s wedding.
The wealth gap: Sanders said he felt something was wrong when the Walton family, who owns Wal-Mart, “owns more wealth, as one family, than the bottom 40 percent of the American people.” He criticized the family paying low wages to Wal-Mart employees, so low that some need Medicaid, food stamps or other government programs. “This is what a rigged economy is all about,” he said. “Who is paying taxes for those food stamps and Medicaid and subsidized housing?” Sanders asked. “We are,” the crowd replied in unison.
Pay disparity between women and men: “There is something wrong in this country when women are making 79 cents on the dollar (to men),” Sanders said. “That is called sexism.”
Public education: Sanders has advocated making public colleges and universities tuition free. He said it is a necessary change to allow all young Americans to compete in the world economy. A college education today is necessary to succeed, he argued, where a generation ago a middle class job could be found with only a high school education.
Climate change: “The debate is over,” Sanders said. “Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by human activity and it is already doing harm around the world.” He said the country needs to transition away from fossil fuels, and he criticized Republican candidates for not acknowledging the problem.
Donald Trump: “Let me say a word about my good friend Donald Trump,” Sanders said. “Just kidding, he’s not my good friend.” Sanders said Trump is a “pathological liar,” and added: “You cannot have a president who the American people cannot trust when he speaks.”
Reporting from Idaho Falls: Luke Ramseth of the Post Register
Reporting from Boise: Melissa Davlin of Idaho Reports