Surging in Some Polls, Sanders Looks Past Super Tuesday to Ohio
Even with the focus on Super Tuesday next week, Democratic candidates are starting to look further ahead – to the often-crucial state of Ohio and its March 15 primary. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports on Bernie Sanders’ visit to northeast Ohio today (Thursday) , where he spoke in soaring terms of a commitment to the poor and middle class – and disparagingly of the state of American politics.
Campaign rallies are rarely long on policy details and this one was no exception. Surrounded by thousands of enthusiastic supporters packed into the gym at Baldwin Wallace University, Bernie Sanders espoused the ongoing themes of his campaign: income and racial equality, universal healthcare, free college. And former state Sen. Nina Turner – who introduced him -- embraced the criticism of Sanders as a one-issue candidate.
“I’ll take a one issue. You are the issue. The people of the United States of America.”
A bullet-point rundown of the issues
Sustained cheers and applause punctuated that – and every point Sanders made.
On raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour: “In America, we can create an economy where if you work 40 hours a week, you are not living in poverty.”
On campaign financing: “Together we are going to overturn Citizens United.”
On free college: “Anybody in this country who is smart, does well in school and is qualified should be able to go to a public college or university tuition free.”
He also spoke of abortion rights, pay equity for women, cutting the rates of mass incarceration and criminal recidivism and of redefining and de-militarizing local police departments.
Demilitarizing police and decriminalizing marijuana
“Some of these local police departments look like occupying armies. What the function of a good police department is about is to be part of the community, to be trusted by the community, not to be seen as an oppressive force in the community.”
And he called for legalizing marijuana – kind of …
“The people in the states have the right to legalize marijuana or not. That’s a state decision. But from the federal perspective, possession of marijuana should not be a crime.”
Throughout the speech, Sanders largely ignored the other people running for president, though he did directly challenge GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s stance on immigration.
“What we’re seeing now is a horrendous level of bigotry and racism in attacking these people. When you have people like Trump saying that Mexicans are rapists or criminals, that is an outrage, which we will not accept.”
Trade, Bernie and Chelsea
And Sanders contrasted his position with his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, on trade. Sanders has voted against virtually all the trade deals that have come up during his nine years in the Senate – saying they were bad for American workers.
Chelsea Clinton was campaigning for her mother in Cleveland last week. Contacted after the Sanders rally, she repeated many of the points she made then, and said her position on trade as on many issues is nuanced
“My mom believes that there have been good examples of trade agreements that have reflected our values and also created real meaningful opportunities for our workers and our economy.”
But she noted that her mother, like Sanders, is opposed to the TransPacific Partnership President Obama is promoting.
Chelsea Clinton also called her mother is a pragmatic idealist – a combination that has achieved important things.
“I remember in the early 1990s, when my mom fought really hard for universal health care coverage, and that rather famously didn’t work out. And she could have given up and said well, we’ll just fight another day for the perfect solution. But instead, she said we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And she spent years building a bipartisan coalition to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
A democratic socialist
Some of those attending the Sanders’ rally acknowledged practical concerns about the implementation of his ideas. Among them is David Schwartz, who – at 20 – will be voting in his first presidential election – though he’s been following Sanders since he was 16.
His father is rooting for Ben Carson, his mother supports Donald Trump and his brother – who had been going for Jeb Bush – is looking for a new Republican option. So Schwartz knows backing a candidate who calls himself a democratic socialist can be a hard sell.
“But if people look at socialism in context, the idea itself is not a bad idea. And then of course Sanders isn’t even normal socialism. Democratic socialism is totally different than regular socialism because it still kind of uses capitalism as an engine to the economy.”
Making that argument will be left for another day. On this day, many in the crowd -- like Schwartz -- see the Sanders’ candidacy as “a dream come true.”