Bernie ‘bores’ at UNI visit


CLINTON OLSASKY, Executive Editor | [email protected]

“We are going to talk about the most important issues that face our country. We’re going to talk about them in depth, and I’m going to bore the hell out of you,” said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally held at the West Gym on UNI’s campus  Jan. 24.

The Vermont senator went on to speak for over an hour to a crowd of 1,250 people; he emphasized what he sees as the success of  his grassroots campaign and covered a variety of domestic issues.

While he remained quiet on foreign policy, unlike at his campaign stop in Waterloo in December, Sanders did discuss plans to eliminate the cost of tuition at public universities, efforts to correct what he referred to as a “rigged economy,” the importance of clean energy and universal health care.

In attempt to quell critics who question his electability, he touted poll numbers (resembling Donald Trump’s visit to the West Gym on Jan. 12) that show him as a more viable candidate than Hillary Clinton against Trump as the GOP nominee.Sanders stated his intention to make public colleges and universities tuition free, which elicited applause from the largely college-aged crowd at the rally.

Sanders asked the crowd if anyone in attendance was dealing with student debt. Dozens of voices cried out, with responses ranging from a few thousand dollars all the way up to $180,000 for one couple.

“Why are we punishing people in this country for the crime of trying to get an education?” Sanders asked in reference to what he deemed “outrageously high” student debt. “What a sane society wants to do is to encourage people to get an education, not saddle them with debt for the rest of their life.”

Megan Kennedy, junior family services and psychology double major, agreed with Sanders’s stance on multiple issues, including college tuition.

“I’m supporting Bernie Sanders because he supports lowering the cost or making college free, breaking up the banks of Wall Street and expanding Medicaid,” Kennedy said. “He also is the only one not getting money from big corporations. He’s getting all individual donations, which I really think shows how popular he is.”

Sanders spoke at length about his campaign’s dependence on individual supporters, rather than Super PACs.

“It turns out that in the last nine months, we have received 2.5 million individual contributions. It turns out that that is more individual contributions than any campaign in the history of the United States,” Sanders said. He claimed these donations averaged $27.

“The biggest thing is that he doesn’t take money from corporate donors,” said Stephanie Hundley, Waterloo resident. “He doesn’t talk about ridiculous things that most of the candidates talk about. He talks about the issues, the things that Americans want to hear. And climate change is a big thing for me.”

Sanders  discussed what he sees as the dangers of climate change, promising that he will work with countries like Russia, China and India to shift the world’s reliance on fossil fuel to sustainable energy.

Sanders thanked the people of Iowa for leading the cause for sustainable energy. According to Sanders, Iowa receives about 30 percent of its electricity from wind and is leading the way in biofuels.

Sanders assailed what he sees as a “rigged economy,” citing the wealth of the Walton family. He also characterized pay inequality for women workers as “old-fashioned sexism.”

He called for raising federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 “over the next few years.” He referred to the current minimum wage as a “starvation wage.”

Doug Kennedy, sophomore accounting major, was supportive of Sanders’s stance on raising the minimum wage but was skeptical as to how high it would increase

“I feel like it won’t get up to $15,” Kennedy said. “But I think it’s necessary to have it increase just a little bit. That would definitely help out millions of people in this nation.”

Sanders’ call for a single payer healthcare system elicited the loudest applause of the evening.

Bettina Fabos, associate professor of communication studies, appreciated the candidness with which Sanders spoke.

“He can really speak the truth very directly and very honestly,” Fabos said. “I think that’s refreshing. And I think that we’re ready for that change.”

“If we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” Sanders said. “This election, for me, is not just asking you to vote for Bernie Sanders. This election is about transforming our country and creating a government that works for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”