Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told supporters Thursday afternoon for the second time in less than a week that “it does look like Spokane is ready for a political revolution.”
Before nearly 3,000 people at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Sanders started his hour-long speech arguing that he could still win the Democratic Party’s nomination because he is the strongest candidate to beat Donald Trump.
“We are all going to do everything we can to make certain that a Republican does not occupy the White House,” he said. “In order to do that, we need the strongest Democratic candidate possible. And you are looking at him. … We are the strongest candidate. If people are worried about that, as they should, we are going to work together to get the nomination.”
Washington will hold its Democratic caucus on Saturday, and Sanders made another swing through the state Thursday, starting at the Arena. Nearly 10,000 came to hear Sanders speak Sunday at the Convention Center, but only about 1,000 were allowed in the room for his rally due to fire code restrictions.
With the huge turnout Sunday and a lopsided victory in Tuesday’s Idaho caucuses - notably with 84 percent of the vote in Boundary County - Sanders clearly sees fertile political ground in the Inland Northwest.
Though Thursday’s crowd was much smaller than Sunday’s, Sanders still urged the crowd to attend the caucus Saturday and said when working-class and young people participate, he does well.
“If we talk about the issue of which candidate is best able to defeat Donald Trump, there really should not be a whole lot of debate about that,” he said, noting that a CNN poll showed Hillary Clinton, his rival for the nomination, beating Trump by 12 percentage points.
“That’s very good. We beat him by 20 points,” he said. “Poll after poll after poll makes it clear that we do much better not only against Trump but against other Republican candidates.”
Like the earlier Spokane rally, the crowd hung on Sanders’ words and were quick to scream in approval. He treated them with equal flattery.
Sanders called for a “Medicare for all” health care system, free college tuition, an end to deporting immigrants who are in the United States illegally, a ban on fracking, decriminalization of drug offenses and a $15 minimum wage. He rang familiar notes of a “rigged economy” helping wealthy individuals and corporations over the vast majority of working Americans.
Besides Trump, he took on his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He noted that a Super PAC is working on Clinton’s behalf and vowed to never to allow a Super PAC to work on his. He also used an argument President Barack Obama used against Clinton for the Democratic nomination eight years ago.
“I voted against the war,” Sanders said referring to the Iraq War. “Secretary Clinton heard the same evidence. She voted for the war.”
Sanders said he supports Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and said he would nominate people who would help overturn the court’s Citizens United ruling, the decision that allows unlimited campaign contributions by corporations.
“We now have a corrupt campaign system that is undermining American democracy,” he said. “We are seeing billionaires buying elections.”
Passion was high in the crowd, and some lined up as early as 6 a.m. for Sanders’ scheduled 2 p.m. speech.
Cam Bond, 22, woke at 3 a.m. to drive from Kalispell, Montana to see Sanders.
“I’ve loved Bernie since I was a freshman in college,” Bond said, adding that he likes him for his “integrity in politics and positive progressivism.”
Rhett Risinger and Forrest Mousseau, both 18, said they support Sanders for his unwavering politics. They came to the rally holding “Stop TPP” signs, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement opposed by Sanders. Clinton also has said she opposes the agreement.
“You can preach about not taking corporate money,” Mousseau said. “But walking the walk is completely different.”
Nicholas Cavasier, 25, and Kayla Walker, 20, came to rally after missing Sanders on Sunday because Cavasier was performing stand-up comedy.
“No offense to Hillary, but it seems like she lies like she breathes,” Cavasier said. “I do too, but I’m a comedian.”
The Sanders campaign paid $30,000 in rental fees and service costs to use the Arena, according to the Spokane Public Facilities District.
Near the end of his speech, Sanders criticized Trump’s role in the birther movement, which questioned Obama’s citizenship. Efforts to bring people together will trump efforts to divide, he said.
“Trump will not be elected president because the American people instinctually, in a very deep sense, understand that bringing our people together — black or white or Latino or Asian-American or Native American — bringing our people together — gay and straight, men and women, people born in America, people who have come to America — that effort of creating a cohesive nation will always trump dividing us up,” he said. “Love trumps hatred.”
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