TACOMA – With a packed crowd in the Tacoma Dome cheering him on, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders promised to lead a revolution in American politics that would replace the concerns of billionaires with those of working people, reform immigration laws, fight climate change and make health care a human right.
And, of course, defeat Donald Trump as a predicate to all the other goals.
In a 40-minute speech, Sanders hit all the highlights of his second run for the White House.
He castigated President Donald Trump in general and over a range of specifics that included Trump’s promises in 2016 to come up with a better health care system than Obamacare and to not cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The administration has not proposed its own comprehensive health care plan, Sanders noted. And he said Trump’s budget proposal could lead to cuts in those programs.
He decried the political system as corrupt because it allows the wealthy “to buy elections.” A recent addition to that complaint – and based on the rally, a huge crowd-pleaser for supporters – is a shot at former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is spending hundreds of millions on campaign commercials in advance of the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3. Bloomberg has been climbing in some polls.
“I say to Michael Bloomberg, we are a democracy, not an oligarchy. You are not going to buy this election,” Sanders said, mentioning the former mayor’s “stop and frisk” policy that disproportionately targeted minorities and his position on the minimum wage.
Sanders denounced changes in immigration regulations, some of them implemented by Trump executive orders. If elected, Sanders said, on his first day in office he would rescind those orders and restore protections for some 1.8 million youth and adults who signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He would then work with Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.
And he promised gun laws “written by the American people, not the NRA” which he said would include universal background checks and ending the sale and distribution of military style semi-automatic rifles, which he called “assault weapons.”
He also said he would work to codify Roe versus Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion up to a certain point in a pregnancy, to put it in federal law, and “significantly expand funding for Planned Parenthood.”
The Tacoma Dome, which holds an estimated 17,000 people, was filled to standing room only. On the main floor in front of the television platform, were Jasmine and Redwolf Krise, who drove an hour and a half from Shelton with their 2-year-old son, Nation. They said they wanted to expose him to the ambiance and love of the crowd. The youngster waved a Sanders sign and high-fived other supporters around him.
“Bernie’s honesty puts him over the other candidates,” Redwolf Krise said, adding Sanders has “marched with the people.”
Krise, 40, is a member of the Squaxin tribe and said he’s never voted before. But he will this year, he said, for Sanders. He supports the candidate’s Medicare for All plan and believes Sanders considers the issues of Native people.
“He’s the most honest politician I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“If the winged-people trust him, we trust him,” Krise added, in reference to a bird that landed on the microphone at a Sanders rally in Portland in 2016.
Standing out in the crowd nearby was Nicolas Wiggins, who was sporting a onesie covered with multiple pictures of Sanders’ face. Wiggins said he has been following Sanders’ political career since 2015 and drove from Puyallup when he heard about the rally.
He loves that Sanders has been fighting for the same issues for 40 years and is most supportive of his health care proposal. Wiggin’s current job doesn’t offer him a health care plan and his dad might lose his job.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” he said. “If I were to get into an accident I couldn’t get health care.”
Sanders drew strong applause when he recited a litany of people and groups he contends are made nervous by his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and his strong poll showings. They included Trump, Republicans, Wall Street, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and the military-industrial complex. While each brought cheers from the crowd, the largest eruption occurred when he added: “The Democratic Establishment is getting nervous.”
When the roars died down, he added: “And you know, they should.”
Sanders is the first Democratic presidential candidate to hold a large-scale campaign event in Washington in advance of the state’s first presidential primary that will award delegates based on results. Ballots for the primary will be mailed by county elections offices by the end of the week and are due back by March 10.
“If we stay together, ain’t nothin’ gonna stop us,” he told the crowd.
Sanders did well in Washington four years ago. He got 72% of the delegates in the March precinct caucuses – 78% in Spokane County – and 47.6% of the votes in the May primary, compared to 52.4% for Hillary Clinton. Her victory was essentially for bragging rights because the Democratic National Committee wasn’t going to count the results.
Although Clinton eventually clinched the nomination, the state convention was strongly pro-Sanders, as was the delegation it sent to the national convention and electors chosen for the state’s Electoral College.
Sanders was preceded by a series of state and local politicians, including U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal, the state chairwoman of Sanders’ campaign and a sponsor of the House version of Medicare for All. She said Washington has always been on the forefront of key political issues, from marriage equality to women’s reproductive rights to the $15 minimum wage.
“Is it radical to want to protect our people and this planet and take on this climate crisis,” Jayapal asked the cheering crowd. “Is it radical to fight for LGBTQ equality?”
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