Was Gainesville Really Feeling the Bern?
Today Senator and Democratic candidate for president, Bernie Sanders, made a campaign stop here at the University of Florida on his way to a larger rally in Tampa.
Ardent Bernie supporters, political nerds, locals and the curious alike filled the University South Village Field to capacity, waiting in the (bern)ing Florida sun for hours for Bernie to arrive.
Finally, after several chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard took to the stage to introduce Bernie.
The crowd crescendoed into a roar as Bernie walked up to the podium, grinning and waving with his wife.
Donning a Gator cap atop his flyaway Doc Brown hair, Bernie wasted no time before getting right to his campaign issues.
He started off by calling on all the students and rally attendees to get out and vote, saying that while Gator football is a spectator sport, democracy is not.
He called the campaign finance system corrupt, demanding one person, one vote. He condemned the billionaires for buying elections and called for major reforms.
Sticking with his anti-oligarchy theme, he moved on to the economy, calling it rigged and making a dire prediction that our generation will be worse off than our parents unless we fix the economy.
Bernie ended his major platform points on broken criminal justice in America, saying that the media refused to talk about this very real issue.
He said that the US spent $80 billion per year on the prison system, which he characterized as unfairly imprisoning more minorities than whites, and imprisoning more citizens than any other country.
“We are gonna invest in jobs and education. Not jails and incarceration.”
Bernie called for an end to police brutality, demilitarizing the police, removing marijuana from its Schedule 1 status, rethinking the War on Drugs, and calling issues with drug overdoses and drug use as a health problem, not a criminal problem.
Mentioning his nine state win record in the Democratic nomination race (for reference, Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has won twelve states), Bernie vowed to pull an upset win in Florida.
Jumping back into the issues, Bernie called for a $15 per hour Federal minimum wage, equal pay for women, paid maternity and sick leave, and better care for veterans. Playing off the college crowd, he said he’d fight for reduction of student debt and free college tuition for everyone, paid for by a new tax on Wall Street speculation.
Bernie spent some time contrasting himself with Hillary (he believes Hillary is pro-war and is in the pocket of corporations, and that he is not), and gleefully bashed the Republican candidates for being climate change deniers (“Worry more about the future than your damn campaign contributions!”) among other things.
Calling healthcare a right, he argued for his single-payer universal healthcare proposal and railed on the pharmaceutical industry for its exorbitant prices.
Bernie ended his charged campaign speech by saying that Wall Street, corporations, the corporate media, and campaign contributions from the wealthy prevented him from making change all by himself. He said change happens from the bottom up, and even ten years ago (when gay marriage was illegal nationally) if you told someone that there’d be gay marriage by 2015 they’d say to you “What are you smoking?” Laughing, he followed with, “But that’s a whole ‘nother issue.”
Bernie believes that his political revolution will continue to grow, and as he left the stage to wild applause and chants, you can bet that the crowd believed it too.