Shortly after the Des Moines Register and CNN reported Bernie Sanders leading in a recent Iowa poll, the presidential candidate lived up to the newly acquired top spot by attracting a large crowd Saturday afternoon inside the atrium of Berg Middle School in snow-stricken Newton.
A snowstorm from the night before did, however, prevent a guest appearance from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Undeterred by the burst of icy conditions, the Vermont senator compared the forecast to his home state, where he feels “very comfortable” in — so long as he doesn’t slip and break his hip, he said.
However, when later prompted by an attendee, Sanders noted his health “is great,” acknowledging he did have a heart attack about three months ago caused by a blocked artery. This incident raised questions about the senator’s age and how that might negatively affect his campaign.
“I would not be here today asking for your support if I did not fully believe I have the strength and the vigor to take on what is obviously a very difficult and stressful job,” Sanders said, adding he and his family appreciated the “prayers and expressions of concern” during that time.
Sanders also said he received “quality care,” lamenting that not everyone can receive such things. Indeed, the presidential candidate spoke extensively on Medicare for all before pivoting to his other flagship issues like the Green New Deal, canceling student debt and investing more resources into public education.
Prior to his one-hour visit with constituents, Sanders was
duced by a handful of supporters: a local campaign worker born and raised in Des Moines, a past union worker who had been employed at Maytag, a city council member from Pleasant Hill and a former Democratic Party chairperson.
This was fitting for the candidate whose campaign touts its predominantly people-led, grassroots movement that began all the way back in 2016. With John Lennon’s “Power to the People” blaring from the town hall speakers, Sanders made his way to the podium with heavy applause from the audience.
Guests were given about 25 minutes to ask questions of the candidate, ranging from vaping to climate change, the opioid epidemic and foreign policies. One attendee asked how Sanders is going to bring people of all political persuasions to work together. This kind of question, Sanders said, is asked every day.
“You see enormous amounts of divisiveness in this country, sometimes that’s spilled into outright hatred, which is not what we need,” he said. “So we start off by saying that in a democracy people have different points of view, but we gotta be respectful about it. Argue with each other but we don’t have to be hateful.”
Mentioning President Donald Trump in particular, Sanders said one of the things that upsets him most is “his bullying” and his actions to “intimidate people.” No matter their backgrounds, he suggested, Americans should not have to be “viciously trying to destroy people to win a point or to win an election.”
Still, Sanders believes there is more “commonality” between people than they realize. The senator suggests there are folks representing both major political parties who are working a job for $12 per hour and want to raise the minimum wage. Republican and Democratic women, too, want equal pay, he said.
“You got Republicans out there who are paying their fair share of taxes and wonder why Amazon and large corporations pay zero in federal income taxes,” Sanders said.
What Trump tries to do, he added, is “divide people based on our superficial differences,” such as the color of their skin is or their religion. Sanders said people can work together based on their common interests: health care, climate, wages, a “broken criminal justice system” and a broken immigration system.
“What I will try to do is bring people together around our common interests while Trump is trying to divide us,” Sanders said.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org