Election 2016: Weekend at Bernie’s House Party in Manchester

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After a $1.5M campaign boost in just 48 hours, Sen. Bernie Sanders is focused like a laser beam on New Hampshire #FITN supporters.
Will Stewart captures a selfie with Bernie Sanders at a Manchester house party on May 2.
Will Stewart takes a selfie with Bernie Sanders at a Manchester house party on May 2.

MANCHESTER, NH – Right out of the presidential campaign gate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made his way to New Hampshire, buoyed by a $1.5 million boost to his campaign fund since announcing his candidacy on April 30.

Sanders, a registered Independent and self-described “socialist democrat,” arrived at a house party on Beech Street just after 10 a.m., where it was tight quarters for 130 people who came out to hear Sanders make his case for the Democratic nomination.

He is the first challenger to oppose Hillary Clinton, who announced her much-anticipated candidacy three weeks ago.

Sanders underscored that his main objective in running is to represent the interests of middle-class Americans, who Sanders said have been left in the dust of an economy that caters to the richest of the rich.

One of the biggest problems Americans face is lack of “decent paying” jobs for a livable wage, said Sanders, and job creation is key in an economy where Wal-Mart is the largest private sector employer, offering “low wages, terrible benefits and is vehemently anti-union,” said Sanders.

He proposed more than doubling the minimum wage incrementally, from “starvation wage” to $15 per hour.

“And when we talk about jobs what we want to see is corporate America and the big money interests investing in New Hampshire and in Vermont and in America and not simply in low wage countries all over world,” said Sanders. In his two terms as a Vermont senator he said he has opposed all foreign trade agreements.

Underscoring his Yankee frugality, Sanders said he’s proud of running a “modest grassroots campaign,” and told those gathered that he will not run a negative campaign, or a flashy one.

“It is a very different kind of campaign. People are saying Bernie can’t win, but we really can,” said Sanders. “We’ve got a real shot at this, but the only way we win this thing is by a strong grassroots, door-to-door campaign,” said Sanders.

He said “he didn’t spend a nickel” on TV ads during his last senate campaign.

Sanders did however spend a majority of his 30-minute stump speech circling back to the problem of  “big money” in politics, which he views as the biggest threat to American democracy.

He also talked about the need for free higher education in the U.S, which he compared to the education system in Germany and other European countries, as a way of strengthening the economy – an expensive prospect with an estimated price tag of $70 billion annually, but worth the investment in the country’s future, Sanders said.

“That’s a lot of money, but it’s less money than we lose every year by corporate tax evasion – we lose $100 billion every  year because profitable  corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda avoiding U.S. taxes and in some cases paying zero in U.S. taxes,” Sanders said.

Sanders pointed to the proposed Republican budget that would “give a huge tax break to the 6,000 wealthiest families in America” by repealing the estate tax which Sanders said would mean $269 billion in tax breaks for the top two-tenths of 1 percent of Americans.

“It’s hard to describe what world these people are living in; it’s not your world, it’s not the world of working-class Americans. The Republicans have pushed this agenda for years,” Sanders said.

But he singled out climate change as the biggest issue facing the country.

“We have heard from scientists all over the world that … if we do not get our act together in the next few years, it’s likely planet Earth will be between 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of this century,” said Sanders, leading to extreme weather patterns, including flood and drought, with devastating environmental and economic impact.


   Click above for a crowdsourced slideshow and an excerpt of Sen. Bernie Sander’s comments.

Hosting the house party were Manchester residents Elizabeth Ropp and Eric Zulaski, who got the word Tuesday that Sanders would be turning their humble abode into a campaign stop.

Ropp, who normally works Saturdays, said she had time to swap shifts with someone and rearrange the furniture.

Among those who attended the NH launch party were Sandra Gagnon and Suzanne Martin, of Manchester, who say they currently favor Sanders over Clinton.

“I would have loved Elizabeth Warren, and I’m OK with Hillary but she’s not as progressive as I’d like, so I think we need someone like Bernie Sanders in here to push the core progressive issues and take a stand, instead of playing it safe,” said Gagnon.

She doesn’t mind Sanders’ socialist leanings.

“I think he’s going to be looking out for people like myself, my family, my neighbors, people who are middle and lower income.  I don’t think Bernie’s going to be beholden to the big bankers, the wealthy class, and the corporations,” Gagnon said.

“I like the courage he shows in coming out and saying he’s as a socialist democrat. He’s telling the truth,” said Martin. “I think that’s a huge plus.”

Martin said she would like to learn more about Sanders’ plan for national health care, which is important to her.

“I had to buy this cane out of pocket, and I have a walker I had to buy out of pocket. I think some improvements can be made to the health care system. I know it will be expensive, but it’s important. And I would like to be able to see, and get a new pair of glasses,” she said.

Not too much to ask from  someone who has worked hard her whole life, said Gagnon.

Sandra Gagnon, left, and Suzanne Martin waiting for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Manchester, NH.

“But in this country there are a lot of people who think it is too much to ask. There’s too much of a mentality – and I see it mostly but not exclusively on the Republican side – of ‘I’ve got mine and I don’t care if the rest of you don’t have what  you need.’ I don’t believe in a dog-eat-dog world, and that’s why Bernie having been part of the socialist party doesn’t scare me. We need a good safety net,” Gagnon said.

Eva Castillo, a community activist and Manchester Police Commissioner, said she came to hear what Sanders had to say.

“I honestly found him more balanced than what I’ve heard of him. He makes a lot of sense. I don’t know how much he’s going to affect people who already have their minds made up. But people should be informed and not marry themselves to a political party. They should just vote for whoever represents their best interests,” Castillo said.

Manchester At-Large School Board member Kathy Staub attended to get a feel for what Sanders was all about.

“I was interested in what he had to say because nobody else says it. He really tells it like it is. We’ve created an environment where people who work paycheck-to-paycheck don’t think the government is relevant anymore,” Staub said.

She thinks Sanders will serve as a champion for those who haven’t been represented in past elections.

“Bernie Sanders is going to be the spokesperson for all these people who, up to this point, haven’t had a spokesperson,” said Staub. That’s the great thing about this candidacy –  he knows what working people need and he’s willing to get out there and be a champion.”

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About Carol Robidoux 5853 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!