MANCHESTER, NH — More than 900 people turned out Saturday night in a snowstorm to cheer on Bernie Sanders in his bid to win the Democratic Presidential nomination with the ultimate goal of ousting President Donald Trump from the White House.
Sanders told the crowd gathered in the gymnasium at the Henry J. McLaughlin Jr. Middle School that the campaign was not just about defeating Trump but it was about a political revolution to change the country. It is about taking on a corrupt political system and a rigged economy, he said.
He told the enthusiastic crowd they were going to do well in the Iowa caucus and with their help, “we can win here in New Hampshire. If we win Iowa and New Hampshire I think we stand a great chance to win in Nevada.” He said the same holds true in South Carolina but predicted “we will win California” putting the campaign in good shape for Super Tuesday.
He said, however, he needs their help if they are to defeat “the most dangerous president in the modern history of the United States,” which brought clamorous applause.
Sanders said having sworn an oath, he will be spending more time in Washington for the impeachment trial of the President in the next few weeks. He’s had to change his campaign schedule with the First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary just three weeks away and he told the crowd he needs their help “big time” to win. He needs them, their families, their friends and co-workers all to come out and vote, he said, again to loud applause.
Sanders spoke for about an hour, with the crowd drowning out some of his words when he spoke about guaranteeing health care as a right, not a privilege; his Medicare for All plan, which would cost about $1,200 a year for families earning $60,000 a year and include coverage for dental, eyeglasses and hearing aids; legalizing marijuana; eliminating college debt; combatting climate change and investing heavily in alternative energy; eliminating for-profit prisons and detention centers; raising federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; reforming the criminal justice system; eliminating cash bail, among others.
On the economy, he said half the people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck.
“What we believe that in the United States of America in 2020, the richest country in the history of the world, half our people shouldn’t be living in poverty,” he said. “We are going to make an economy that works for all.”
He said right now in New Hampshire, many people are earning $11 to $12 bucks an hour. They can’t make it on that, he said, and they can’t pay for childcare. There are people who are 60 years old looking to retire in five years who have nothing in their pockets.
“That’s why there is so much financial anxiety,” he said.
Yet, he said, the wealthy have never had it so good. “It’s obscene,” he said.
Three people in this country own more than a combined 160 million people, half the nation, he said.
Four years ago when he was in Manchester, Sanders said he talked about ideas that the political, economic and media establishment all said couldn’t be done and that Americans didn’t want. Yet, Sanders won that Presidential Primary, defeating Hillary Clinton.
People across the country do not think those ideas are radical, Sanders said. “It is what working people want,” he said.
Now, many of those ideas that were seen as extreme have become mainstream, he said, and many have been adopted by his opponents.
On climate change, Sanders said scientists say oceans are warming at a faster rate than before meaning that at the end of the century cities like Miami Beach, Charleston, S.C., and Vienna will be underwater. There will be shorter growing seasons because of extreme heat, resulting in 100 million climate refugees because they can’t find water or grow crops.
That will happen, he said, unless “we have the courage to take on the fossil fuel industry. Our job is to tell them that the future of our planet and for future generations is much more important than their profits.”
Prior to taking the stage, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor, endorsed Sanders. He told the crowd that on Thursday he was in Georgia with his client of 30 years, a death row inmate. They had their last hearing and his client’s execution was set for 7 that night. At 2 p.m., five hours before his execution, the last opportunity, Volinsky said they got the order commuting his sentence.
According to published reports, Jimmy Meders’ sentence was commuted to life without parole. He had been on death row since 1991 for the murder of a convenience store clerk. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted his sentence to life without parole saying that his jury did not want him to receive the death sentence.
Waiting for the decision with Volinsky were two other attorneys, Meders’ mother, his family and Meders, all sitting in plastic chairs in a makeshift visiting room waiting for the order. Talk turned to what was happening politically in New Hampshire.
“This is what is happening,” he said, motioning to the crowd, eliciting spontaneous applause. Volinsky asked the lawyers and Meders’ family who they were supporting for President.
“One by one, each one sitting with me said, ‘I’m voting for Bernie Sanders,’” he said.
Meders’ mother is 75-years-old, works in Wal-Mart and never earned $15 an hour.
“She said, ‘I support Bernie Sanders because he will work for us,’” Volinsky said. Sanders, he said, cares about judicial justice, environmental justice, labor justice, among others.
“Bernie Sanders will work for us,” he said.
Among the Bernie supporters were Doug and Berkeley Church of Nashua.
“I feel like he is the voice for the everyday person,” said Berkeley Church, 29. “For me, having two children I know what it is like to have college debt and hospital bills.”
In graduate school to become a counselor/therapist, she said Sanders speaks up about a broken system that isn’t working for people like her and her family who live worrying about drowning in debt.
Doug Church, 34, said he likes everything about Sanders. “Medicare for all. Education for all. Foreign policy. His support for former Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Just everything.“
He likes that Sanders also supported the release from jail of former Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Sanders was the only Democrat to call for the release of Da Silva, who is believed to have been the victim of a right-wing campaign when he was convicted of corruption to keep him out of another presidential term. He was president from 2003 to 2010. He was released from prison last November pending appeal.
Upon entering the gym, attendees were handed Bernie signs to wave as the candidate spoke. Steve Bohrer of Boston was one of two volunteers who stood at the entrance to the school waving Bernie signs and directing drivers on South Mammoth Road to the school. He explained that was needed because the campaign was not permitted to post any signs on the school property.
Smiling, he entered the gym with snow covering his hat and shoulders of his jacket.
No snowstorm was going to keep Deborah Cuenca, 54, of Derry away from the rally. Wearing black socks and sandals, Cuenca said she was out all day and thought there was only supposed to rain Saturday.
By the time she got through the long line and into the school gymnasium, Cuenca’s feet were freezing and she still had some snow on top of her feet.
Four years ago, on the eve of the First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary, Cuenca was named a super volunteer by the Bernie campaign and introduced him when he spoke at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” she said. And, it was a night just like Saturday’s — snowing and cold.
What she likes about Bernie, she said, is that he is honest, consistent and he’s been talking about climate change for decades. “He’s always ahead of the curve,” she said.
And she supports his Medicare For All plan. Too many people remain in jobs they hate because they need the health insurance, she said.
And it’s not a pipe dream like Amy Klobuchar calls it. “She’s the one in a pipe dream,” said Cuenca, a medical interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients. “It’s a pipe dream that she will ever be president.”