Presidential politics came to Reno on Wednesday, when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in on a rigged economy, affordable housing, climate change and women’s rights to control their own bodies.
The Dead Winter Carpenters, a band from Lake Tahoe, opened the rally with an estimated 1,500 at the Reno City Plaza.
Sanders did not address the growing call among Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings against Donald J. Trump or the hastily scheduled public appearance earlier Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller outlining his team’s two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump obstructed those efforts.
By Thursday in a campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada, Sanders had new thoughts on the question of impeachment.
“I believe the Judiciary Committee should begin impeachment inquiries,” he said. “That is inquiries, not impeachment, to determine whether or not Trump has committed impeachment offenses.
“This president is not above the law, no president is above the law. This president must be held accountable.”
Sanders was introduced by Brooke Noble, who addressed Nevada’s housing crisis, Marissa Weaselboy, a Native American University of Nevada student who focused on Sanders’ belief in free college for everyone and Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s, a constituent of Sanders for 40 years.
“Before Bernie, I used to be the most famous guy from Vermont,” Cohen said.
He spoke to Sanders’ honesty and straightforwardness. Cohen said he personally has a passion for justice, and the best thing you can do for environmental, social, racial and economic justice is to get Sanders elected.
“Ice cream is good, but a president of the United States who truly believes in justice in all its flavors? That’s euphoric!”
Sanders took the stage and thanked his old friend for his crazy introduction.
“He’s been eating too much ice cream,” Sanders said with a laugh. “It’s does something.”
Sanders was serious for the rest of his time.
Jesse Dunn and his band Dead Winter Carpenters performed to warm up the crowd before the presentation. His progressive bluegrass band calls Tahoe home, but Dunn grew up in Vermont so Sanders came through his television every evening.
“I support his campaign however I can,” Dunn said. “I believe in his message, spirit and platform. He’s a real human being that wears his heart on his sleeve.”
Dunn also said human rights is Sanders’ core.
Next week, Sanders will address the board of directors of Walmart. He gave the audience a taste of what he’ll say.
“The Waltons are the wealthiest family in this country,” Sanders said. “And this family, worth 175 billion, pays its employees wages so low that many are forced to go on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing. And do you know who’s paying for (that)?”
He said the tax payers of this country are subsidizing the wealthiest family in America and it speaks to the nature of a rigged economy and acorrupt political system.
Sanders’ speech was aimed at what he views as fundamentally wrong with our government. He said he would substantially lower student debt and make public colleges and universities tuition free by taxing Wall Street speculation.
“It’s somewhat insane that in America today, we spend twice as much per capita for health care as do the people of any other nation, and yet 34 million of us are uninsured,” Sanders said. “I think we need a system that allows every American to go to the doctors office when they need to go and doesn’t bankrupt them.”
His plan is to expand Medicare to cover all women, men and children. He said, last year, the top 10drug companies made 69 billion dollars in profits and the reason is Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
“We are going to cut drug prices in half,” Sanders said. “Because that is what the rest of the world is paying.”
Sanders didn’t spend too much time addressing the incumbent president, who he called him an embarrassment and a waste of time. He did make one personal message.
“Tonight, we say to Trump and his friends in the fossil fuel industry, climate change is not a hoax,” Sanders said. “Climate change is real. Climate change is already causing harm. And the scientists are telling us — and some of us actually believe in science — we have 12 years to radically transform our energy system.”
Without saying his name, Sanders easily illustrates the differences between himself, Trump and the Republican party.
“As president of the most powerful nation on earth, I will tell leaders all over the world instead of spending a trillion and a half dollars every year on weapons of destruction to kill each other, maybe we should start investing in ways to combat climate change and work together,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ aim is to unite the American people for social and economic change and to unite the world to help the planet. He said the change will bring new well-paying jobs and Nevada should be a leader in solar.
When Sanders brought up Alabama, the crowd instantly started booing. He said draconian laws are being put in place to deny women the right to control their own bodies.
“The right to control a woman’s body belongs to a woman and not to politicians,” Sanders said. “The right to control your own body is a constitutional right.”
He said, as president, his litmus test for selecting supreme court justices will be their strong support of Roe v. Wade.
“This isn’t a woman’s issue,” Sanders said. “This is an issue for all of us. The men of this country must stand with the women of this country.”
Sanders’ age is often brought up by critics.
“I think he’s the right choice,” Bruce Comer, a spectator, said. “He’s been pushing these ideas for decades. It’s amazing how many other Democratic politicians have decided to embrace his stance.“
Comer said the 77-year-old senator isn’t too old. Despite his age, Sanders has attracted the ears of the youth.
Chloe Kinerson, an 18-year-old Reno High School student, said she attended the rally to be involved politically. Her father and We The People teacher peaked her interested in politics and civic duty.
“Sanders’ campaign is ambitious,” Kinerson said. “His campaign promises are trying to reach a different audience. I like that his policy is for the average American.”
Kinerson addressed the mindset of some of her peers.
“For someone of my age, because of President Trump, there’s been a lot of apathy,” Kinerson said. “They have the sense that your vote or individual voice doesn’t matter. Whereas candidates like Bernie Sanders speak more to the individual person and what you can do to help.”
Kinerson followed Sanders’ run to office during the last election, but now that she’s of voting age, she’s paying closer attention.
Sanders concluded his speech by talking about the tribulations of pre-union workers, women, African-Americans and homosexuals and the steps they’ve individually taken to achieve justice, whether that’s the right to negotiate wages, to vote, to be citizens or to get married.
“Change always takes place when millions of people stand up and fight back,” Sanders said. “We have something they don’t have. The people!”
— Tony Contini