U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to Perry Sunday morning with the same pro-working-class message of economic and social justice he delivered here in September 2019 and May 2019 and unchanged from his Perry stop of January 2016, when he was the first Democratic hopeful to visit Perry in the last presidential primary campaign cycle.
The Vermont Independent made up for his snowed-out Jan. 10 Perry call by bringing along two familiar progressives in his train, filmmaker Michael Moore and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who warmed up the overflow crowd of about 200 with brief speeches.
Noting the occasion of the Sabbath, Moore recalled the disciple Matthew and Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and Dives, with its moral that it is hard for the rich to gain heaven, and he repeated the words of Jesus, who said that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Moore said the Sanders campaign aims to realize the Judaeo-Christian moral ideal, again exemplified by the words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.
First-term Congressperson Ocasio-Cortez said the political and social movement Sanders leads is notable for its cross-group cooperation, where one sees young people fighting to defend Social Security and seniors standing up for the abolition of college debt, where citizens defend the rights of the undocumented and straight people advocate for LGBT rights, where everybody pulls for universal health care and against climate catastrophe.
The start of Sanders’ speech was interrupted when two animal-welfare protesters stood, unfurled a banner and began to shout out against the cruelty of factory farms. Security promptly escorted them out of the hall.
“This is the most consequential election in modern American history,” Sanders said. “What we are talking about is in fact whether we are going to maintain and strengthen our democracy or whether we move toward an autocratic form of government, with a president who believes that he’s above the law. What we are talking about is whether we create an economy that works for working families or see an increase in the outrageous level of income and wealth inequality, where three people today own more wealth than the bottom half of America. What we are talking about is whether we guarantee health care for all people or whether we continue in a dysfunctional and cruel system designed to make billions in profits for the drug companies and the insurance companies. What we are talking about is whether we can save the planet for our kids and future generations. So this is an enormously consequential election, and Iowa goes first.”
Sanders said the unforeseen Senate trial of President Donald Trump on articles of impeachment has caused him to change his campaign schedule in the week leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, but his lead in recent polls gives him cause to hope for victory.
“The reason we are going to win here in Iowa is because we have the strongest grassroots movement of any campaign,” he said. “What we are saying unabashedly, unapologetically is, yes, our administration will be an administration of the working class of this country.”
Sanders said he is prepared to challenge and overcome the power of the entrenched corporate interests that compose the ruling class in the U.S.
“We are prepared in an unprecedented way to take on Wall Street,” he said, “to take on the insurance companies, to take on the drug companies, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the military-industrial complex, to take on the prison-industrial complex, to take on the entire 1 percent and say that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, the rich and the powerful will start paying their fair share.”
Sanders said his agenda “speaks to the needs of working people, to people feeling ignored by the political establishment. These are the people working longer hours for low wages. Maybe they’re working two or three jobs. Maybe they are family farmers here in Iowa or in Vermont who are being driven off the land because they can’t get a fair price for their product, losing a farm that their family has owned for generations. Maybe they are parents who are heartbroken because they cannot afford to send their kids to college or people today who cannot walk into a doctor’s office when they are sick because they cannot afford the cost of healthcare. Indeed, they are people all across America who are disgusted and embarrassed that we have a president who does not even recognize the reality of climate change let alone is doing something about it.”
Sanders touched on issues such as a living wage and gender pay equity, enhanced union organizing, immigration, gun control, reproductive rights and education:
“When we think about a government that represents working people,” he said, “we remember about 11 years ago when Congress, against my vote, bailed out the crooks on Wall Street who nearly destroyed our economy. Remember that bailout? Two years ago, Trump and his friends gave $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent and large private corporations. Well, you know what? If we can bail out crooks, if we can give tax beaks to billionaires, we can cancel all student debt in the country, and we can do that through a modest tax on Wall Street speculation.”
Sanders dwelled longest on the issues of health care and climate change. He reminded his listeners that the U.S. is “the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care for all people as a human right. We’re the only one.” He said the U.S. has “moral responsibility” for the climate crisis, and he has brought forth the “most sweeping, comprehensive climate-change proposal ever introduced by a candidate for federal office.”
Sanders asked his audience to support him at the caucuses Monday, Feb. 3.
“What happens here is enormously important,” he said. To those who doubt whether any political movement can “transform the country” by challenging the immense wealth and power of Wall Street and the fossil fuel, drug and insurance industries, he said they should consider the long odds once faced by the labor movement, the women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement and the environmental movement.
Sanders concluded by saying his schedule was very tight and so without pausing for selfies or questions from the audience, the Sanders camp remounted their bus and moved on to events in Fort Dodge, Storm Lake and Sioux City.