U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democrat from Vermont and a 2020 presidential candidate, talked health care, prison reform, free college and unseating President Donald Trump during a campaign stop in downtown San Jose on Saturday.
“The message of our campaign is us, not me,” Sanders told a crowd of several hundred supporters at San Jose’s Arena Green park. “I want you to be concerned about my family. I, in turn, will be concerned about your families. And that is what a civilized, democratic society is about. We are in it together.”
Sanders took the stage a day after a disgruntled gunman opened fire in a Virginia Beach city building Friday, killing 12 people and sending four others to the hospital. The topic of gun control was top of mind for the progressive senator, as he called for stricter gun control measures, including banning the sale and distribution of “military style assault weapons” such as the AR-15, and expanding “common sense gun safety legislation.”
Sanders said in a “nation with hundreds of millions of guns,” he’ll do everything he can to pass common sense gun safety measures.
Sanders, who lost a bid for the presidency in 2016, spoke against corporate greed within the pharmaceutical industry, private prisons, insurance companies and the wealthiest individuals in the country — such as the Walton family and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
He made promises to expand Medicare to every American, provide free public college and university tuition and to challenge political influence from Wall Street executives.
“We don’t bring about the change we need unless we have the guts to stand up to those powerful special interests,” Sanders said, adding that if elected president, “we are going to tell Wall Street we’re going to end their greed.”
The socialist senator from Vermont also promised to establish a country-wide minimum wage of $15 an hour, to reform a “broken” criminal justice system and to “cut drug prices in half in this country.” “We’re going to say that if you work 40 hours a week, you will not live in poverty,” Sanders said.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, spoke before Sanders took the stage, urging the crowd’s support for the presidential hopeful. Sanders tapped Khanna in February to serve as a campaign co-chair and top adviser in his 2020 presidential run.
“There are a lot of candidates who talk about the working class and the middle class, but Bernie Sanders is the only one who’s delivered,” Khanna said. “This is not a campaign of anger, this is a campaign of inspiration.”
And throughout the evening’s two-hour rally, cheers and claps erupted from those gathered at Arena Green in support of Sanders, who three years after losing his bid for president maintains his wild popularity among millennials and young adults.
“Not a lot of other candidates share what my values are,” Carmela Dizon, a 19-year-old college student from Marin, told San José Spotlight. Dizon said she will cast her first ever presidential election ballot in 2020, and plans to vote for Sanders because “he has some ideas that actually have a follow-through.”
Sanders also detailed campaign promises to invest in renewable energy industries and technologies so America can “lead the world” against the globe’s climate crisis.
“It seems to me that we have a moral responsibility to make sure that the planet we leave our children and grandchildren is a planet that is healthy and inhabitable,” Sanders said. “So today we say to the fossil fuel industry that it is not acceptable that you think your short-term profits are more important than the people of this world.”
As the battle over abortion rights heats up across the country, Sanders said Saturday that his Supreme Court Justice nomination would defend Roe V. Wade “to the death.” The senator also outlined plans to legalize marijuana nationwide and pass “comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship.”
Amaal Elmi, a 37-year-old San Jose resident and nurse, called Sanders’ rally “beautiful.” She plans to vote for him.
“Everybody was engaged,” Elmi said. “We love his ideas.”
Marcus Mendiola, 29, agreed. He supports Sanders’ campaign with monthly donations ranging from $5 to $10 every time he gets paid. “I needed those speeches. They were uplifting and empowering,” Mendiola said Saturday. “Because he didn’t win in 2016, I feel like I need to give even more.”
Mendiola called the other Democrats running against Sanders “compromises to the social justice that [Sanders] has been working on for decades.”
“We may be going into wars that we shouldn’t be going into with money we shouldn’t be spending,” Mendiola said. “It’s not a time to compromise.”
Contact Kyle Martin at [email protected] or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.