Katherine Hazen ’18 News Editor
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a campaign trail stop in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday, Oct. 3. Sanders – who is seeking the Democratic nomination – spoke to an energetic crowd at the MassMutual Center. He called for a “political revolution” and addressed the many issues associated with class and racial divides that his campaign promises to tackle.
Three speakers, each with a message related to his campaign, preceded the Independent senator from Vermont. Karen Higgins, co-president of National Nurses United, began by saying that Sanders is the only candidate poised to tackle the issue of income inequality.
“Although many of us would love to break the glass ceiling, it’s time we broke the class ceiling,” Higgins said. Higgins was then followed by a sophomore at Brandeis University who spoke about the issue of student debt and an environmentalist from Vermont who addressed Sanders’s record on environmental issues.
Sanders’s biggest issue with the current state of the U.S. government is the influence that big money – namely the Koch brothers – has on politics thanks to the Citizens’ United Supreme Court decision. This concern is reflected in the fact that Sanders’s campaign is not funded in any way by Super PACs.
“Ninety-nine percent of our contributions are $100 or less,” Sanders said as he began his speech. He continued by giving countless ratios to demonstrate the tremendous income inequality in the United States, claiming that income inequality is “worse today than any day since 1928.”
“Brothers and sisters, we are living in a rigged economy – heads, they win; tails, you lose,” Sanders said.
Many related issues branch from income inequality, such as youth unemployment and mass incarceration. Sanders enlisted economists to conduct a study on youth unemployment for high school graduates ages 17 to 20, and they found that nearly 30 percent of those unemployed are white youths, 36 percent are Hispanics and more than 50 percent are African Americans.
Sanders also spoke about gendered economic issues, such as paid family leave and the gender wage gap.
“There is no rational economic reason [for the wage gap]…It is sexist. It has got to end,” he said.
Sanders’s plan for student debt is to make state universities tuition-free by taxing Wall Street. He cited his own voting record in regards to Wall Street, specifically during the government bailout after the 2008 market crash. Sanders, of course, voted against the bailout.
“If a bank is ‘too big to fail,’ then it’s too big to exist,” Sanders said to much applause.
Sanders skimmed foreign policy during his speech, briefly addressing the refugee crisis in Syria, which he has been pressured to take a stance on in recent weeks. “Anyone who thinks they have a magic solution to the problem is wrong,” he said.
Here he again cited his voting record. He voted against invading Iraq when he served as a Representative. However, he said, sometimes the country has to go to war.
In the wake of yet another mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Sanders addressed the issue of gun control. Sanders is pro-gun rights in their rural meaning, as he told NPR earlier this summer.
“We need to pass sensible gun control legislation that says clearly guns should not be owned by people who should not have them,” Sanders said on Saturday.
It is safe to say economic issues dominated Sanders’s speech. His success has shocked many pundits who predicted he would not gain traction with his self-proclaimed “socialist” label and refusal to work with Super PACs. It will surely be interesting to see how far his “political revolution” goes.