'Bernie in the pines': Sanders rally draws large crowd to Bema

by Soleil Gaylord and Pierce Wilson | 10/1/19 2:15am

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Sanders was the last of the major Democratic presidential candidates to have visited Dartmouth this past year.

by Elsa Ericksen / The Dartmouth Staff

A crowd of over 1,000 students and community members flocked to the Bema on Sunday evening to watch Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak about issues including climate change, gun control, healthcare, taxes and wages.

Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont, is the last of the major Democratic candidates to visit Dartmouth in the past year.

After being introduced by Arjun Shreekumar, a campaign field organizer, and Sunpreet Singh ’20, Sanders, stationed amongst statuesque pines, began with a direct appeal to the audience. 

“We need an unprecedented campaign to win, and we need an unprecedented presidency to do what has to be done, and I intend to do all of that and more,” Sanders said. 

Sanders briefly touched on President Donald Trump, emphasizing that he didn’t “want to spend a lot of time” on him. However, he also discussed the importance of impeachment, urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and fellow Republicans to “have the courage to stand up to Trump” and to follow through with a Senate trial after House impeachment proceedings conclude. He also asked his Republican colleagues to “put the future of America ahead of their short-term political interest.”  

Sanders expressed concern at the United States’ growing wealth gap and proposed strategies for resolving growing inequality — a plan he described as “the strongest that any presidential candidate has ever offered.” Sanders additionally mentioned his support for public funding of elections, increasing the minimum wage, strengthening union membership and overturning the landmark Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  

Amid a particularly enthusiastic round of student applause, Sanders described his plans to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and to “cancel all student debt in America.” 

An additional cornerstone of the Sanders campaign is single-payer, universal Medicare — a system in which premiums, copayments, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses would be covered by the government.   

“Whether you are rich, whether you are poor, whether you are middle-class, you have a right to go to the doctor when you need to, regardless of your income,” Sanders said.  

Sanders said that he plans to fund this health care program from a general tax base, a payment method that he said would lead to cheaper health care and a reduction in the strength of the health care industry in the long term. 

Sanders also addressed mounting climate change concerns, denouncing Trump for his disregard of the issue. With environmental policy reform another pivotal aspect of his campaign, Sanders described plans to retrofit buildings, electrify transport systems and invest in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. 

On the issue of criminal justice reform, Sanders urged members of the crowd to “ask [themselves] why we have more people in jail than a communist authority country four times our size like China” and why the people incarcerated were predominantly Black, Latinx and Native American. 

To address the issue, Sanders discussed proposals such as investing in education, ending the War on Drugs, abolishing private prisons and legalizing marijuana — which elicited cheers from the crowd. Sanders added that, in addition to legalizing marijuana, he plans to expunge the criminal records of those incarcerated on marijuana charges. 

Continuing on the note of social justice, Sanders once again mentioned Trump, calling him “a racist president who is trying to demonize the undocumented.” 

He then called for “comprehensive immigration reform,” which he said included support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and the development of a humane border policy. 

Sanders then moved to the issue of abortion rights, arguing that many of his Republican colleagues in Congress want to “get the government off of the back of the American people, except when it comes to a woman’s right to control her own body.” He added that he would never nominate anyone to the Supreme Court who was not in favor of the Roe v. Wade decision. 

Next, Sanders spoke about the issue of gun control. He assured the crowd there was widespread support across the country for more thorough background checks, bringing an end to ‘loopholes’ and banning assault weapons. He added that this support was not being realized in Congress because Republican leadership is intimidated by the National Rifle Association. 

“You’re looking at someone who, as president, will not be scared by the NRA,” he said. 

Anna Byrd ’23, who attended the event, described the rally as “fun and informative.” She added that Sanders’ views on gun violence and gun ownership had been inconsistent in the past, but said that hearing his support for gun control was a positive.

Other students expressed similar positive sentiments. Spencer Keating ’23 said that after the rally he was “feeling pretty good about Bernie.”

Bill Bender ’04, a Vermont resident, said that he and his wife were grateful to be in the presence of a politician whom they admire, and that although they hope to vote for Sanders in the general election, they plan to support whomever the Democratic nominee is in next year’s presidential election. 

According to a recent poll conducted by Monmouth University, Sanders trails Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former vice president Joe Biden (D) in support among voters likely to participate in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.

Before the event, Sanders met with the Dartmouth Community against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence. In his talk with DCGHSV, Sanders affirmed his support for survivors and policies that would bring an end to sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to DCGHSV founder Diana Whitney ’95. 

Dartmouth College Democrats executive director Michael Parsons ’20 said that the Sanders campaign reached out to the College Democrats, who chose the Bema as the event’s location because of the large number of people expected to attend.

According to Carli Stevenson, New Hampshire deputy communications director for Sanders’ campaign, the official recorded attendance for the event was 1,052, which was nearly double the expected turnout of 600. Stevenson said that although previous Sanders events on campus have been held indoors, she thought that the Bema gave the event a sort of “Bernie in the pines feel.”