Bernie Sanders rallies at CSU Monday, encourages students to vote

Rachel Telljohn

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke on campus Monday afternoon at a Hillary Clinton rally to encourage students to vote.

The rally was held inside the Grand Ballroom in the Lory Student Center, and crowd count for the rally reached a capacity of 1300. Several dozen people were unable to make it inside, according to Meredith Thatcher, Colorado press secretary for the Hillary for American campaign.

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The start time of the rally had been switched at least once, potentially contributing to a smaller crowd than people in attendance anticipated. Some students showed up as Sanders had already finished and asked if he had already spoken.

Sanders was last on campus in February to hold a rally for his own campaign for president. The rally today, identifiable by posters that read “Stronger Together,” encouraged constituents to get out and vote for Hillary Clinton.

“I am voting for Hillary Clinton. We have the opportunity to change the course of history (by electing the first woman president),” Colorado Sen. John Kefalas said while introducing Sanders.

Sanders spoke on issues of student debt, the minimum wage, climate change and the criminal justice system.

“We are old-fashioned, we actually believe in science,” Sanders said of Clinton and himself.

Sanders said that the major global crisis facing America is climate change, and criticized the Republican party for ignoring the issue.

“If we do not get our act together boldly, and aggressively … situation will likely become much, much worse,” Sanders said.

He said things such as rising sea levels and increased international conflict will become problems if the U.S. does not aggressively transform its energy system.

“No!” was heard from the audience.

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Sanders said that Trump, like many Republicans, believes climate change is a hoax and wants the country to be more dependent on fossil fuels.

“He’s right- the Republican Party for the most part is very unwilling to face the facts and face the science (about climate change),” said Silje Hayes, natural resource recreation and tourism sophomore. “If people like Bernie and Hillary can make some change in that area, that would be amazing.”

Sanders also spoke about an issue close to home for his audience: student debt.

“Anybody here dealing with the issue of student debt?” Sanders asked the crowd, who responded with raised hands.

He said that after his campaign, he and Clinton came together to agree upon making public universities tuition-free as part of her campaign platform. Her platform also includes refinancing student debt at lower interest rates.

Sanders also called for major reform of the current criminal justice system.

“Our criminal justice system is broken,” Sanders said.

He said America has approximately 2.2 million people currently in jail, surpassing China, despite difference in population sizes.

“As Americans, we should be ashamed,” Sanders said.

He advocated for better jobs and education for young people instead of jails and incarceration.

“(Young people are) tired of seeing videos of unarmed African Americans being shot and killed.”

Sanders said the vast majority of police are honest and hardworking. He said that he and Clinton understand, however, that training for police officers is still necessary and that they are not exempt from the law.

“If he or she breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable,” Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders holds a rally at Colorado State University on behalf of the Hillary Clinton Campaign on October 17, 2016. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)
Bernie Sanders holds a rally at Colorado State University on behalf of the Hillary Clinton Campaign on October 17, 2016. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

Sanders praised Clinton for her policy initiatives and stance on the supreme court.

Sanders said Clinton told him to tell the audience that within 100 days of taking office, she would bring forth a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, a supreme court decision to allow independent political expenditures by nonprofit corporations.

He said she would not appoint a Supreme Court justice unless they would vote to overturn it as well.

“Why is (the) issue (of Citizens United) enormously important?” Sanders asked. “We have a campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy. You must be concerned about the non-sexy issue of campaign finance.”

Sanders advocated for a move to public funding of elections. He said he wants to see the highest voter turnout of any country on earth. If the billionaires are pouring money into campaigns, he said, voters would not have a fair shot.

Sanders also blamed billionaires for avoiding taxes.

Sanders said that Trump took only one day to show voters how corrupt the tax system is after Sanders had tried to demonstrate that for a year and half worth of his campaign.

“Thank you, Donald Trump (for showing voters that our tax system is corrupt),” Sanders said. “I have some bad news for Donald Trump: Not only will he lose the election, but he and his billionaire friends are going to start paying their fair share in taxes.”

Sanders asked the audience to take a hard look at the economic proposals of both campaigns.

“Minimum wage is a starvation wage,” Sanders said.

He asked any Trump supporters in the audience to ask themselves which candidate is going to raise minimum wage. Sanders said that Clinton understands that the minimum wage has to be raised.

“Change, real change, never comes easy and never comes without real struggle,” Sanders said.

He said Nov. 8 is a very important day.

“I hope all of you understand that politics and political engagement does not end on election day,” Sanders said.

He addressed highlights of the Clinton platform, such as equal pay for women, tuition free college, and combating climate change, once more.

“Nothing … is utopian. It is all absolutely doable,” Sanders said. “…(We want) an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the few.”

Sanders took to the crowd after he finished speaking. Some students remained in the ballroom after he left, while others entered for the first time due to the confusion over the time change.

Students at the rally said the speech centered around issues most applicable to the audience.

“It was definitely geared towards college students,” said McKenzie Lancaster, a social work graduate student. “(He spoke about things that) I feel like people maybe don’t know as much (about) … but (income disparity) is super relevant.”

Ballots were mailed to Larimer County voters Monday. Residents can expect them in mailboxes as early as Wednesday. Ballots are due by 7 p.m. Nov. 8.

Collegian reporter Rachel Telljohn can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @racheltelljohn.