Feel The Bern, Idaho!

Bernie Sanders paid the Gem state a visit just a few short weeks ago, and the people did not disappoint! After drawing a crowd of over 3,000 people in Idaho Falls on Friday, Sanders then extended his tour to include our capitol city…and drew a crowd of over 7,000 rally members! Doors for the event opened at nine the morning of March 21st, but the main event wasn’t set to start until noon. Despite all of this, the first Sanders supporter showed up to wait to see Bernie at 3:30 am!

Traditionally a Conservative state, Idaho is often overlooked by Democratic presidential nominations. Where most Dems see the state as a challenge at best, Sanders saw an opportunity. He knew that if he could take Idaho, it would send a strong message to the rest of the nation.

The rally was opened up with a speech by Chelsea Gaona Lincoln, a local activist. She first discussed Sanders’ platform, speaking about each point as it would apply both nationally and in Idaho. She excited the rally members, letting them know how important every single one of us were to Sanders’ campaign.

“If you’re sitting here, you’re not just part of Bernie’s national revolution. You ARE Idaho’s revolution!” Lincoln stated.

Before her closing statements, Lincoln brought up a topic that was important to every Idahoan. We are currently in the middle of a state legislative period, and there have been some concerns. Just recently our state congress completely shut down the chance for a hearing on raising the state minimum wage. State health care reform was once again voted against, and they STILL haven’t added those four little words to the Human Rights clause in the Idaho Constitution. Another issue at hand is the skyrocketing cost of higher education, which will likely again increase before the end of the legislative period. Sanders wants to change all of this.

I myself had a major fangirl moment, because the next speaker was the one and only Susan Sarandon. Sarandon has been a longtime friend of Bernie Sanders. She is a major activist for many causes, including women’s rights, and has thrown her full support behind Sanders’ campaign.

Like Lincoln, Sarandon quickly caught the attention of the audience. She likened Sanders’ campaign and his supporters to “taking on a massive machine,” where there was major resistance from many special interest groups. She claimed that, unlike his opponents, Sanders has only one interest: the people.  She stated that he is the candidate who does what is necessary, not what is convenient. After leaving everyone awestruck, Sarandon introduced the man himself: Bernie Sanders.

Sanders came out to tumultuous applause and cheers. It took a few minutes for the crowd to quiet down, but when it did, he immediately enraptured us all. He began, as most will, by thanking everyone who introduced him as well as his supporters. Then he launched in. He revealed that our country really is not as divided as the media portrays, for one simple reason; relatively few people think that democracy is about buying an election.

Sanders believes that true democracy should be about one person, one vote, with no super PACs to sway the end result away from what the people themselves want. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts of all major countries, and Sanders wants to change that. He believes that the U.S. should have the HIGHEST voter turnout.

From the encouragement of votes, Sanders became a bit more sedate. He started discussing the faults in our “rigged” economy, where “the top one-tenth of the top one percent own as much wealth as the lower ninety percent.” From his perspective, the average working class citizen pays higher taxes to subsidize the businesses of the wealthiest families in the nation. 58% of all newly generated income goes straight to the top 1%, which Sanders believes to be wrong. He proposes a (not so) radical idea: that we create an economy that works for all.

At this point, Sanders once again changed direction. He stated that his campaign was about stating the truth, which isn’t always pleasant, but that we had to deal with our current issues in order to progress. With his funding coming directly from the donations of his supporters, his campaign is one “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

During this part of his speech, a young man in the front row of the standing area collapsed. Sanders instantly stopped his speech and got the man medical assistance, expressing genuine concern for the rally member. He only resumed speaking again when medical personnel reached the man and he was reassured that he was alright. How many politicians would do the same?

In the final section of his speech, Sanders gets straight to the points of his campaign. He expressed a need for the expansion of social security benefits, because the elderly and disabled veterans are forced to survive on $12,000 a year (or less), which is not a feasible amount to live comfortably. He reaffirmed that parents want better for their children, not worse than what they themselves had, and that a tax on Wall Street speculation would help to pay for free public colleges/universities as well as resulting in less student debt. He had a very strong feeling on the subject:

“If we can afford to bail out Wall Street, then we have money to pay for education!”

He discussed another way to rejuvenate our workforce; following in FDR’s footsteps, repairing the nation’s infrastructure could create 13 million jobs. He continued speaking about the people he’s heard, now coming to the Native Americans, who he refers to as the First Americans. He states that they have enriched our culture, as well as taught us how to live as a part of nature rather than destroy it. As part of a committee in Congress that addresses Climate Change, he acknowledges that it is a REAL issue, and that it IS caused by human activity; if we ignore this and don’t transform our energy system, there would be serious consequences by the end of the century.

Sanders then turned his full attention to the abysmal issue that is national healthcare. He revealed that, while major drug companies raked in a total of 45 BILLION dollars last year, one out of five Americans can’t afford the prescriptions that their doctors prescribe for them.

“Healthcare is a right of ALL people.” Sanders said.

Winding down towards his closing statements, Sanders started highlighting his support of many groups. He firmly states that every woman has the right to control HER own body, and that every person has the right to marry who they love, regardless of gender. Ultimately, he came down to one fact that he knew about the United States.

“We will NOT tolerate racism and bigotry.”

Attending this rally was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it was a great experience for anyone to have, regardless of their political beliefs. Hearing what each candidate has to say is a very important part of making a well-educated decision, which is especially important for such a big decision as electing the next leader of our nation. Once you realize that we all are responsible for these choices, you start to see how we really are all connected. After all, in the words of Bernie Sanders,

“When we stand together, there is nothing we cannot do.”