Sanders: Call for 'Political Revolution' Is About Mass Movement, Not Me
'Enough is enough. This country belongs to all of us and not a handful of billionaires.'
As Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to attract overflow crowds, it was "standing-room-only" at a large community center in Keene, New Hampshire on Saturday where the presidential candidate continued to describe how a grassroots-driven "political revolution" is needed in the country in order to make real progress on debilitating levels inequality and student debt, the increasing threat of climate change, and the firm grip on the nation's democracy held by the billionaire class and corporate interests.
"The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time. It is the great economic issue of our time, it is the great political issue of the time and we are going to address it."
—Bernie Sanders The Wall Street Journal reported that approximately "800 people squeezed" into the event, but a local newspaper put the number at over a 1,000 attendees, with many spilling out into the entryway and beyond.
"This is not about Bernie Sanders," the candidate said to the room filled beyond capacity. "You can have the best president in the history of the world but that person will not be able to address the problems that we face unless there is a mass movement, a political revolution in this country. Right now the only pieces of legislation that get to the floor of the House and Senate are sanctioned by big money, Wall Street, the pharmaceutical companies. The only way we win and transform America is when millions of people stand up as you’re doing today and say. 'Enough is enough. This country belongs to all of us and not a handful of billionaires.'"
The fight ahead, he told the crowd, "Is about you."
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His message seemed to resonate deeply with the crowd.
The Keene Sentinel spoke with local resident Ellen Lamb who said Sanders "brings a lot to the table" as she praised the way he raises issues that need to be talked about, unlike other, more traditional party politicians.
"I think he needs to be taken seriously as a candidate," Lamb said. "There’s no reason a grass roots campaign can’t be successful in the national election."
Sanders also repeated his defiant stance against supporting pending trade pacts, endorsed by President Obama and corporate interests but pilloried by labor, environmental groups, and public interest advocates.
As the local newspaper, the Union Leader, reported:
The Vermont senator had the crowd cheering when he voiced his opposition to the trade promotion authority bill, but when asked by a reporter afterward, he declined to comment on whether Hillary Clinton's lack of a stance on the issue was hurting her campaign.
"Call her up and ask her," Sanders said. "I'm against it."
The town hall attendees took to their feet, applauding and cheering Sanders on several issues, including his position that all are entitled to health care and a public college education.
Without mentioning her by name, Sanders reminded the crowd of Clinton's backing of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 while making his opposition to such military misadventures clear.
"Not only did I vote against that war, I led the opposition to that war," Sanders said. Going forward, he added, "My top priority is to make sure we are not involved in another war that doesn't end."
But the real central message of the campaign continues to be focused on economic inequality and the profound political implications created by the nation's increasing wealth gap.
"We live in a nation which is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world but almost all of that wealth rests in the hands of a handful of billionaires and that is something that has got to change," he said. "The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time. It is the great economic issue of our time, it is the great political issue of the time and we are going to address it."
Describing a scene that took place during a short Q&A with reporters after his Saturday speech, the WSJ reported on what it considered the "unorthodox" style of Sanders as he engaged with the press corps in ways most candidates do not:
A Swedish reporter, Anne-Sofie Naslund, asked him a question, and Mr. Sanders—who has long praised the type of social democracy practiced in Scandinavian countries, turned the tables and began interviewing her.
He asked her what it cost for people to get health care in Sweden.
“Like nothing,” Ms. Naslund said.
And what does it cost to go to college? Mr. Sanders asked.
“Nothing,” she said.
Child care? “It’s almost free,” she said.
“That’s pretty good!” Mr. Sanders exclaimed.
Though well-known in New England, Sanders' latest stop in the early-primary state signaled his campaigns desire to prove he can be competitive against Hillary Clinton, who retains a commanding lead in national polls. Towards the end of his remarks, a large cheer echoed through the hall when Sanders leaned in and said he had a secret to tell: "We are going to win New Hampshire."