While campaigning in Pennsylvania on Friday ahead of next week's primary in that state, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took time to visit the Civil War memorial at Gettysburg and invoked the spirit of Abraham Lincoln as he expressed concern about the troubling direction the nation is now heading.
Standing near where Lincoln, in 1863, gave one of the most famous political speeches in U.S. history about the fundamental importance of unity and democracy, Sanders expressed to reporters his deep concerns about the disintegration of those key pillars amidst surging income inequality and a sustained assault on the people's right to have their voices heard and wishes honored by elected lawmakers.
Lincoln's words, Sanders said, "still ring true today, that the fight we are waging in this country right now is to maintain a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.' And I've said numerous times during this campaign that I worry about the future of democracy in America. I worry about the power of big money over our political process. When you have billionaires contributing hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process, that is not government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' – that is a movement towards oligarchy."
Continuing his remarks, Sanders explained that Lincoln would not likely have supported the modern version of political campaigns in the U.S., where money from wealthy donors and corporate interests drive the debate and increasingly play an significant role in the outcome:
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 23, 2016
On Friday night, Sanders held a rally at nearby Gettysburg College where he received a packed house and seemingly widespread support following a speech focused on his plan for free tuition for higher education and support for military veterans who have been particularly devastated by the nation's prolonged wars overseas and a stagnant economy at home. As the local Hanover Daily Sun reported:
Gettysburg-area resident Hayden Thais was thrilled that Sanders, the candidate he supports this election season, made the decision to stop in Adams County.
"It just shows he's not only going to secondary markets," Thais said. "This is probably tertiary. I had no idea how far he was going to get in the election process."
Michelle Murphy and Pete Balanesi came from Hanover to hear the senator speak. Sanders did not disappoint, Murphy said.
"I continue to love him even more," Murphy said. "Being in the room with him, you can feel that authenticity. I feel the truth coming out of him."
Balanesi, a veteran, said the senator's stance on supporting veterans really spoke to him.
"He's the only politicians that cares about matters of people," he said.