At a pair of Wednesday campaign events in Michigan for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders emphasized the need "to create an economy and a government that work for all of us, not just the 1% and wealthy campaign contributors."
Sanders (I-Vt.) addressed University of Michigan students in Ann Arbor Wednesday afternoon, then delivered an early evening speech at a Macomb County drive-in rally. The senator's call for voters in the swing state to back his former primary rivals comes as the country continues to grapple with coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic fallout, and what many critics have called an inadequate response to both from the Trump administration and Congress.
Since suspending his second campaign for the Democratic nomination in April, Sanders and his supporters have urged Biden to embrace more progressive proposals—with some success. Sanders told Michiganders that though he and the former vice president still have some policy disagreements, "there is also no question that the economic proposals that Joe is supporting are strong and will go a long, long way in improving life for working families."
While rejecting the argument that "we have got to make a choice between having a strong economy and protecting the American people from this terrible disease," Sanders said in his evening speech that "despite what you may have heard, the economic crisis we are experiencing today did not begin with the pandemic. It only grew worse with the pandemic."
"It was not a good economy when, before the pandemic, over half of the American people were working paycheck to paycheck—that is not a strong economy. It was not a good economy when 87 million Americans were uninsured or underinsured, when 68,000 of our people died every year because they cannot afford to go to a doctor when they get sick, and half a million people go bankrupt because of medically related debt. It was not a good economy when over 40 million workers in America were earning starvation wages of less than $15 an hour," Sanders said.
"It was not a good economy when half of older workers—people 55, 60 years old—had no retirement savings, no money in the bank in order to prepare for their retirement. And it was not a good economy when over half a million Americans were homeless, including many veterans who put their lives on the line to defend us," the senator continued. "But this we must make clear: It was not a good economy for working families, but it was a great economy for the billionaires, and it has become even better for them during this pandemic."
Declaring that "the American people are sick and tired of corporate greed," Sanders assured Michigan voters that Biden will work to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, make it easier to join unions and cover the cost of higher education, guarantee paid medical and family leave, expand access to childcare and healthcare, require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, and push for a pandemic recovery plan that creates "millions of good-paying jobs through a massive investment in rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our sidewalks, schools, water systems, and affordable housing."
"If you are worried about the outrageous level of student debt that many of you are incurring, if you are upset about the high cost of college and graduate school, if you are concerned about low-paying jobs that many of you have, if you are concerned and worried about climate change, sexism, racism, homophobia, and religious bigotry... we've got to fight back, and the first way is to vote."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
"My friends, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world," Sanders added, "we don't need a half a million people sleeping out on the street. We don't need 45 million people leaving school with deep student debts. The time is long overdue for all of us—Black and white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, people born in this country, people who have come here—the time is now for us to stand together."
During the earlier speech, the senator directed some of his remarks to the young people in the audience, telling them that "if you are worried about the outrageous level of student debt that many of you are incurring, if you are upset about the high cost of college and graduate school, if you are concerned about low-paying jobs that many of you have, if you are concerned and worried about climate change, sexism, racism, homophobia, and religious bigotry, it is not enough to complain or to moan and groan. We've got to fight back, and the first way is to vote."
"In Michigan, not only has early voting already begun in every township in the state but you can still register to vote online until October 19 and in person until Election Day," he also noted. "In other words, you can vote or register to vote right now no matter where you live in the state. In addition, there are opening today new polling sites near three college campuses: East Lansing near MSU, as well as on campus at Western Michigan University and Northern Michigan University. Further, Detroit is opening... early voting sites across the city which will be open 7-days-a-week until Election Day."
"My friends, this is the most important election in the modern history of our country," he added. "It is imperative that Joe Biden wins, that we have a Democratic House—including Debbie Dingell—and that we have a Democratic Senate—including your senator, Gary Peters, who must be reelected. Now I don't have to remind anyone here or in Michigan that in 2016 Donald Trump won this state, and its 16 electoral votes, by two-tenths of 1%... The stakes are just too high. We cannot allow that to happen again."