Speaking to scores of roaring supporters on a broad range of national issues, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders hosted an impassioned rally at Marist College in the town of Poughkeepsie Tuesday night with hopes of boosting voter turnout a week ahead of the April 19 New York Primary.
“When there is a large voter turnout we win, [and] when there is a low voter turnout, we lose,” Sanders said. “Next Tuesday, let’s see the largest voter turnout New York State has ever seen.”
In his stump speech, Sanders, a U.S. Senator for Vermont, shed light on income and wealth inequality, discrimination, education, the environment and the affordability of healthcare. The presidential hopeful pumped up supporters in an overflow room before making his entrance on the McCann Center stage to rally around nearly 4,000 people. The crowd was full of college students from area universities excited to show their support for Sanders, surrounded by a full range of people young and old.
Sanders slammed down on big banks and Wall Street for contributing to the inequality of wealth and income throughout the country, just before tearing into the corruption he sees within the criminal justice system.
“If some kid in New York State gets arrested for marijuana, that kid will hold a criminal record for the rest of his life,” Sanders said. “But apparently if you are an executive at a large Wall Street firm, whose greed and illegal behavior destroyed our economy and impacted the life of millions, you don’t get a criminal record, you get a pay raise.”
The crowd clapped and cheered in agreement.
Throughout the near hour-long speech, the crowd erupted in cheers at Sanders’ vision for implementing a $15 an hour national minimum wage. The crowd roared even louder when he made clear his intent for making public colleges and universities free.
“Some people think this is a radical idea. It is not a radical idea,” Sanders said. “Mark my words, it will happen sooner or later – our job is to make it sooner.”
These sentiments come as the national student debt averages in at around $28,000 per student.
Sanders’ visit to Poughkeepsie marks the first 2016 presidential candidate to bring their campaign to Dutchess County. Republican candidate Donald Trump traveled there five days later, hosting a rally at the nearby Mid-Hudson Civic Center.
Sanders’ rally was not without condemning remarks toward his opponents. Mentions of both Trump and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton induced loud booing from the crowd.
First, Sanders took aim at Clinton’s use of Super PACs, noting that she has raised $15 million in campaign funds from Wall Street and continues to refuse to release transcripts of speeches that she gave to big banks and received $250,000 for each.
“The American people are catching onto the fact that you cannot take millions of dollars from the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country and then claim to be an agent of change,” Sanders said. “Our job is to take on these powerful special interests, not take their money.”
Sanders then spoke out on Trump, saying that the businessman “will not become the president of the United States.”
“The American people will not support a candidate who insults Mexicans and Latinos; who insults Muslims; who insults women; who insults veterans; who insults the African-American community,” Sanders said.
Earlier in the evening Sanders noted of his visit to the home of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park that day. Roosevelt became president in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression and saw people struggling to feed and support their families, farmers losing their farms and millions of people unemployed and hungry.
“He [Roosevelt] came forward and he said, ‘You know what, we are going to transform the way government works in America’. And that is what he did.”
He highlighted Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union Address, where the former president proposed a Second Bill of Rights to achieve baseline rights to employment, fair working wages, adequate housing, health care, social security and freedom from monopolies. Sanders’ admiration for Roosevelt was a common theme throughout the night.
Despite progression since Roosevelt’s 1944 speech, Sanders said America is still struggling to meet some of these goals in many more ways than one.
“We do not have to accept the reality that our people today are working the longest hours of any people in the industrialized world,” Sanders said. “We have to fight for a nation where people earn enough income without working 50, 60, 70 hours a week.”
New Yorkers head to the polls tomorrow to vote in the state primaries. According to a new Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll, Sanders is close to eliminating Clinton’s lead by just two percent.
The fight has been raging in New York over the past few weeks, culminating for many last Thursday night during a debate between Clinton and Sanders in Brooklyn. Both proclaim their attachment to New York; Sanders grew up in New York City and Clinton represented New York in the Senate for eight years.
In the past New York’s primary has not been a direct indicator of who the nominee will be – Clinton won New York in 2008, but Barack Obama earned the nomination. However, this year critics are claiming it will hold more weight than ever before and could change the trajectory of the race.
The Student Union Building Multi Purpose Room on the SUNY New Paltz campus will be open tomorrow from noon until 9 p.m. for all students who qualify to vote in the closed primary.