Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke to a raucous crowd in downtown Sacramento Thursday evening, hitting on some familiar themes – and familiar targets – in a 30-minute speech before a crowd of more than 4,000 that filled Cesar Chavez Plaza.
The self-described Democratic Socialist painted a gloomy picture of the current state of the country. But Sanders promised that, if elected, he could help lead a “political revolution” to upend the status quo, a pitch he campaigned on during the 2016 election, as well.
“Brothers and sisters, I wish that I could come before you and tell you that, you know, we can make some minor changes over here, a few little changes over here, and things will be okay. I wish I could tell you that,” Sanders told the crowd. But if I told you that I would be lying to you.”
“We need fundamental changes in the way we do politics in America, the way we do economics in America, the way we do energy in America, the way we do criminal justice and immigration reform in America,” Sanders continued, as the crowd began to chant his name.
Sander laid out his proposals on those policy fronts and a number of others in remarks that hewed closely to his regular campaign stump speech. Among them:
“In America, when you get sick, you have a right to go to the hospital or the doctor’s office. In America, when you end up in a hospital, you should not be one of the 500,000 Americans who go bankrupt,” Sanders said, citing a statistic published by the American Journal of Public Health in 2019.
“The function of healthcare is not to make huge profits for the wealthy, it is to guarantee healthcare to every man, woman and child through a Medicare-for-All, single payer system,” he added.
“We are going to put substantial sums of money into public education. We’re going to raise teachers salaries to at least $60,000 a year,” Sanders pledged.
“We’re going to make public colleges and universities tuition free. And I’ll tell you what else we’re going to do. In a nation that bailed out the crooks on Wall Street, in a Congress that gave over a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top one percent and large profitable corporations, if we can do that, if we can do that, then we can cancel all student debt,” he added.
“In America today every one of us should be ashamed of the broken and racist criminal justice system. The United States should not have more people in jail than any other country on earth,” Sanders declared. “We are going to put an end to the destructive war on drugs. We are going to decriminalize and legalize marijuana in America.”
Condemning President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigration, Sanders exclaimed, “Immigrants built this country!” It was one of his loudest applause lines of the night.
“And immigrants today are doing some of the dirtiest, hardest, low paying work in America today. So instead of demonizing immigrants and undocumented people, instead of trying to divide us up by our color of our skin or where we were born ... we are going to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship.”
Sanders also promised that on his first day in the White House, he would sign an executive order “restoring the legal status of the 1.8 million young people in this country eligible for the DACA program,” using the acronym for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy enacted in 2012.
“This morning I was in a community that all of you are familiar with. It’s called Paradise, California,” Sanders said, referring to his visit to the fire-ravaged community near Chico. “And I was there to remind the people of this country what climate change is about.”
The senator also touted his new $16 trillion Green New Deal proposal, rolled out at a town hall Thursday afternoon in Chico, which he claimed “is the most sweeping climate change program in the history of this country.”
“We are finally going to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable!”
The California Primary
“I need your help to win here California because the candidate who wins here in the largest state in the country will, in all likelihood, win the nomination,” Sanders said, promising that he would then “defeat and defeat badly the president of the United States.”
“And then after we win the election our job has just begun,” Sanders continued. “I’m going to come back here to Sacramento and I’m going to ask you to help, to stand with me” in the fight against what he dubbed “the ruling class.”
“At the end of the day, one percent is one percent,” the senator said as he wound up his speech. “And the last that I heard is, 99 percent is a hell of a lot more people than one percent!”