Sen. Bernie Sanders made it clear he’s fighting for working people during his recent two-day swing through Iowa.
This trip was his first back on the campaign trail in Iowa since health issues sidelined him for part of the month. Sanders held five Iowa rallies in 24 hours as a way to demonstrate his durability. He drew large, reenergized crowds, fresh off a big relaunch rally in New York City.
“If we are prepared to fight for each other, there is nothing that we can not accomplish,” Sanders told a screaming crowd at a rally late Friday evening in Iowa City. “One percent is strong. Ninety-nine percent is a lot stronger.”
Elmo Konzen of Marion has listened to Sanders repeat that exact message since the early 2000’s. The first time he heard the Vermont senator speak, Sanders was on Thom Hartmann’s radio show while Konzen happened to be driving around Chicago, well before Sanders’ first presidential run.
“I approved of the fact he was the lone voice in the wilderness,” Konzen said. “Bernie has been working for me, now it’s my turn to work for Bernie.”
He’s such a big fan of Sanders, he hasn’t paid much attention to any of the other 2020 Democratic candidates.
“They’re parroting much of his agenda, or they’re opposed to him,” Konzen said. “I wish they would choose one of the candidates to match up with Bernie. There are several candidates I’d be happy to support with Bernie. I wouldn’t even be upset if one of them took the lead and he was VP [vice president].
“It’s about us, not him,” he said.
Sanders made sure Iowans were included in the programs for his town halls, forums and rallies during his latest visit to the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
Chris Simmons, a third-year Iowa State University student from Newton, introduced Sanders at the old Maytag factory Friday morning in Newton.
Simmons said his dad and grandfather both worked at Maytag. Simmons probably would have worked at the factory, too, but in 2006 when he was eight, plant leaders walked out onto the factory floor and laid off everyone who was working there at the time.
“They realized they could ship those jobs to Mexico,” Simmons said. “Some of my earliest memories are of watching my parents fight about money, my friends move away to bigger cities and my dad sell his car for a little extra money. Whole communities should not be destroyed because of corporate greed. We need somebody who has a history of fighting for workers, like my family.”
That person, he argued, was Sanders.
Judy Mulbrook spoke next. She was an employee at Maytag when it closed and is vice chair of United Auto Workers 997.
“When Whirlpool left Newton, it not only devastated workers, but the retired employees,” Mulbrook said. “We had a contract that stated retirees would be given health care protection, but after Whirlpool took the UAW to court, we lost our health care.”
A large part of Sanders’ campaign is his promise to fight for working class people like Mulbrook.
Sanders promises to fight for people “working 60 or 70 hours a week to try and put food on the table, to fight for those people who are dealing with $100,000 in student loan debt, to fight for women who want 100 cents on the dollar, not 80 cents on the dollar.”
Those ideas earned Sanders the support of Levi McFarland, a 65-year-old retired Teamster who was at Sanders’ stop in Newton.
“Bernie is really thinking about people,” McFarland said. “I was a Teamster and our retirement right now is on the rocks. It doesn’t have to be. I think Bernie could help with that.”
McFarland was looking forward to caucusing in February for Sanders, but said he wasn’t stuck completely in Sanders’ camp.
“There are a lot of good Democrat candidates out there and any of them, and I mean any of them, would be better than what we’ve got,” McFarland said. “I think of all of them, he is probably the best, but he has some competition. Elizabeth Warren is an excellent choice.”
By Paige Godden