Cold weather and technical difficulties didn’t dampen the spirits of the Monday night crowd of 764 people that showed up for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines.
That’s good, because it was his last Iowa event before he returned today to Washington, D.C., for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, and he’ll need those supporters to carry on in his stead.
“So ironically, the ‘us not me’ is becoming very much a reality in the last two weeks of this campaign because I am not going to be able to be here as much as I would like,” Sanders said in Des Moines at the front-end of his speech. “So you guys are going to have to carry the ball.”
Sanders praised the surrogates he has on the trail, as well as all his volunteers and other staff, who will have to fill in for him while he’s in D.C.
“We had originally planned a number of town meetings, rallies, all over the state,” he said. “We’re going to do the best we can. We have great surrogates, you’ve heard from some of them, we have volunteers out knocking on doors. And thank you very much volunteers, you’ve been knocking on a lot of doors.”
One of those surrogates includes Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will return to Iowa this weekend.
With that housekeeping out of the way, Sanders then spent the better part of an hour talking about every policy proposal he has, from the war on drugs and gun control to immigration reform and reproductive rights.
He spent longer on his key policies like education costs, health care — including the pharmaceutical industry — and combatting climate change.
His microphone cut out several times, and the crowd led chants of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” before going quiet so Sanders could continue to project from the stage.
Before he came on, former state Sen. Nina Turner, another surrogate for the candidate, and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, warmed the audience up by explaining the broad appeal of Sanders’ campaign.
“This is our moment to come together and unite,” Turner said. “Iowa it is you, you start this off and we’ve got to show the naysayers that we will stand behind and beside [Sanders].”
She also connected Sanders’ mission to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Specifically, Turner brought up the words of King’s daughter about how King made “the powerful uneasy and the privileged unhinged.”
“We don’t need folks who are going to quote Dr. King, we need folks who will live Dr. King,” she declared, saying Sanders does that when he tells Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry that he’s “coming for their greed.”
Jayapal spoke right before Sanders took the stage. A more recent endorser, Jayapal explained what brought her behind Sanders.
“He exemplifies what I think of when I think of a progressive,” she said. “Progressives are just the first to the best and the most just idea, and then they work to make that idea real.”
She touted his success in bringing ‘Medicare for All’ into mainstream Democratic politics and generally shifting party ideals to the left.
In his speech, Sanders said he would also act as an organizer in chief, another quality Jayapal said drew her to the Vermont senator.
“I spent my life organizing. I’m an activist and an organizer. Bernie Sanders is organizing that movement,” she said.
Jayapal also said government has stopped working for regular people because of choices people made, but choices can also bring the government back into lockstep with the majority of Americans.
“No pressure, except there’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “We need the kind of change that President Bernie Sanders will bring.”
Supporters left the event feeling good about the possibility of a President Bernie Sanders.
“I think he’s got a really good chance,” said Wendor Flomo, 28.
She was impressed by the turnout and said there was a lot of young people in the state who share Sanders’ values.
“I think he’s gonna get it,” she said. “My gut tells me that and my gut’s never wrong.”
Thirty-four-year-old Kristina Conley agreed.
“I think he’s gonna do amazing because he has so many Iowan supporters and because he speaks to so many minority groups,” she said.
Conley couldn’t guess where Sanders would place in the Feb. 3 caucuses, but thought he would have a strong showing in precincts across the state.
Sanders closed his event with an appeal to Iowans.
“We need help now more than ever. I’m going to be stuck in Washington, God knows how long, so we need you to take our place, give two hour speeches like I do, whatever you can do,” he joked.
“But listen, Iowa goes first. You have an unprecedented role in American politics. And if we win here in Iowa —and with your help I believe we can win here — I think we’re going to win in New Hampshire. And if we win in New Hampshire, we’ll win in Nevada. And if we win in Nevada, we could very well win South Carolina.”
By Nikoel Hytrek