The nation’s progressive movement was on full display in Iowa while Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders and his friends made their final pitch ahead of caucus day.
And momentum suggests they might be on the cusp of victory.
In one last push for Iowans’ support, Sanders on Saturday stressed the importance of high voter turnout, his electability, consistency, and reiterated a number of his most notable campaign promises. With Monday fast approaching, the senator also deployed a team of high-profile, progressive surrogates throughout the state, each expressing different tenants of his campaign while bolstering the agenda of the left.
Today, the team mostly visited campaign offices to boost volunteers headed out to the doors.
“All we love is on the line, that’s all, nothing big,” said former state Sen. Nina Turner of Ohio, Sanders’ national campaign co-chair, to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 3,000 in Cedar Rapids. The rally was the largest any Democratic candidate held in Iowa this cycle.
Turner, U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar and Mark Pocan, Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, activist Cornel West, filmmaker Michael Moore, Sanders’ wife, Jane, his son and two of his grandchildren took the stage before a free Vampire Weekend concert and rally Saturday evening on behalf of the candidate, whose leadership in the movement has ignited a diverse coalition of support centered on a “political revolution.”
“It’s amazing. Just the youth vote alone, the young adults 18 to 35, he’s polling at 52-56%. According to CNN, he is now No. 1 among non-white voters across America,” Moore said at the Cedar Rapids rally. Sanders has been leading in the Iowa polls since December.
“It looks like momentum is on our side. How are you feeling about that?” Congresswoman Omar said to supporters at Simpson College in Indianola. “Are you all feeling the urgency of now?”
The surrogates emphasized messaging rolled out through his months-long time on the trail and he joined them in covering all of his greatest hits: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free public college, a check on the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street, criminal justice reform and protecting women’s reproductive rights. Ideas, they said, that weren’t “radical” anymore.
“I know you might have noticed, the attacks on Bernie have become more and more desperate. You might hear a lot of labels being thrown out. Bernie’s too radical, Bernie’s too dangerous. Bernie’s too polarizing, divisive. You might even hear the S-word. Socialism,” Omar said. “But make no mistake. These are the same attacks the status quo has used throughout history to demonize multiracial working-class movements.”
Omar, and other surrogates, mentioned that many of these ideas have been supported by the progressive movement and Sanders for decades, but the momentum has shown their grassroots movement is more widely accepted now.
“We’re no longer on the fringe of politics,” Pocan, of Wisconsin, said.
Annie Smith, a 22-year-old student living in Cedar Falls, said at Sanders’ Cedar Rapids rally that she caucused for Sanders last cycle but felt more optimistic about his nomination this time around.
“It seems like a lot more people are now receptive. And last time it seemed like everyone didn’t realize the full extent of the bad of what they’re up against,” Smith said. “There’s a lot more happening. There are a lot more people who want to stand up for him.”
Rep. Jayapal pushed another narrative, that the progressive movement was one of love. In Indianola, she said those values underlie all of Sanders’ beliefs.
“You’ve got two days to show people the excitement of this loving, generous community that we have. That believes that we don’t have to accept what is in front of us, the injustices in front of us, but actually can fight for what we believe in,” she said.
Moore reiterated this in a speech at the Cedar Rapids rally.
“It’s not just about the numbers, is it? It’s about the heart and the soul of the things that we believe in. The America that we still believe in,” Moore said. “Out of Bernie, the words constantly, in every town, in every speech: love and compassion.”
He then led the crowd in chants of “love and compassion.” They had previously booed several of Moore’s statements about the Democratic National Committee and superdelegates.
This comes after Sanders’ surrogate and U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib led a crowd during an event in Clive Friday to boo mentions of Hillary Clinton. The Michigan congresswoman later said her actions were in response to the former secretary of state’s recent remarks against her 2016 primary competitor.
But Adrianna Elgatian, a 21-year-old student from Iowa City, said at Sanders’ Cedar Rapids rally that Tlaib’s comments did not influence her view of the candidate.
“I know for a fact that it’s not something that Bernie would stand for. I don’t think he would trash his opponents. That’s not something he’s ever done,” Elgatian said. “And that’s important to me. Other people can be as extreme as they want. But I know what Bernie stands for.”
Before the events, supporters made final organizing strides to take on the “entrenched political establishment.” Volunteers with clipboards circled the day’s events in hopes of gathering final door-knockers. While stopping by a coffee shop in Iowa City, Sanders was informed by his campaign that they had hit their goal of knocking on 500,000 doors in January.
Sanders, who is expected to bring out many new voters, acknowledged the reality of his campaign of grassroots support and young people by making a point to stress the importance of showing up to caucus on Monday night.
“If there’s a low voter turnout, I’m going to be very frank, we’re going to lose. But if there is a high voter turnout, we’re going to win,” Sanders said on Saturday. “Tonight, I am here to ask you, to make certain, that on Monday night we have the highest voter turnout for an Iowa caucus in the history of the state.”
Sanders ended the night with one last statement.
“Let us go forward together. Let us beat Donald Trump. Let us transform this country.”
By Isabella Murray