Sunday afternoon, democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) held a rally in Norman’s Reaves Park, gathering about 4,000 of his supporters to listen to his talking points on universal healthcare, “the 1 percent,” the criminal justice system and climate change.
To his supporters in attendance, Sanders comes off as the most appealing candidate with a chance to end up on the 2020 Democratic primary ballot.
Edmond resident Daniel Rodriguez, 30, attended the rally and called Sanders a “once-in-a-lifetime politician.”
“He has the most complete agenda that I agree with, whether it is the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, erasing student loan debt, college admission is free and the list goes on,” Rodriguez said. “He’s the most progressive candidate, which is the most important thing to me. But additionally, more than another candidate, he’s the one candidate that’s never changed.”
Bernie Sanders ‘has been that way for the past 40 years’
After opening musical acts from one-man-band Mike Hosty and singer-songwriter Samantha Crane, Sanders spent a large portion of his 39-minute speech taking jabs at President Donald Trump, wage inequality and continued to call for free public higher education.
“We are going to cancel all student debt in America,” Sanders said, which drew cheers from the crowd and chants of his name. “A couple of years ago, Trump and his friends gave over $1 trillion in tax breaks to the 1 percent and large corporations. If we can give tax breaks to billionaires, bail out the crooks on Wall Street we most certainly can cancel all student debt.”
Bobby Allahyar, 35, is from OKC and said he views Sanders as one of the few candidates fighting for the working class.
During his speech, Sanders called for an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15-per-hour from $7.25-per-hour. Some states have higher minimum wages, but Oklahoma’s remains $7.25.
“Even before 2016, he was always on my radar,” Allahyar said. “I was hoping maybe he would run for 2020. I mean the fact that he is an openly democratic socialist and doesn’t try to hide or try to dilute it down to make it more palpable, that is who he is, and he has been that way for the past 40 years, and I respect that.”
Allahyar said he likes Sanders as a leader because he will stay on something even if it is not popular.
“To me, jumping on a bandwagon to whatever is popular doesn’t show me leadership, and what I love about him is he’s always being on the forefront of what’s right, what we should be doing as Americans,” Allahyar said.
‘He’s the one that has moved’ other Democratic candidates
Regarding health care, Sanders told the crowd that he wants them to know that the United States is the “only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people as a human right.”
“Together we are going to end that absurdity,” he said.
Sanders, who traveled to another rally in Lawton after his Norman speech, said Americans are spending twice as much per person on health care as any other nation.
“Yet for all of that money, this is what you get, 87 million uninsured or under-insured,” Sanders said. “Thirty thousand Americans dying every single year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should.”
Rodriguez said there’s no reason not to support Sanders because all candidates have flocked to his stances.
“Even if we believe the stances of any other candidates, they’re new to them,” Rodriguez said. “He’s the one that has moved them to their positions that they hold now, he’s the one moving the window open for all of us, so he’s the one we have to support.”
Cory Booker visits Norman: ‘Oklahomans are good folk’ by Archiebald Browne
Sanders is the third democratic candidate to bring their 2020 campaign to Norman, following former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey). However, Tasneem Al-Michael, an OU student and president of the College Democrats of Oklahoma who organized O’Rourke and Booker’s visits to Norman, said there will be more democratic candidates who visit the state.
“In terms of some of the other candidates, such as like Julian Castro and possibly Kamala Harris’ campaign, there has been a [contact] with those individuals, and we are working on it,” Al-Michael said. “But that is a multi-level approval process. (…) We are working on it.”
He said Oklahomans will have several more chances to hear from major 2020 Democratic candidates.
“I’m telling you before March, before the primary, I’m sure everyone who is still in the race will make multiple touches in Oklahoma,” Al-Michael said. “I mean, Oklahoma is not something that’s going to be forgotten.”