By 2:30 p.m. on Friday, a line had already formed for the 5:00 p.m. Bernie Sanders rally at James Madison Park.
The park was filled with attendees sporting Bernie sweatshirts and holding signs that read “Not me. Us” — Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign slogan.
University of Wisconsin freshman Garret Prem said he came to the rally to learn more about Sanders.
“I’m an independent, so I just wanted to hear what Bernie was all about, some of his policies, see how he changed from 2016,” Prem said, “I’m still undecided so far on who I’m supporting.”
Another UW freshman, Hannah Miloslavic, said that she was also undecided and came to hear more about Sanders’ environmental policies.
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The rally began with a speech from James Alexander, a cook and union activist. He said that because he works in the food service industry he does not have access to health insurance and has to pay out of pocket for his sleep apnea and diabetes medication.
In response, Alexander said he organized the first food service union in his hometown. He added that people need to organize and elect Sanders’ to get healthcare for all.
“If cooks, servers, waiters and waitresses can take on billionaires and multinational corporations to win our union, working class people around the country can take them on to elect Bernie Sanders and win Medicare for all, living wages for all and unions for all,” Alexander said.
Sanders began his speech by saying President Donald Trump is the “most dangerous president in modern American history.” He added that Trump has not kept his promise of defending the interests of the working class.
Because of Trump’s proposal to cut Medicare and Medicaid, many Americans could lose their health care, which Sanders said is not supportive of working families.
“Whether you are a progressive or a conservative or a moderate, you are not proud that today we have a president of the United States who is a pathological liar,” Sanders said, “I can understand why people voted for Trump based on what he said — and the reason for that is in Wisconsin and all over the country, there are a lot of people who are hurting … Unfortunately, Trump lied when he said that he would listen to their pain.”
Sanders claimed that many of the “radical” ideas he ran on in 2016 are now accepted in the mainstream — a change in perception which he believes was a sign that “we have made real progress in transforming the political debate.”
Sanders laid out his presidential agenda, leading with his plan to guarantee healthcare for all because he believes it to be a human right. This announcement resulted in the entire crowd chanting “Bernie” repeatedly.
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Sanders went on to explain that one shouldn’t be in debt because of their education, especially because today’s competitive job market requires a good education. He believes public colleges and universities should be tuition-free.
Sanders also supported climate change prevention, raising the minimum wage, more accessible Pe-K education, reduced military spending, criminal justice reform, a more “humane” border policy and tax reform in his agenda.
The rally ended with Sanders saying that political change needs to be a collaborative effort.
“No president — not Bernie Sanders, not anybody else no matter how well-intentioned or honest that person may be … can do it alone,” Sanders said. “We need to engage in an unprecedented grassroots effort … If we stand together and if we don’t allow Trump and his friends to divide us up, we can take these votes on and we defeat them.”