Photo Credit: Jane Soukup
Photo Credit: Jane Soukup

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the most unlikely presidential candidate to emerge in recent history. Earlier in his campaign, Sanders would fly coach to his appearances. With Hillary Clinton’s email scandal now under investigation by the FBI and the leading GOP candidate being the obnoxious smack talking Donald Trump, it seems that despite not being loaded with money, Sanders actually might have the support to gain the Democratic nomination. Next week the presidential primaries will begin at the Iowa caucuses leaving Clinton and Sanders in a struggle to truly speak to potential voters.

If his appearance in Duluth is any indication, there’s a lot of people who believe in Sanders. On Tuesday, January 26, the DECC arena was filled with wildly enthusiastic supporters. DECC Director Dan Russell estimated that there were over 4000 in attendance. The event was free and open to the public and while there was an opportunity to RSVP, crowds waited in line for hours just to hear Sander’s message. Sanders spoke for about an hour before leaving directly to attend a rally in St Paul.

Photo credit: Robert Boone
Photo credit: Robert Boone

Message Resonates in the Northland

“I like his ideas, he is for all the people.” Sharla Gardner,  a former Duluth city councilor stated.  “I’ve supported Bernie Sanders since 2008, he is the only one who is about issues that matter to the working-class. It is the first time since 1972 that I am really excited, I don’t think they realize how much he resonates with everyday people.”

14 year old Sully Kosmas has been following Bernie Sanders for nearly a year. “It is the first time I’ve truly supported a politician; my grandpa got me out of school for this.”

Another former Duluth city councilor, Russ Stover is a little more cautious. Stover is trying to learn more about Sanders, and although not yet fully convinced said that “I don’t want corporate America to have too much control.”

Former city councilor Sharla Gardner enjoying the rally.  Photo credit: Robert Boone
Former city councilor Sharla Gardner enjoying the rally. Photo credit: Robert Boone

Sanders versus Big Money

In most political campaigns money has often been equated with success and this is one of the ways Bernie Sanders is unusual. While Hillary Clinton is taking contributions from donors such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, Sanders has declined to rely on Super PACs and has focused on small individual donations. Sanders proudly stated that he had set an all time record for the most campaign contributions ever in United States history, with over 2 1/2 million individual contributions, with an average of $27 per donation.

In Duluth, Sanders hammered on the growing deterioration of the middle class, and complained that the Walton family (owners of WalMart) have more wealth than the lowest 40% of Americans put together; and that “people today are hurting.” Sanders said billionaires buy elections “We do not support the billionaire class, we do not represent the corporate class, we do not want their money.”  

“Public colleges should all be tuition free.” Sanders explained that public education should be paid for by a low tax on Wall Street speculation.  With a growing base of young adults who are facing crippling student loan debt, his plan to eliminate tuition costs is something that has caught the younger generation’s attention.  Further, he hopes to reduce interest on existing student loans. Sanders urged young people to vote, “when young people vote we win big.”

Sanders knows that it’s important for him to unify the Nation and the Democratic party, “we know the road to success is to bring people together.”

Bernie Sanders not enjoying a tough health care question.  Photo credit: Robert Boone
Bernie Sanders not enjoying a tough health care question. Photo credit: Robert Boone

Dodging the Question

After the rally, The Reader asked Sanders “If elected, how would you implement your single-payer health system plan without cutting pay for doctors and hospitals as the Canadian model requires?”

“No question, single payer saves money!”  Sanders exclaimed, bolting for the door.

Staff writer Paul Whyte contributed to this story.