Bernie’s Crowd Enthusiastic about What They Hear
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Bernie Sanders’ message resonated throughout the Covelli Centre Monday morning as the senator from Vermont pushed forward his familiar anti-establishment platform just one day before Democrats go to the polls in the Ohio primary.
Sanders drew about 1,800 supporters to the Covelli Centre Monday (WATCH VIDEO), most of whom are young people – the so-called “millennials” — who say they’re concerned about their future.
“It’s his biggest demographic,” said millennial Emma Giering from Edinboro, Pa., at the rally. “Around 90% of 18- to 29 year-olds are voting for him.”
Some may think it awkward that this new spokesman for the youth movement is a 74-year-old senator from Vermont, Giering noted, but Sanders is addressing all of the issues that her generation is interested in tackling.
Health care, climate change, higher education, Wall Street chicanery, equal pay, economic inequality, and a corrupt campaign finance system – all were themes Sanders touched on during his 45-minute speech.
“Taxing Wall Street high-risk investments to pay for higher education is an incredibly great idea,” Giering said. “It’s unacceptable that we’re not endorsing it in America, where people are falling behind because they don’t have the education they need to keep up with the economy.”
Giering said that Sanders sends a message of unity and doesn’t single out or use as scapegoats specific ethnic groups or immigrants: “In reality, it’s an inequitable taxation system.”
Sanders is vying for the Democratic Party nomination for president against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton was in town Saturday when she spoke to her supporters at M7 Technologies.
Giering says she would support Clinton should she win the nomination, but Bernie Sanders has her vote today: “Right now, I’m for Sanders because he is not representing special interests, because he’s financed by the people and not Goldman Sachs, and that really speaks to him as a politician.”
Sanders told the crowd that the average contribution to his campaign is just $27, and quoted Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to describe his as a campaign “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Indeed, during his remarks, Sanders took aim at Clinton when he pledged to release at the podium all of the transcripts of paid speeches he made before Wall Street interest groups. He challenged the former secretary of state who promised to release hers should other candidates do so.
“I am prepared, here and now, to release all of my transcripts for the speeches I made on Wall Street,” Sanders said. “Here they are!” he thundered as he threw open his empty hands to great applause. “No transcripts. No speeches.”
Attorney Alan Kretzer, a longtime political observer in the Mahoning Valley, emphasized that Sanders is hitting on all of the important issues that the country needs to address. “He’s going head-on at it. I’ve seen a lot of campaigns, I’ve seen a lot of politicians – Bernie’s a great politician because he’s just another guy who happens to be a United States senator.”
Kretzer noted how often candidates – Democrats and Republicans alike – pass through the region with great promises that are never kept. “So many of them are just phony, they enjoy their job, they like their power – he wants to make a difference,” Kretzer said of Sanders. “He’s for real.”
Young people have gravitated to Sanders because of his stances on climate change, health insurance reform – he advocates a single-payer “Medicare for all” policy — and his quest to clean up Wall Street, added Nate Kolson, age 25.
“The energy was great,” Kolson said of the rally. “For the younger generation, health insurance and Wall Street are important to us.”
Some who attend the rally remained unsure about whom they’re voting for Tuesday. Joe Ciavarella, for example, said that he agrees with many of Sanders’ remarks, but isn’t sure how the senator would be able to translate these ideas into policy.
Take Sanders’ proposal for free tuition for public higher education, Ciavarella said. “What’s going to stop them from privatizing?” he asked. “I like the idea of free tuition and health care, we need that. But at the same time, who’s going to pay for it and where is it going to come from. He also has to get Congress on his side.”
Ciavarella said he also attended the Clinton rally at M7 Technologies on Saturday, and said he’s “kind of processing” how each candidate addressed the issues. “At this point, it’s still up in the air for me.”
The latest Quinnipiac poll shows the race in Ohio narrowing with Clinton leading Sanders 51% to 46%.
Interviewed briefly following the speech, campaign manager Jeff Weaver told The Business Journal that he believes the race is tight in Ohio.
He acknowledged Monday’s Quinnipiac poll, which shows the race has narrowed to five points separating Sanders from front-runner Clinton, but declined to reveal what the campaign’s internal polls are showing.
Asked to speak specifically to Youngstown issues, Weaver emphasized how trade policies cost thousands of workers their jobs here.
“What’s happened in Youngstown is a direct result of unfair trade deals and Senator Sanders has voted against all of them,” he said.
Before Sanders spoke, a former labor leader at what was Packard Electric in Warren, told the crowd just how much the North American Free Trade Agreement devastated his rank and file. In the 1970s, said Bob Sutton, Local 717 of the IUE had 13,400 members working at Packard plants. In the 1990s that number had fallen to 9,500 and today “it’s down to less than 600.”
The major reason why is Nafta, he said, which President Bill Clinton “put down our throats in his second term. Nafta screwed us, pure and simple. There’s no other way to say it.”
Jennifer Cancio, a local campaign volunteer who was also asked to speak at the rally, said that it’s important to spread Sanders’ message beyond the millennial generation to middle-age professionals, workers and retirees. While social media are an important vehicle on a national level, its local impact is limited because of the area’s large elderly population.
“It concerns me that we’re relying too much on social media,” such as Facebook and Twitter, she told The Business Journal. “You’re only reaching a certain population of people. In this area, there are so many more retirees and senior citizens.”
That’s why it’s still important for volunteers to go door-to-door and make phone calls to attract voters. “It’s the most effective method of reaching undecided voters and the best way to reach voters in the Mahoning Valley,” she said.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.