Reno – US Senator from Vermont and candidate for the Democratic nomination for president Bernie Sanders stopped by Reno yesterday and held a rally in front of Reno City Hall. Some 2,000 people showed up and heard introductory comments from Shabd Khalsa, Marissa Weaselboy, Brooke Noble, and Ben Cohen – co-founder Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Senator Sanders spoke for nearly 46 minutes and addressed many of the themes and issues he has become known for to include single-payer healthcare, minimum wage, free college tuition, climate change and the corporate control of government. While at the event, Nevada Capital News spoke with several people in attendance about the 2020 presidential election, and the Democrats we questioned were uniformly concerned about who the the party’s nominee will be and if that candidate will be a sufficiently unifying force to defeat Donald Trump.
Bernie Sanders staffer Shabd Khalsa spoke to the crowd.
“I want to tell you a little bit about what motivates me in this struggle,” Shabd Khalsa said. “My dad is someone who did everything right. He got educated, he started a business and he worked his butt off. Lack of access to healthcare, the inability to buy insurance, and the prospect of bankrupting our family to get necessary surgery stopped him from getting the health care that he needed. Because of that, he has had to struggle with chronic nerve pain and mobility issues for years and years. We’re lucky we had another income with my mom. I was able to help out. We had a community that took care of us, but there’s so many of us that are not that lucky. I believe in Bernie, because he knows that health care is a human right. And if he is elected, he will pass Medicare for all.”
University of Nevada Reno student and activist Marissa Weaselboy took the stage on behalf of Senator Sanders.
Hear Marissa Weaselboy’s comments.
“I am a first generation student that has graduated with my bachelor’s degree and I’m currently a masters student in linguistic anthropology studying at UNR. My intent as a native student is to start the process of reawakening my language Shoshone, Nuedegua. Through a de-colonizing practice, my research re-centers our Shoshone way of being and is a critical engagement with resistance and an effort to upset and overturn settler colonial authority. Further, my research methodologies are grounded in my own Shoshone teachings as a ‘Nua-white-butt.’ They are called Nuadeniwa, and in order to truly privilege indigenous ways of knowing and being, they must be valorized in white spaces. I am not simply an anthropologist, I am an indigenous anthropologist who is redefining how anthropology can work for indigenous peoples. This is why the free tuition is so important, so others from marginalized groups can do similar work that works to undo damage inflicted on our communities by academics and the institutions of power that backs them.”
Co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Ben Cohen, spoke in support of Senator Sanders and referred to Sanders as an old friend.
Hear Ben Cohen’s remarks.
Bernie Sanders spoke for 46 minutes and addressed the litany of issues important to his candidacy.
Hear Bernie Sanders’ speech in Reno.
“What makes our campaign a little bit different than most, it’s not just winning the primary and defeating Trump. Our job together is to transform this country, and create a government and economy and an energy system that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. And I want to welcome you to a campaign which says loudly and clearly that the underlying principles of our, and I underline the word our government, will not be greed. We’ve had enough greed in this country. It will not be hatred, because we’ve had enough hatred in this country. And it certainly will not be lies, because we’re tired of a pathological liar in the White House. And the principles of our government will not be racism, will not be sexism, will not be xenophobia, will not be homophobia, and it will not be religious bigotry. That is what the Trump administration is about. And together, we are going to end all of it. The principles of our government will be based on justice … justice. And that means economic justice. It means social justice. It means environmental justice.”
“Let me say a word about another issue that I know is very important here in Nevada, and that is the issue of immigration,” Bernie Sanders said. “Trump outrages me for so many reasons that we can go on for many hours just talking about Trump, but frankly, between you and me, he’s not important enough to waste a whole lot of words,” Sanders said to raucous cheers.
“What demagogues always do, and if you have ever studied history, whether it’s in Europe or anyplace else, what demagogues always do is try to blame a minority for the problems of the country. It may be Jews, it may be blacks, it may be gays, it may be gypsies, in Europe, whatever it may be. They pick on a minority, and they rally the American people around hating that minority. Right now in this country, we have a president who is demonizing some 11 million undocumented people. Well, we’ve got a different view of immigration than Trump. We’re not going to demonize people, we are going to move toward comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship. We are going to provide legal status for the 1.8 million young people in the DACA program. And we are going to develop a humane policy at the border for those who seek asylum. America is not about and must never be about snatching babies from the arms of their mothers,” Sanders said.
“When we talk about creating a nation of justice, we have a message for Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires who own major corporations. Anybody here know how much Amazon paid in federal income taxes last year,” Sanders asked the crowd. “Zero.”
“And that is what a corrupt system is about,” the Senator continued speaking extemporaneously. “Amazon made 11 billion in profits last year, and you paid more in taxes than they did. So today, we say to Amazon and to dozens of other corporations who paid nothing, or very little, those days are gone. We’re going to repeal Trump’s tax breaks for the very rich and large corporations. The wealthy and large, profitable corporations will start paying their fair share of taxes.”
Criminal Justice Reform
“And when we talk about justice, we must talk about changing in a very fundamental way our broken criminal justice system. Brothers and sisters we live. We live in a nation which has more people behind bars than any other nation on Earth, including China, four times our size. And the people behind bars are disproportionately black, and Latino, and Native Americans. We are spending $80 billion a year to lock up fellow Americans,” the senator said to loud cheers. “Well, I have an idea as to how we can better spend that money. I think we should start investing in our young people in jobs and education. Not more jails and more incarceration. And when we talk about reforming a racist and broken criminal justice system, what we are talking about is ending private prisons and detention centers. People should not be making money by locking up fellow Americans. We are talking about ending the so-called war on drugs,” Sanders said.
Sarah Shipur lives in Reno and has not decided which Democrat she’ll support in the crowded field.
Hear an interview with Sarah Shipur.
“I’m not really sure if I’m committed to Bernie, but I’m traditionally a Democrat. So I am interested in hearing his platform again, differences from last (campaign), you know, is he straying away from his message? Because I am honestly a little bit more preferring Biden, so I just wanted to see what Bernie says. I have friends, classmates that support Bernie, so I want to see what he has to say,” Shipur said.
Shipur said she is attracted to Bernie Sanders’ focus on working people.
“I think the thing that really resonates with me is this talk about the middle class and how it’s shrinking, and I really feel lately, blue collar labor, and even just general white college degree, just middle class jobs and homes, I just feel like that’s really disappearing in the world. It really bothers me,” Shipur said. “I feel like that’s kind of his biggest sticking point, so I’d like to hear directly what he has to say about it.”
Shipur said she’ll support whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, but for her, a female president is long over due.
“Going back to ‘16 with Hillary and the whole woman as the President, I still really feel like it’s a big deal. I really, really prefer a female president, but I just don’t feel like you can just put in a female just because she’s a female, and it really hurts, but I would prefer a woman. But at this point, to get Trump out of office, I will settle for Biden, Bernie … I do like generally, in general mostly of their (the Democratic candidates) ideas, so I feel like I’m not compromising a lot to vote for any of them.”
Ryan Baysinger is from Portland, Oregon and follows the Sanders campaign selling Bernie buttons.
Hear an interview with Ryan Baysinger.
“I do it for myself. I do donate a percentage of the proceeds to the campaign just to help out, but yeah, I got an idea from somebody in Portland actually looking on Craigslist. Found an ad that said hey, come out and sell campaign merchandise, so I did it. Made good money, and I thought why can’t I do it myself. So next go around, I bought some buttons, went to the DNC and sold them there in Philadelphia in ‘16. And yeah, I had a great time. Now the election kicks back up, so trying to do it again,” Baysinger said with a smile holding a display board all but covered in Bernie buttons.
Baysinger’s business is part entrepreneurship and part political activism in support of the Sanders campaign. In 2016 when Baysinger sold buttons at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, he sold Hilary Clinton merchandise, but once again, Baysinger is concerned about the 2020 election and the potential for a divided Democratic party. The large number of Democratic candidates is a concern.
“So that actually does have me worried because of the last election. I was in Philadelphia, and the one thing to be honest, I’m selling Hillary merchandise because I just knew that she was the one that was going to get the election, so I couldn’t go out there and just, you know, I would spend money on trips. I had to go with the money. But while I was there, all the Bernie supporters, they were inside the park, outside the arena, and they were saying they’re gonna vote for Trump. Like, that was their big thing. And what happened is, you know, Trump became the leader or became president, and now I see we have 21 candidates at the party. So who are the finalists, who’s to pick … I’m on Bernie’s side. I’m on Biden’s side. So what happens if Biden or Warren does not get the election, who are those people going to vote for? Are they going to be upset again, and then vote for Trump again, and get him elected?”
Baysinger likes Bernie for his concern for the working poor.
“Just worry about the small guys,” Baysinger said. “That guy who’s working 9:00 to 5:00 every day to get by, you know, let’s worry about them. And let’s bring each other up.”
Gary was a reluctant interviewee and part of a growing number of voters not affiliated with a particular political party.
Hear a conversation with Gary.
Gary referred to himself as an independent voter. He said he watched partisan politics in his home state of Alaska undermine positive and needed political outcomes, so he is keeping an open mind in 2020 and came to hear Bernie Sanders out of an abiding interest in the 2020 race for president and the public debate of political issues.
“I’m nonpolitical as much as I can possibly be. I quietly listen to all versions and weigh them against each other,”
Gary is hoping the nation can heal some political wounds and come together over common interests.
“The particular biases which are exemplified by different candidates and parties, to me is splitting the country apart,” Gary said. “And I think that is so sad. There’s so many ways we can come to the table with common interests and the mutual perspective and drop the admonishments and name calling and all the rest and deal with the real issues, not the political expediency attacks at the moment.”
Peggy and John are from Reno. They both handed out Bernie signs and bumper stickers.
Hear a conversation with Peggy and John.
“One of my big concerns is that it’s going to end up making people want to settle on somebody that’s sort of middle of the road and not really, doesn’t get anybody particularly excited. But everybody’s like, ‘well, I at least don’t hate them all that much,’ which is not ideal,” John said.
Peggy expressed concerned that Democrats will choose a candidate because they are already well-known and not for their policies.
“The name thing,” Peggy said. “That they might end up going with somebody that’s a known name is not ideal either.”
We asked Peggy and John if there is a schism in the Democratic party.
“I’m afraid there might be a bigger one than we think,” said Peggy.
“There’s a schism in the United States in general,” John said. “I don’t think it’s anything about the parties in particular. It’s that there’s a huge ideological split; people of any sort of bent, any kind of political side, one way or the other. There’s a schism in the Republican party too, and that was something that was leveraged to really good effect by Trump the last time. We’ll see if something like that happens again,” John said.
When asked if they believe the Democrats can rally around a single candidate, Peggy and John laughed a nervous laugh.
“No comment here,” Peggy said with a smile. “Hopeful. Yeah, I’m gonna hope that they can. We have to.”
Both Peggy and John said they would support the Democratic candidate and that they were capable of compromising to defeat Donald Trump.
“We can’t afford to not compromise,” Peggy said.
John pointed at a 40 foot tall stained glass whale sculpture that resides in the area across the street from city hall and laughed.
“Anybody is better than what we’ve got right now,” he said. “That statue would make a better president (than Donald Trump).”