Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Nov. 8 to hold the largest rally of any candidate in Iowa for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
The duo gathered a crowd of over 2,400 people. Supporters waved blue and white Bernie signs, punctuating the phrases they agreed with.
Speaking first was Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, (AOC), who disclosed that it was her first time in Iowa. Last year she was elected into office to serve the New York’s 14th District, becoming the youngest member in Congress.
AOC shared her personal experiences as a bartender in downtown Manhattan. She wasn’t earning a living wage and was recently kicked off her health insurance—issues she plans to correct through the introduction of new policies.
UNO student and Sanders campaign volunteer, Alex Graff said the moment that stuck out to him was when AOC talked about her family. AOC mentioned that her parents lived out the stereotypical “American Dream,” her mother worked full time as a domestic housekeeper and her father owned a small business. The dream was shattered when her father died of lung cancer when she was in college.
“Her family story was really moving and being part of the crowd and movement was awe inspiring,” Graff said.
AOC further explained that too many people fear that their life is “one accident away, one car breaking down away, one diagnosis away from everything falling apart.” AOC urged people that “life doesn’t have to be this way” in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
“I’m here today in Iowa because I want to grow, I want to learn about your fight so that I can take that and stitch it together with the Bronx and stitch together with Baltimore and stitch it together with rural upstate New York,” AOC said, gradually getting louder as the crowd starts cheering. “And stitch it together with our black brothers and sisters in the south and stitch it together with our immigrant neighbors at the border and stitch it together with our queer brothers and sisters fighting for recognition.”
AOC’s voice was engulfed by the supporter’s applause. Then AOC introduced “Tio” Bernie to the stage. They shared a hug before Sanders took the podium.
Sanders immediately thanked AOC and applauded her for doing “the most work in the Congress” in less than a year. Sanders accented his points with his piercing hand movements.
Sanders brought up several political issues he would work to pass if he were elected president— issues that span back to his 2016 campaign platform and long into his career as a representative and senator, Graff pointed out.
“Bernie is the one politician that has been consistent his whole career,” Graff said. “You can go back and look at every vote he’s made, and he is always on the right side of history. He marched for civil rights and voted against the Iraqi war. Every politician has skeletons except for Bernie.”
One of those long standing topics is universal health care, which is key for Sanders’ platform and has frequented the news cycle lately. If he were to be elected president, Sanders promised to introduce expansive health care for all that, including care like dental and hearing aids without having to pay out of pocket on deductibles.
“If you believe those that say health care isn’t a human right, you’ll never have health care,” Sanders warned.
Echoing AOC’s comments of creating solidarity through “stitching” each other together, whether it be New York, Vermont, Nebraska or Iowa, Sanders said the current president doesn’t hold the same ideals of unity. Instead, he “divides the American people up based on the color of their skin, based on where they were born, based on their sexual orientation or their religion.”
“Donald Trump does not understand what America is about,” Sanders said. “And that is why Donald Trump is going to lose this election.”
Another topic that Sanders centers his campaign around is the systematic change of the public education system. Sanders said the United States first needs to both value and pay teachers according to their level of responsibility to teaching the future generation. Then, make public colleges free and open to whoever wants to seek out higher education. Finally, to forgive student loans to help ease the financial burden on individuals.
Both guest speakers, AOC and Sanders, discussed the need to improve the treatment of the environment. AOC stated that climate change is not a coincidence, but a consequence. Sanders mentioned the necessity of passing the New Green Deal to enact the necessary change.
Sanders concluded the rally by covering several other points that his platform stands on, including everything from common sense gun control, ending the war on drugs, creating humane border policies and allowing women the freedom of choice with their bodies.
Finally, Sanders left his thousands of supporters with the request to go out and vote as Iowa is the first state that will be voting. He said that they set the precedent for the rest of the nation.
“Let us go forward together,” said Sanders, his voice rising. “Let us win this election, let us transform this country.”