By: Eliza Partika
“To be honest, I didn’t know there were this many people in Vallejo.” Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s simple, humorous statement began the rally that took place at the Vallejo Waterfront on May 18, 2016. This rally was a historic event, not only because Mr. Sanders was speaking, but because the rally took place in Vallejo, not a big city like San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, or even Sanders’s other May 18th campaign stop, San Jose. But, then again, Sanders has never been a traditionalist candidate.
The Sanders campaign didn’t sell any buttons or t-shirts, although there were many street vendors selling Bernie souvenirs; instead, Sanders chose to sell his ideas. There was a casual excitement pulsing through the attendees; people holding #Trump2016 signs were not rebuked, even to the point where “Love Trump” buttons were being sold by the vendors. It was overall very peaceful, evoking Sanders’s push for American togetherness and acceptance of diversity, even extending to politics.
First on Sanders’s agenda was to address the minimum wage and what he called the “rigged economy”, when the top 1/10th of the richest 1% of people earn more than the bottom 90% of Americans. He promised to create an economy that would “work for all of us, not just the top 1%” by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a process that has already been proposed through the Fair Wage Act of 2016. The minimum wage would increase by $1 every year until it reaches $15 in 2022, according to an article published in April 2016 by ABC News. This is a key point of Sanders’s and something that is important to the voters in Solano County that attended the rally, as many people in that area work at or just above minimum wage. It is also getting increasingly more expensive to live close to San Francisco because of the city’s tech industry boom, so people are anxious to make a living wage.
Although many people find Sanders’s viewpoints radical, there is truth in it. If he does succeed in significantly lowering student debt, then it will result in an educated workforce that will be able to choose where to put their money rather than having to send it back to the government in the form of student loans. “I want [every student] to understand that if they study hard, regardless of income they will go to college.” Is that so radical of a viewpoint? Young people would be much better off knowing that they were not going to be punished for trying to receive a college education.
“We will win because we are telling people the truth, something unusual in politics.” Bernie said. He took that opportunity to mention his opponent Donald Trump, emphasizing that we must take pride in our diversity, not use it as a tool to divide the public, as Trump has done. This hit home with those present at the rally, as Vallejo is the most diverse city in California, according to a Vallejo Times Herald Article publicizing several studies on the matter, including one from Brown University. Mr. Sanders tactfully quoted Lincoln, advocating a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Sanders addressed every major minority group’s issues, saying he would fund a “comprehensive immigration bill” that would allow hard-working hispanic families to stay in the United States and ban deportation. “Our job is to unite families, not divide them.” Sanders said, adding that he will use executive actions against Congress if they do not pass it. He advocated for the end of police militarization and a police force conscious of diversity, stating that as mayor, he worked with many decent police officers, but officers who act maliciously should be punished.
He stepped out on the limb to acknowledge the “profound lessons” that the Native American population had taught us. That as human beings, we’re part of nature and if we continue destroying the planet, we will destroy ourselves. This could be taken several ways. Americans are destructive in their consumerism as well as our compulsive destruction of the environment we live in, which have lead to many, if not all the problems we are experiencing in America today, precisely the ones Sanders is looking to repair. “We owe the Native American people, the first Americans, a debt of gratitude that we can never repay.” Sanders said of their infinitely valuable lessons.
“One hundred years ago, the establishment said to women, ‘Your job is to stay home and have babies,’ but women stood up and fought back and they said ‘you will not define us. We will define ourselves, and women will not be second class citizens.’” Sanders said of the fight for women’s rights in America over the years. Although they have won the right to vote, and equal opportunity at education, women are still paid less than men in the workplace. Sanders argued against this in support of equal pay for women later in the speech.
Sanders also cited the legalization of gay marriage as an example of powerful change that took place through the “courage” of everyday citizens who wanted the freedom to love.
“The establishment wants to make people feel that real change can never take place. What I’m seeing in this country today from California to Maine, is people looking at the status quo and what they are seeing is something they want to change.” Sanders said in the closing of his speech. “They are seeing women making $0.79 on the dollar and they are saying unacceptable.” Bernie continued to list examples of injustices, followed by a chorus of thousands in agreement that the amount of injustice dealt to the regular people by the establishment is “unacceptable”.
The power behind Bernie’s words resonated through the Waterfront, just as his policies have the potential to resonate through history if he is elected. “If we stand together, as brothers and sisters, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.” said the closing lines of Mr. Sander’s speech. If he can make as many people as he did in Vallejo “feel the Bern” then he might just accomplish that change.
Photo Credit: sanfranciso.cbslocal.com