On Tuesday afternoon, hordes of eager Macalester students sporting Bernie Sanders gear filled several Metro transit buses as they headed to hear the presidential candidate give a speech at the RiverCentre in downtown Saint Paul.
The students joined over 15,000 other supporters, who packed into the RiverCentre and an “overflow room” for a chance to be near the candidate and hear his message. Sanders, who was introduced by Hamline University student Farhiya Ali and Congressman Keith Ellison, quickly delved into his views on income inequality, healthcare, education reform and the criminal justice system.
“It is not acceptable,” Sanders said, “that the top 20 people in this country own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the American people. And it is surely not acceptable that one family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people.”
Sanders also criticized Wall Street, corporate greed and the Koch brothers at length, emphasizing how their actions are affecting the democratic process. Throughout the speech, he was repeatedly interrupted by the crowd’s cheers for him and their jeers and boos at his mentions of opponents.
“Today in America we have a rigged economy. These people have so much political power, so much economic power, that the only way we take them on and defeat them is when we come together and demand that the United States government represent all of us and not just a handful of us,” Sanders said, starting and stopping due to the crowd’s frequent responses. “No president can effectively address the crises facing our nation unless there is a political revolution.”
Emmet Dymond Hollingshead ’18, who intends to vote for the senator next month, has been a Sanders fan since he announced his candidacy.
“I really liked what he talked about,” Dymond Hollingshead said. “He hit on all the issues that have been getting him traction. I would have liked him to talk more about foreign issues, but what he said about income inequality, health care and domestic issues, I think resonated with me and with the crowd.”
Ali Mahad ’18 went to show his support for Sanders despite the fact he is not a registered U.S. voter.
“I’m actually really interested in his international policies,” Ali said. “Personally, that’s my least favorite part of Bernie, but I guess on the positive side I’m very interested in what he has to say about the middle class and the policies he would bring about as president that would elevate the status of the American middle class.”
When confronted with media skepticism that Sanders might not win the nomination, many of the Macalester students who attended the rally remained optimistic.
“I think he has a strong following,” said Hallie Kircher-Henning ’19, who was wearing a Bernie Sanders baseball cap. “There is some skepticism but I think he could pull out a Hail Mary and win.”