On the evening of July 29 about 64 supporters of Vermont independent, and Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders gathered at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss. The event was part of some 3,500 held across the country with well over 100,000 core supporters of Sanders attending. The highlight of the meeting was a live stream via the Internet of Sanders giving a short version of his standard stump speech to the attendees followed by a plea for people to sign up as volunteers. Many of those attending the Hotchkiss meeting did so on the spot via their smart phones. Most attendees had also RSVPed via the www.BernieSanders.com website where they shared their contact information with the national campaign. The main purpose of the July 29 meetings, which took place in everything from private homes to large halls, was to take a step forward in building a nationwide network of local volunteers to help in overcoming the Sanders campaign's largest weak point, lack of money, since Sanders refuses funding from corporate PACs. Although the campaign raised some $15 million, in small contributions averaging about $35 each, in the first three months, that pales in comparison to relative huge amounts being raised by other candidates' PACs, including Clinton's and those supporting Republican candidate Jeb Bush. The Sanders campaign hopes to make up the gap with the sheer numbers and energy of volunteers and citizen supporters sharing Sander's message with friends. It is hoped that this "movement" will remain and grow, win or lose the Democratic nomination.
Among the interesting discussion and lively conversation that took place during the evening was the input from a couple from Delta who had moved to the area after living for decades in Vermont. The couple assured the Hotchkiss crowd that Sanders (or Bernie as his supporters affectionately call him) was just as he appeared, a forthright honest man who was passionate about the issues and always kept his word. In their opinion this was unique among most politicians.
Attendees at the Hotchkiss Sanders meeting from all over Delta County, which was partially coordinated through the North Fork for Bernie Sanders Facebook page, ranged from a 19-year-old "new voter" to retired seniors inspired by 73-year-old Sanders. Those present agreed that many local people still had no idea who Bernie Sanders is or what he stands for and getting that information out and "making the introduction" was probably the biggest challenge.
Sanders spent eight years as the mayor of Burlington, Vt., before being elected and reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives as an Independent several times before moving to the Senate where he is in his second term. He is the longest serving Independent member of Congress in U.S. history who only recently declared as a Democrat in order to run for that party's presidential nomination.
Sanders is 73, and an unapologetic "democratic" socialist in the mold of what used be called a "populist," with Franklin Roosevelt being an example. He strongly supports the current social safety net (Social Security, Medicare, ACA protections (but favors a "Medicare for all" system), but would like to strengthen and add to it. He advocates a return to the post World War II Eisenhower administration rates of progressive taxation on the wealthy to pay for such improvements. His core issues include mitigating the current massive level of income inequality in the nation (much of it due to the industrial base moving to China and other countries, and opposes trade agreements (TPP) that would further encourage industry to move to other countries. He also strongly supports moving forward to mitigate climate change.
I personally support Bernie Sanders and would encourage people to get to know him through his many recorded speeches available on the Internet as well as having conversations with your neighbors who support Bernie. I truly believe this to be a pivotal moment in modern American history, a fork in the road. Let's stop and reflect a moment before moving forward.
Paonia Elementary School second grade teacher Jodi Simpson is passionate about pedagogy. She understands that the important things kids learn in school isn't accomplished through testing, but by experiencing life and all its wonders.