Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders returned to Albuquerque on Tuesday morning to address over a thousand students and community members — some supports, some opponents — in a Get Out The Vote rally on campus.
Five months after sharing his message of political revolution during his own candidacy in front of more than 7,000 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, the senator from Vermont once again drew a crowd, made up mostly of those in support of the campaign’s mission to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.
“Politics does not end on Election Day,” Sanders said, emphasizing the importance of not falling into a trap of apathy. “We have got to elect Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8. On Nov. 9, we have got to work to transform this country.”
Despite economic inequity, no political feat is impossible when millions of Americans stand together, he said in his initial remarks.
“This campaign is not about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton,” he said, in an attempt to win over those who may still be hesitant to cast their vote for Clinton. “it is about you, your families and the future of this country.”
Sanders was apt to address recently revealed video documenting Donald Trump’s boastful talk of what many have deemed to be sexual assault, as well as his generally controversial campaign.
“Our country has had a long and arduous history to fight for a nation which ends discrimination,” he said, mentioning slavery and the plight of indigenous peoples in America’s colonial past, woman’s suffrage just a century ago and the continuing struggle of the LGBTQ community.
This struggle has required an enormous amount of work and solidarity, Sanders said.
“We will not elect a president who is trying to divide us up,” he said. “Our strength is our diversity, our coming together as a people.”
Contrary to what might be seen on social media, politics is not a personality contest, nor a beauty contest, soap opera or football game, he said. It is supposed to be about representatives who champion the interests of the middle class and working families.
Sanders expressed his deep concern over “the major crisis facing our country.” — a very strong movement toward oligarchy.
“We are moving toward an economic and political system in which a handful of billionaires control this nation,” he said, decrying the “disastrous” supreme court ruling on Citizens United, which allows for unrestricted corporate campaign financing.
“(Hillary Clinton) will not nominate to the United States Supreme Court any candidate who is not prepared to state publicly that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United,” Sanders said, stating that he and Clinton have discussed her intentions for dealing with a corrupt campaign finance system, as well as “the need to create a vibrant democracy.”
During his roughly half-hour long speech, anti-Clinton proponents grouped closer to the SUB — many of them former Sanders supporters — rebuked some of his comments as embracing the political leanings that he spent his candidacy denouncing.
Sanders accused Republican government officials of cowardice because of repressive election practices that aim to keep voters from the polls.
“When I run for office in Vermont, I run on my ideas. If people want to vote against me, that’s fine. That’s called democracy,” he said. “I want this country to have one of the highest voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest.”
In a Pew Research study conducted last summer, the United States ranked 31st among 35 highly developed, democratic countries. Last year, the United States Census Bureau found that voter turnout is at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in 1978.
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver — who is running for New Mexico Secretary of State on a platform that emphasizes election equity and campaign finance reform — was one of a handful of speakers who helped to energize the crowd before Sanders took the podium.
“This race is about the future of our democracy,” Toulouse Oliver said at the rally. “As your secretary of state, I will restore integrity and accountability to the office that protects the rights of every single eligible voter here in our state.”
Sanders also diagnosed his Republican colleagues with amnesia, since, he said, apparently none of them could remember what the United States economy looked like in 2008. He said after eight years of “trickle down economics, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month.”
“We’re going forward, not back,” Sanders said.
The senator also voiced his and Clinton’s concerns over a stagnant minimum wage, and addressed the gender pay gap.
“We understand that in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce in the world,” he said, expressing Clinton’s support for policy change that would allow low-income students to attend public colleges tuition-free, and refinancing student debt.
Clinton is the only viable candidate to address problems of climate change, immigration reform, and criminal justice reform, he said.
At least on student in attendance -- Gabby England, a senior fine arts major -- didn’t think so.
“I was really happy to hear him fighting for down-ballot movements and candidates,” she said. “I’m not super psyched about the whole Hillary narrative, but that’s what we’re going to be hearing.”
The aftermath of a Democratic primary election marred by the leaked-email revelation of what many are considering election malpractice by the party establishment has created “turmoil” for the more progressive side of the party, England said.
Because of that, she isn’t buying into the Hillary narrative entirely, instead throwing her support at Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
“A vote for a third party candidate is not supporting the Democratic establishment and saying ‘corruption is okay with me,’” England said.
No matter who students vote for, Sanders said in his speech, the efforts and political participation of voters shouldn’t end on Nov. 8.
“We have got to roll up our sleeves and fight to transform this country,” he said. “That means being active the day after the election.”