DAVENPORT — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 presidential hopeful, returned to Davenport on Monday on a campaign swing that featured a town-hall-style discussion laden with promises to level the playing field for the working class and a celebrity guest appearance by famed actress Susan Sarandon.
His two events kicked off the Sanders campaign's latest tour of southeastern Iowa, a key battleground in the first-in-the-nation caucus state known for its fairs, agriculture industry and selection process for presidential candidates.
Sanders started the day of campaigning in the basement of the Davenport Public Library surrounded by local union leaders and pro-labor advocates. There, he called attention to the concentration of wealth among the nation’s top earners, the loss of union influence and power in contemporary American politics and the cost burdens of health care on many working families.
He also beat up on some of his favorite targets: Wall Street, Big Pharma, Amazon and the national news media. And he called for those in the audience to help him craft a government that people are confident “is working for them and not for somebody else,” saying the American people coming together presents an opportunity not only to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020 but also to “transform our country.”
“We can do it. It is tough stuff,” the senator said. “We’re up against some very, very wealthy and powerful opposition.”
During his Davenport stops, Sanders focused less on the Trump administration and more on the policy agenda that he credits with the strong showing he received during the last Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2016. In that contest, a nail-biter that wore on into the wee hours of the morning, he trailed fellow Democratic contender Hillary Clinton by less than 1 percentage point.
Later, in his Davenport campaign office, Sanders was introduced by Sarandon — the Oscar-winning movie star known for her performances in iconic motion pictures such as “Thelma and Louise” — much to the surprise of many attendees. The actress called Sanders a “threat” to the current order of things and one who will “change the game” if elected in November 2020.
“He is the one that’s not here just to get elected,” said Sarandon, who spoke to the crowd while holding her Pomeranian-mix named Penny. “He’s here to give us a voice. He’s here to get some change — some real change.”
In his last caucus contest, Sanders saw strong support in many of the blue-collar southeastern Iowa counties along the Mississippi River — long a key Democratic stronghold that later supported Trump during the 2016 general election.
You have free articles remaining.
But now, as Sanders seeks the Democratic nomination for a second time, the political calculus has changed. He is competing in a crowded field of fellow Democrats, some who have also made similar keynote policy stances regarding the health care industry and heavier taxes on the nation’s biggest corporations the cornerstones of their presidential campaigns.
In his Davenport office, the senator called on Iowa caucus-goers for their support, saying his campaign is built around the concept of “transforming our country and bringing people together.” And as other candidates are barnstorming the state, Sanders asked those in attendance to carefully examine his record, noting the very policies he campaigned on last time that were once dismissed as “radical” have now essentially become mainstream in Democratic politics.
“This is a record that hasn’t come to these ideas yesterday. This is a record that’s been on the picket line for workers for 30 years,” Sanders said, receiving cheers and applause. “This is a candidate and somebody who has taken on Wall Street, we’re taking on the insurance companies, we’re taking on the drug companies, we’re taking on the fossil fuel industry.”
“And we support and love dogs,” he added, drawing some laughs.
In an office decorated from top to bottom with pro-Bernie signs — “Still Feeling the Bern,” “People over Profit” and “Not Me: Us” to name a few — about 75 people packed in to see the senator speak. Among them was Cherie Dufault, a retired dietary worker from Davenport.
Sporting a Bernie-for-president campaign button, Dufault said she supported Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election. But this time she’s “all in” for Sanders.
“Man, I think we need him right now,” Dufault said. “We need to be saved because everything’s kind of going down the tubes.”
The Sanders campaign also had scheduled events throughout the day elsewhere in southeastern Iowa.
Late Monday afternoon, the senator was booked for an ice cream social with potential caucus-goers in West Branch in Cedar County. And in Dyersville, a town of about 4,000 people in western Dubuque County, Sanders campaign staffers were scheduled to play a night game of softball with members of the press on the same field where the Oscar-nominated picture “Field of Dreams” was filmed.