As campaign workers for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dished out bowls of home-state pride — in the form of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream — the U.S. senator from Vermont outlined an ambitious agenda in Dubuque on Monday.
A crowd of more than 200 greeted him at Town Clock Plaza during a 50-minute stop on his “Bernie Beats Trump” tour, which featured stops in four Iowa counties that backed former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but swung to Republican President Donald Trump in 2016.
“I kind of understand why they did because when he ran for office, Trump gave a pretty good line,” Sanders told the crowd in Dubuque. “Trump said he would stand with the working families (and) he would take on the establishment. … Only problem is, Trump lied, and it turns out we have a president who is a pathological liar.”
Sanders credited his 2016 campaign with popularizing formerly “radical” ideas, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, offering free college tuition and providing “Medicare for all.”
“We need to end a dysfunctional health care system, which is simply designed to make huge profits for the insurance companies and the drug companies,” he said. “The function of this system is not to provide quality care to people.”
Sanders pledged to legalize marijuana.
“After we legalize marijuana, we’re going to expunge the records of those who were arrested for possession of marijuana,” he said.
Sanders also advocated for investment in renewable energy to stem climate change and a national ban on assault weapons sales.
The Trump Victory committee recently took aim at Sanders, saying, “Whether he is campaigning on government-run health care, massive tax hikes or eliminating fossil fuels, Bernie Sanders continues to show that his socialist agenda is out of touch.”
Many in the audience supported Sanders’ advocacy for ending the practice of charging insurance premiums and co-payments and establishing an annual maximum for prescription drug costs.
“It’s hard to live day to day, especially if you don’t have a job,” said Ebony Hayes, 27, a Dubuque resident who receives insurance through Medicaid. “How can you pay or afford any medications if you don’t have medical (coverage) to cover part of it? … I think (Sanders) would be really great for that.”
Rusty Hull, 49, an employee at Hillcrest Family Services, said a universal health care system would benefit his family.
“The medical bills can be so overwhelming, especially if you have a family member with a disability,” he said.
Rusty’s son, Mason Hull, 22, has a disability but also is covered by Iowa’s Medicaid program.
Mason, in turn, said he appreciates Sanders’ advocacy for labor.
“(He wants) to make sure people get enough money when they are employed,” Mason said.
A new Iowa poll conducted by Selzer and Co. for the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, the results of which were released Saturday night, showed Sanders in third place among the likely Democratic caucusgoers surveyed, with 11%. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren garnered 22%, while former Vice President Joe Biden was selected by 20%. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.