Author: Dana Kampa
Issues for the middle class were among the many traditionally democratic ideals championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Senate candidate Russ Feingold in a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The democrats came together to raise voter support in Madison at the Monona Terrace Convention Center Wednesday.
Sanders touched on many relevant issues in this election, including climate change, health care, living wages, nationwide police department reform.
Four speakers opened for Feingold and Sanders, including Tia Nelson, daughter of Gaylord Nelson, and Aisha Moe, a member of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Nelson voiced her support for the candidates based on their stances on climate change.
“You have a choice in November. Do you want our next president to be a man who thinks China is perpetrating climate change as a conspiracy against America, or do you want a leader like Hillary Clinton, who is going to lead us into a clean energy future?” Nelson said. “We are poised for a clean energy future, and the good news is, it’s within our reach.”
Former President Bill Clinton awarded Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1995 for his lifelong environmental work, particularly for the creation of Earth Day.
Moe, a UW-Madison student, claimed she initially didn’t have much interest in politics and laughed off Trump’s candidacy. She said she was sitting with her nine-year-old brother one night last spring when he asked if they would have to move if Trump were elected because they are muslim. She said that moment sparked her interest in the presidential election.
“I heard Russ Feingold and Marc Pocan and other democrats talk about their commitment to building bonds with the Muslim-American community,” Moe said. “I heard Hillary Clinton condemn Donald Trump’s anti-muslim rhetoric and reiterate her unwavering dedication to stand with us.”
Moe said words and actions mean something to the children watching the election and that she doesn’t want negativity to control the conversation.
Feingold then took the stage, speaking in support for both Clinton’s candidacy and his own for the U.S. Senate. He echoed Nelson’s concern for environmental issues.
“I grew up with my senator being Gaylord Nelson, the father of Earth Day,” Feingold said. “I had the honor of holding that seat for a while, and I would like to bring back that emphasis on green, and the environment, and the climate.”
Feingold has been campaigning heavily across Wisconsin for the senate seat, visiting each of the state’s 72 counties.
“If you listen to the people of this state, more than anything else, you hear that middle-income and working families are having a hard time paying the bills,” Feingold said. “Unemployment is lower than it has been in the past. That’s all good, but where is the social contract that if you work hard, you can pay your bills and have a little bit extra to enjoy life and deliver for your family?”
He also called for more affordable higher education, saying student debt is one of the worst problems facing the state and country today.
Feingold commended Sanders for his efforts in the presidential election to bring attention to the progressive movement. Sanders recalled when Feingold helped him get elected to the Senate in Vermont ten years ago.
“And I am more than delighted to be back here in Wisconsin, one of the great and progressive states in this country, to make sure your fantastic, progressive heritage is maintained by re-electing Russ Feingold,” Sanders said.
Sanders encouraged voters to take a hard look at which candidate would best support the middle class and working families.
The electoral process itself was a key focus of Sanders. He said Clinton told him to convey to Wisconsin voters that she plans to introduce an amendment to overturn Citizens United within the first hundred days of her presidency. Sanders also brought attention to the currently tumultuous state of voting laws in Wisconsin.
“We want to make it easier for people to vote and participate in the political process, not harder,” he said.
Moving on to economics, Sanders said wealth and income inequality is the highest it’s been in the United States since 1928. He criticized Trump’s plans to cut taxes for wealthy citizens. Trump claimed in the first presidential debate that his proposed tax cut would be the biggest since President Ronald Reagan was in office.
Sanders said he, Feingold and Clinton all support equal pay for men and women and raising the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage to a higher living wage.
“Tell me if there’s a family in America that can make it on nine or 10 dollars an hour,” he said.
The senator also backed expanding health care, preventing pharmaceutical companies from overcharging for prescription drugs, making higher education more affordable, allowing student debt refinancing, addressing high incarceration rates, reforming police stations nationwide, passing comprehensive immigration reform and improving solidarity with Native Americans and other minorities.
“One of the great qualities of our country, one of our greatnesses, is our diversity,” Sanders said, “a diversity which we should be proud of.”
Clinton has yet to make an appearance in Wisconsin. Nominee Donald Trump is planning a rally in Wisconsin this Saturday, although the exact location is yet to be announced.