Bernie Sanders in Iowa: ‘Everything we stand for is achievable’

In a visit to a backyard ice cream social, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., advocated for his supporters to keep faith in his ideas he brought to Iowa in 2016.


Jenna Galligan

2020 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at an ice cream social in West Branch, Iowa on Monday, August 19, 2019.

Sarah Watson, Politics Editor

In the backyard of two West Branch Democratic activists, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told a gathering of people sitting on lawn chairs and spread-out blankets that social and political change “is always impossible until millions of people stand together.” 

Sanders visited the West Branch backyard for an (Ben and Jerry’s) ice cream social Aug. 19, where he laid out his economic agenda and talked at length about health care (Sanders supports a government-run health-care system he’s dubbed “Medicare for All”).

Sanders referenced opposition to his single-payer health care plan, which has come from both moderate Democrats in the last debates and from Republicans looking to paint the health care plan as fiscally irresponsible. Estimates for a “Medicare for All” plan run into the trillions. Sanders has said he will implement a tax on Wall Street speculation to pay for his plans.

“Where we are now is to defy those people who tell us that our vision for America is too wild and it’s too extreme and it’s not achievable,” Sanders said in West Branch. “And our job is to understand that everything we stand for is achievable…

You will see and you’re already seeing on television all these ads about how terrible Medicare for All is, they’ll be attacking me personally, no doubt about it,” he said.

RELATED: Photos: Bernie Sanders visits West Branch (8/19/2019)

He went on to say that he believed people in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across the country were willing to “stand up to the greed” of drug and insurance companies. Sanders also called for tuition-free college and immediate investment in renewable energy sources to avoid “irreparable damage” from climate change. 

Jenna Galligan
2020 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at an ice cream social in West Branch, Iowa on Monday, August 19, 2019.

About 320 people attended, according to campaign staffers, some of which were out-of-state visitors. West Branch itself has a population of about 2,400 people. The activists who loaned out their yard for the event, Jennie Embree and David Johnson, were early supporters of Sanders when he ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

Former vice chair of the Johnson County Democrats Elizabeth Dinschel caucused for Sanders in 2016, but is leaning toward Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for the February 2020 caucuses because she feels Sanders isn’t discussing gun reform as often. 

“One of the things that I feel like he’s missing that makes me gravitate toward Elizabeth Warren is that he’s not talking about the influence of the NRA in our policies that are allowing our children and our public to be slaughtered,” she said. 

One of her two daughters is starting at Iowa City West High, she said and part of her band class will be canceled this week for active shooter training, which she wishes wasn’t a necessity. 

RELATED: In an interview with The Daily Iowan Bernie Sanders outlines his ideas for the future of college education

She said her second daughter (a first-time caucus-goer) is throwing her support behind Sanders, saying her daughter fondly remembers volunteering with her mom and the Sanders campaign during the 2016 caucuses, when then-presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton squeaked a win of a fraction of a percent from Sanders according to results from caucus-night. 

Brad Brandenburg, of West Branch, said cared about continuing social security, a series of payments citizens receive after they reach the age of 66. About 61 million Americans receive monthly benefits from the program.

“I’m only about five years away from needing it,” he said.

He added he thought presidential hopefuls this time around were echoing Sanders’ 2016 platforms of universal health care and tuition-free college, and that he liked Sanders’ consistency.

Another attendee, Earnest Harvey took off work Aug. 19 to celebrate his birthday…by seeing Sanders speak just 20 miles from his residence in Coralville. Harvey supported Clinton in 2016, but hasn’t yet decided who he’ll caucus for in 2020. 

He said two of the most important causes he cares about when choosing a candidate are their positions on women’s and LGBT rights. He added that he also wants police officers using unnecessary force (stressing not all police officers) to be held more accountable for their actions.

Sanders released a criminal justice reform plan over the weekend, though mentioned it sparingly during his speech in West Branch. 

The proposal outlines a spectrum of changes Sanders would implement, including commuting long prison sentences,  legalizing marijuana, ending cash bail, increasing oversight of police, boosting the number of public defenders, ending private, for-profit prisons, and making phone and video calls in prison for free. 

In addition to his visit to West Branch, Sanders hosted a labor town hall in Davenport, and he and his campaign staff played a game of softball against Iowa media at the iconic Diresville “Field of Dreams.” Aug. 20, Sanders is scheduled to make four stops across western Iowa, including another “ice cream social” in Okaboji, and Aug. 21, he’ll wrap up his Iowa tour with visits to Altoona and Des Moines.

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