Bernie Sanders rallies students on the Pentacrest

Sanders spoke on health care and college education to a large crowd on the Pentacrest, and then spoke at a Lotería Night at The Mill with LULAC-Iowa.


Hannah Kinson

Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd during the Bernie 2020 College Campus Tailgate Tour on Sunday, September 8, 2019 at The Old Capitol Building. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held a rally on the Pentacrest Sunday as part of a tour of the three Iowa regent universities, focusing on issues that matter to students in an effort to mobilize young voters. 

Sanders began his message with an appeal to college students and young people to vote and caucus in 2020. He said the younger generation is the most progressive in the history of the country, but their low turnout means their interests aren’t often reflected. 

“The bad news is, your generation does not get out and vote to the level it should,” Sanders said. “The truth is that if younger people in this country voted at the same level as people 65 and older, we could transform this country.”

In 2018, the number of registered voters 65 and over in Iowa was over twice as much as those in the 18-24 age group. Voter turnout was the lowest in that age group at 37.7 percent.

In caucuses and primaries nationally, Sanders outperformed both Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Trump among young voters, according to a study from CIRCLE at Tufts University. In 2020, however, several campaigns are ramping up efforts to connect with students on college campuses in Iowa, giving Sanders more competition for student support. 

Jenna Galligan
2020 Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks during the Bernie 2020 College Campus Tailgate Tour on The Old Capitol lawn on Sunday, September 8, 2019.

According to the campaign’s Iowa communications director, Roger Ouellette, 1350 people attended. 

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

Sanders spoke on his health care plans, placing blame on the health-care industry and pharmaceutical companies for seeking profits at the expense of Americans’ well-being. He said he would “end the insanity” of Americans dying due to lack of access to health care or going bankrupt from medical bills. 

“The function of health care is to provide quality care to all, not to make a hundred billion in profits for the health care industry,” he said. 

Sanders proposed a plan on August 31 that would forgive medical debt, along with his previously proposed legislation that would cancel all existing student-loan debt, which has not advanced in Congress.

Sanders’ comments on student loan forgiveness and free public university went over well with the student-heavy audience, garnering him some of the biggest reactions from the crowd. 

Sanders said making college tuition-free was not a radical idea, and cited several states and communities such as New York and California, which offer programs to fill the gaps left after federal scholarship are exhausted to pay for remaining costs of a 2-year program, that have already implemented some form of tuition-free college.

“The question is not whether we’re going to make public colleges and universities tuition free, the question is how soon we are going to do it,” he said. 

RELATED: Caucus fatigue? Not for Iowans…yet

At the event at the Mill, which was hosted with the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens, Sanders’ speech focused more heavily on immigration issues. 

Jenna Galligan
An attendee listens to 2020 Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, give a speech during Bernie Sanders’s Lotería with LULAC at The Mill on Sunday, September 8, 2019.

Sanders said on the first day in office, he would restore the legal status of those eligible for the DACA program. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which took effect in 2012, gave protections to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. President Trump had plans to phase out the program, but after federal court rulings, the USCIS was directed to continue taking applications for deferred action under the program.

He said he would pass comprehensive immigration reform, add a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and end ICE raids. Sanders recalled speaking with teachers in Los Angeles about the anxiety around ICE.

“What the teachers were telling me is that these children live in fear,” he said. “They are traumatized by the fact that they may go home after school one day and find that their mom or their dad has been deported.”

University of Iowa student Kyle Schneider, who attended the rally on the Pentacrest, said he became interested in Sanders in 2016, before he was eligible to vote, and was hoping to see him run again in 2020. 

Schneider said the thing that separates Sanders from the other candidates, for him, is sincerity. 

“I think he genuinely believes in what he’s advancing,” Schneider said. “I think he believes in what he believes and he’s not doing it just for his own personal interests.” 

Daniel Soto and Ian Eklin, both seniors at the UI, attended the rally in order to be more informed about Sanders’ positions. They both said they were undecided on which nomination candidate to support and were trying to see as many Oval Office hopefuls in person as they could. 

“I want to be more politically involved,” Eklin said. “Because I haven’t in the past and I feel bad about that. I’m just making a conscious effort to be as informed as possible.”

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