Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez preach grassroots campaigning in Coralville stop

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Bernie Sanders in Coralville on Saturday, where the two touted the grassroots nature of Sanders’ campaign and money in politics.


Katie Goodale

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, exit the stage after a rally at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Sen. Sanders and Rep. Osasio-Cortez spoke on climate change and women’s rights.

Caleb McCullough, Politics Reporter

CORALVILLE — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known by her initials, AOC, joined Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in Coralville on Nov. 9, where the two spoke on solidarity and touted the grassroots strengths of the campaign to a crowd of approximately 2,200 people.

Sanders took aim at billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is reportedly planning a 2020 presidential run. Sanders accused him and other billionaires of attempting to “buy the election.” 

“You’re not going to be elected president by avoiding Iowa, by avoiding New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada,” Sanders said. “You’re not going to buy this election by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on media in California. Those days are gone.”

Bloomberg filed his presidential-nomination papers in Alabama this week to meet the state’s deadline as he considers entering the field.

Sanders contrasted Bloomberg’s campaign strategy with the grassroots nature of his campaign, pointing out that he has more individual donors than any other presidential candidate in history.

Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, endorsed Sanders at a Queens rally on Oct. 19, and this week, she has accompanied Sanders on the campaign trail in Iowa. In Council Bluffs on Nov. 8, the pair drew the largest Iowa crowd of any candidate in the 2020 cycle, according to the campaign.

In Coralville, Ocasio-Cortez gave an account of her time before her political career, saying she felt as if she didn’t have a voice or representation in politics until she got involved in political activism.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, meets supporters after a rally at the Coralville Marriott Hotel on Nov. 9. Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Osasio-Cortez discussed climate change and women’s rights.

Ocasio-Cortez focused on the idea of solidarity with Americans who are struggling, telling the crowd to “fight for someone you don’t know,” a phrase that has become a mantra of Sanders’ campaign. 

“Solidarity means you’re going to fight for each other,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Solidarity is Medicare for All … if you don’t have insurance, I don’t want the system that we have.” 

Sanders criticized President Donald Trump, saying he is attempting to divide the country along racial, national, and religious lines.

“We’re going to win this election because we’re bringing our people together, black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American,” Sanders said. “Bringing our people together around an agenda that works for all of us.”

Jason Counts, 46, a Coralville resident and member of Democratic Socialists of America, said he was glad to see the New York congresswoman campaigning for Sanders far from her home, contending that the representative’s support has helped Sanders.

“I think it’s [had] an incredible effect on Bernie’s popularity,” Counts said. “When I heard about it, I had no idea; to me, it was just incredible that she actually came to Coralville.”

Nationally, Sanders’ numbers in polls have been steadily increasing throughout most of October. His support jumped 2 percentage points in the week following Ocazio-Cortez’s endorsement, according to national polling data from RealClearPolitics. 

An attendee holds a Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, doll at a Sen. Sanders rally at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Sen. Sanders and Rep. Osasio-Cortez spoke on climate change and women’s rights.

Both Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders are self-described Democratic Socialists, and Counts said he’s seen the membership in the party rise in the two years that he’s been a member. 

“Our meetings have grown exponentially in the last few years,” he said. “We went from having maybe 12, 13 people to like 40 people at events.”

Daniel Williams, a Quad Cities area resident attending college in St. Louis, said he has seen nine 2020 presidential hopefuls speak, and the rally was the most energetic event he has attended. 

“The energy that Bernie is able to create is something that you don’t really see in politics anywhere,” he said. 

Williams said he’s not committed to supporting Sanders, and the candidate’s age and health are two reasons he’s hesitant. However, he said, he agreed with Ocasio-Cortez’s message of solidarity.

“Unity is important, to be there together,  but solidarity is doing something about it,” he said. “It’s one thing to say I’m here to support; it’s a different thing to say I’m now going to go do something about it, I’m going to go walk with you, I’m going to go be with you.”

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