Bernie Sanders holds virtual Iowa town hall condemning state and federal crisis response

In a virtual town hall, Bernie Sanders and Iowa progressives discussed the derecho response, COVID-19, and climate change, and said current officials have failed to act.


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)

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Bernie Sanders and Iowa progressives called on voters to hold Republican officials accountable for how they have responded to recent crises in a “Fighting For Justice” virtual town hall in Iowa on Saturday.

Different Iowa progressives gathered for the town hall where they discussed the need for Congressional action on the crises they believe are facing the nation — including derecho storm response, COVID-19, and climate change.

The town hall highlighted much of the damage caused by last week’s derecho that Sanders said many leaders have turned a blind eye to.

“We need to demand that Trump and other Republican officials start responding to the problems our communities are facing today,” Sanders said.

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said that more than 90 percent of residents in his county lost power and many are still hurting from the storm. Walker said that he hopes to put some pressure on the state and federal government to help with storm damage repair.

“There are ways people all across the country can help. Smaller organizations on the ground here have responded in a way that have outshined that of larger organizations,” Walker said. “Please continue to put this story in the news and continue to contact officials and the governor to encourage them to act.”

Cathy Glasson, President of Service Employees International Union Iowa and a candidate for governor in the 2018 Democratic primary, said that the derecho response has been nonexistent and COVID-19 response has not been much better.

Gov. Kim Reynolds submitted a federal disaster declaration on Aug. 16, six days after the derecho hit, and President Trump approved $45 million of the governor’s nearly $4 billion in requested funds the next day. More funding was made available to Linn County on Aug. 20.

Glasson said that local schools and districts should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions on whether or not to go back to school, but that option has been taken away from them.

“The coronavirus has pulled back the veil to expose inequality and the lack of hospital preparedness. Hospitals are full but yet schools and universities are being forced to go back into session in person,” Glasson said.

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Sanders said that the Trump administration has made matters concerning the coronavirus worse as Americans have lost their jobs and are not being given enough help throughout the pandemic.

The people who are hit the hardest in any disaster are the ones who are making the least amount of money, Walker said. There is also a racial injustice element to this as well he said.

“If we don’t approach all of these challenges with an intersectional lens, our solutions to any one of these problems will not be sufficient,” Walker said. “This is why your vote matters, this is how we get people who care about the people who are harmed the most into positions of power.”

Sanders said that Americans need to stand up to elect Joe Biden and elect Democrats to control the U.S. Senate and House in order to create enough movement to make much needed changes.

“We can only do these things when people stand up and fight for justice,” Sanders said. “We must work super hard to defeat Donald Trump and call out inaction.”

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