MILWAUKEE — Sen. Bernie Sanders swung away Monday at President Donald Trump as he fired up young Milwaukeeans to vote for Democratic candidates on Nov. 6.
“Virtually every president in recent years understood his job was to bring us together,” the Vermont Independent said at a Dem rally at UW-Milwaukee. “Now we have a president who for cheap political reasons thinks he can get votes by dividing us. Mr. Trump, we are not going backwards, we are going forwards.”
Sanders, who won the Wisconsin primary but lost the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, spoke of Americans who “put their lives on the line” to fight discrimination against racial and religious minorities, women, and the LGBT community. He contrasted their sacrifices with Trump’s mockery of sexual assault victims, separation of immigrant families, attacks on the news media and friendly relations with dictators.
He also called Trump “a pathological liar” who has broken promises to provide health care for all, take on Wall Street, and protect Social Security and Medicare.
Although Sanders is considered a potential challenger to the Republican president in 2020, Monday’s focus was on mobilizing voters for the rapidly approaching midterm elections. The rally featured U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin; state Superintendent Tony Evers, the Dem gubernatorial candidate, and his running mate, former state Rep. Mandela Barnes; Randy Bryce, 1st CD Dem candidate; and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee.
Sanders praised today’s youth as “the most progressive generation in the history of our country: the least racist, the least sexist, the least homophobic, the least bigoted.” But he said their passion for equality and the environment “doesn’t mean anything if you don’t come out to vote.” If young people vote at the same rates as the rest of the nation, Sanders added, “You will transform the United States of America.”
Just as health care was a dominant issue in Sanders’ 2016 campaign, it dominated Monday’s rally as well, with several candidates citing their own health struggles to illustrate the need for broad access to health coverage and continued protection for those with pre-existing conditions.
“Health care is on the ballot this year. We can’t let my opponent and her special-interest friends take our health care away,” Baldwin said, referring to Brookfield Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir’s support for repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Baldwin recalled how a serious illness confined her to the hospital for three months at age 9, but wasn’t covered by her grandparents‘ health insurance. Her pre-existing condition complicated subsequent attempts to obtain insurance, she said.
Evers and Bryce sounded similar themes in recounting their battles with cancer. Bryce noted he declared bankruptcy because of medical bills, while Evers said he couldn’t imagine what he would have done without insurance.
Vukmir campaign manager Jess Ward knocked Baldwin from standing “with socialist Bernie Sanders,” and said their Medicare-for-All plan would mean an end to Medicare, Medicare Advantage and employer-provided health insurance for 3.4 million Wisconsinites.
“It seems counterproductive that Baldwin’s solution to health care begins with destroying care for our seniors. So much for keeping your doctor,” Ward said.
Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, meanwhile, sought to shift the focus to passages in the last several DPI budgets that were lifted from other sources without attribution.
“The problem for Bernie Sanders is that he condemned plagiarism as ‘troubling’ and now Tony Evers has seven cases of plagiarism and counting — no teacher would allow this kind of cheating in the classroom, how can Bernie Sanders allow this kind of failed leadership in his endorsements?” said Walker spokesman Austin Altenburg.
Baldwin’s campaign reported 1,100 people were in the standing-room-only crowd, which would be 47 percent over the official capacity of 750 for the UWM Union’s Wisconsin Room.
By Larry Sandler