Sanders uses momentum from Richmond rally to gain young voters on Super Tuesday

Senator Bernie Sanders points at the crowd during his Thursday rally. Photo by Megan Lee

Katharine DeRosa, Contributing Writer

Farmville native Red Walker has been campaigning for Bernie Sanders since 2016 but said that he is willing to vote for any Democratic candidate in November — the same way he said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“We just really believe in him; believe he’s gonna do it this time,” Walker said. 

Walker feels disdain for those who would refuse to vote in November if Bernie didn’t make the ballot, and said he believes Democrats should do everything they can to ensure Donald Trump does not win another term.

Sanders supporters filled the Arthur Ashe Junior Athletic Center during a rally for Democratic presidential candidate on Thursday, ending his speech with a call to action.

“Please come out to vote,” Sanders said before thanking the crowd and heading off the stage. “Let us have the largest voting turnout in the history of Virginia primaries.”

Zakawani Symister, a 21-year-old from Chesterfield, Virginia, said he wouldn’t vote for any candidate besides Sanders because his second favorite candidate, Andrew Yang, dropped out of the race on Feb. 11.

“I just don’t see anyone else that got my attention,” Symister said. “He’s the only person who got me out of my house.”

Throughout his speech, Sanders spoke of his major policy proposals, including: 

  • “Medicare for All,” a program that would grant health insurance to all Americans
  • Restoring the status of people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program
  • Ending the sale and distribution of “assault weapons” 
  • Legalizing marijuana federally
  • Creating free public universities nationwide and increasing teachers’ salaries to at least $60,000 a year
  • Climate change policies based on the ideas of the Green New Deal
PHOTOS: Bernie in Richmond
Audience members and supporters listen to Bernie Sanders during a quiet, captivating moment at the Richmond rally on Thursday. Photo by Enza Marcy
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Sanders has also campaigned on limiting restrictions on abortions, raising the minimum wage and reducing homelessness.

Sanders’ comments about abortion caused the crowd to erupt into cheers of “Bernie” while stomping their feet on the floor and on the bleechers. 

“It’s women who have the right to control their bodies, not the government,” Sanders said.

The rally attracted students from VCU, including Brittany Ofori, a freshman psychology major, who said she was excited about Sanders’ ideas for college tuition and student debt.

“I was excited to go,” Ofori said. “I had never been to anything like this before.”

Sanders’ comment about immediately legalizing marijuana through an executive order caused the crowd to start cheering over him before he could finish his sentence.

VCU freshman Ian McCoy, a Sanders supporter majoring in history and minoring in political science, said he was excited about the potential legalization of marijuana and clearing the records of those who have been arrested in connection to the drug.

“I’m not a huge supporter of government as a whole,” McCoy said, “but Bernie is the closest thing I’m going to get to what I want.”

The rally began with two musical performances and four speakers. Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Woodbridge, the first Latina to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, introduced Sanders.

“When people tell me that Bernie is not electable, I will tell them that it’s not true,” Guzmán said during her speech. “He is the front-runner. He has won Iowa. He has won New Hampshire. He has won Nevada.”

Pete Buttigieg, who has since dropped out of the presidential race, beat Sanders in Iowa by only two delegates and .1% of the vote, according to Politico. Sanders previously won the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucus. 

Sanders said young voters could contribute to a landslide election by turning out to vote at the same rates as older demographics.

“This young generation is the most progessive generation in the history of America,” Sanders said. “They’re anti-everything that Trump is for.”

Sanders urged young people to take action during his speech. 

“Your complaints don’t mean anything,” he said. “What means something is standing up and fighting.”

The senator from Vermont also took the opportunity to discredit his competitors, specifically mentioning former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Bloomberg has every right in the world to run for president,” Sanders said, “but he doesn’t have the right to buy the president.”

Sanders said Biden was a “good friend” of his before criticizing his campaign for the presidency.

“Joe is not going to bring new people into the political process,” Sanders said.

Not everyone at the rally was an avid fan of Sanders. Zella Gray, a retired postal worker from Henrico, Virginia, said she was unsure of who she was voting for and wanted a chance to listen to what Sanders had to say. Gray also said she’s considering voting for Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Biden. 

Since the rally, Klobuchar has dropped out of the race, along with Buttigieg and Tom Steyer. Buttigieg and Klobuchar both announced their endorsements of Biden on Monday night.

“I would like more clarification on Medicare for All,” Gray said. “I am eligible to Medicare this year and in researching Medicare, there’s a lot of things that are not being answered.”

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