Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) were rapturous to see their candidate officially back on the campaign trail on Thursday, headlining a raucous campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a key stop for candidates in an early primary state. According to CNN, the self-professed social democrat’s message resonated just as profoundly with his first major campaign stop audience of 2020 as it did in 2016.
As in 2016, Sanders played to his strengths: remedying economic anxiety and empowering people over Wall Street. But he also laid out some newer, more ambitious plans, such as universal healthcare for all, creating a universal pre-kindergarten program, and a federal-level $15 minimum wage.
One highlight of the rally was a segment when Sanders was about to launch into a bit on President Donald Trump – and an audience member helped him out.
“Tonight we say to Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry…” Sanders began.
But before he could finish, an audience member yelled out, “F**k you!” to gales of laughter and whoops of delight from the crowd.
For his part, Sanders offered agreement but tempered his response somewhat.
“Well, that is one way of phrasing it,” Sanders said. “I, myself, was gonna say it a little differently. I am a senator.”
But while Sanders may not have cursed from the stage, his tone was decidedly more combative than in 2016. He even took a few swipes at elite Democrats, calling out both the “Republican Party and the establishment Democrats,” and directly attacked what many of his supporters see as an unfairly rigged primary process within the Democratic Party.
“Here’s one more,” Sanders said, after running through his platform planks. “Imagine ending the power of superdelegates at the Democratic National Convention.”
(Superdelegates are “unpledged” delegates, meaning they aren’t bound to any state’s primary ballot. They’re made up of establishment party loyalists like lawmakers, former lawmakers, big fundraisers, and longtime DNC apparatchiks whom Sanders supporters saw being lined up to swing the nomination to Hillary Clinton long before the people had their say.)
Sanders was also quick to tout the changed political landscape between 2015 when he launched his previous presidential run and today, noting that when he began that run, not a lot of people even knew who he was.
“At that time nobody took our campaign seriously, and we began that campaign at 3 percent in the polls. Further, the ideas, the agenda, that we were talking about at that time four years ago was considered by establishment politicians and mainstream media to be ‘radical’ and ‘extreme’ — remember that?” he said, nearly drowned out by the roar of the crowd before he could finish.
Sanders plans to visit Iowa City on Friday and close out his Iowa tour in Des Moines on Saturday.