Bernie urges young voter turnout, party unity in St. Louis rally
ST. LOUIS - On stage in St. Louis, Bernie Sanders touted his supporters’ energy and his willingness to move past moderate reform as key reasons why he hopes to win the Missouri democratic presidential primary Tuesday.
But he emphasized the need for younger voters to make it to the polls.
“Our campaign is the campaign that in the general election can bring millions of young people to the polls,” Sanders told the crowd of about 2,800 in the Stifel Theater.
Sanders also quickly pointed out differences between him and his top democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden.
"If you are talking to working class people all over this country who is better able to win their support, Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq, I voted against the war in Iraq," Sanders said. "Joe Biden voted for the Wall Street Bailout, I helped lead the effort against the Wall Street bailout."
Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton by 0.3%, less than 2,000 votes, in Missouri’s 2016 presidential primary. Many of the rally attendees Monday supported the Vermont senator then and bit their tongue when it came to the general election.
“Yeah, I voted for Hillary in November, but it was kind of the lesser of two evils," rally attendee Josh Reynolds said. "I’d maybe vote for the Democratic nominee if it’s not Bernie, but only if Bernie actually lost the vote count and the nomination isn’t stolen from him."
Sanders, however, expressed support for Biden if he were to win the nomination.
"Joe Biden is a friend of mine, Joe and I have known each other for many years, but Joe has said he will support me if I win the nomination, I have said I will support him because we want to beat Trump," he said. "That goes without saying."
Most of the energetic crowd had their minds made up months, some even years ago. Sanders received thundering applause, and at times, a standing ovation as he reiterated his intentions to provide universal health care, wipe away student debt, and make college and trade schools free.
“There should not be a paywall for knowledge,” Dylan Comer said before the rally.
He was one of the few in attendance split between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren before she stopped her campaign.
What brought many people to the rally was a sense of hope and fresh ideas from the 78-year-old candidate.
“Everyone else is so old school and stuck in their ways," Melony Thompson said. "I really see big change coming that like the American people have been wanting for a long time."
She also added that voting for Joe Biden would be the equivalent of President Donald Trump winning re-election.
Not all were won over, however. St. Louis native Tonya Jones ripped a campaign sign in half outside the theater after the rally in opposition to the way Sanders supports the black community.
“I supported Bernie in 2016 when the only issue was criminal justice." she said. "He’s had 5 years to come up with a real black agenda, that did something for our racial wealth gap, that did something for our racial poverty here. He’s got a revolution for everybody but us, the people who built this country."
Jones, protesting solo, said she didn’t support Biden either. She pledged to vote for the Green Party candidate for president in November and Democrats for all other races.
Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. statewide on Tuesday.
This article is a part of the KOMU Smart Decision series, helping keep you informed on political candidates and issues in the 2020 election season.