Sixteen-year-old Alex Dorhaut had a “life-changing” Fourth of the July on Thursday. The Ames teen was tuning her band instrument on the side of Burnett Avenue, getting set to march for the Ames Pep Band in the city’s Fourth of July parade, when she heard her fellow bandmates yell “That’s Bernie Sanders!”
Dorhaut was skeptical at first, but when she heard the Vermont senator say “Hey, how are you doing,” in his trademark Brooklyn accent, she was starstruck.
“I shook Bernie’s hand,” said Dorhaut. “That could be the next president of the United States, and I met him here in Ames.”
After marching through Main Street with a parade of supporters in town, residents “felt the Bern” as Sanders (D-Vt) spoke to a overflow crowd in an intimate yet humid office on 114 Kellogg on Saturday.
“What we are about is not only beating (President Donald) Trump, but transforming this country and creating an economy, an energy system and a government that works for all of us, not just the one percent,” said the Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
Sanders said his campaign is geared toward the adressing issue that affect the “99 percent of Americans”, and ensuring living wages for working families across the nation.
“The working families of this country from Iowa to Vermont to California are sick and tired of working longer hours for lower wages,” said Sanders. “We together are going to change that.”
Sanders said nationwide rise in the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 per hour is a start to the progress needed, but also championed himself a proponent of these reforms during the 2016 election cycle.
One of Sanders’ long-standing campaign policies, tuition-free college and universities, drew large applause inside 1114 Kellogg.
In late-June, Sanders unveiled his latest policy proposal planning to erase all student debt and make college completely free—at a cost of $2.2 trillion over 10 years.
In comparison to fellow Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) student-debt plan, which is means-tested and takes earnings into account. Under the Warren plan, those making less than $100,000 would receive up to $50,000 in loan forgiveness, while those making substantially more would receive less.
“I have talked to too many young people who cannot afford to get the education that they want, or they go to school and work three of four jobs,” said Sanders. “That’s not what should be taking place in what is the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” said Sanders.
Stephanie Brennan, a Sanders supporter who was a spectator outside of the building, said Sanders’ has resonated with her since his run in 2016 Democratic presidential primaries.
“I want a president my children can look up to, not one who is a national embarrassment,” said Brennan, a Des Moines schoolteacher and mother of two. “Since 2016, you hear how Bernie wants change those who are saddled with rising medical bills, and those burdened with student-debt. A Bernie Sanders presidency will help rewrite the last four years of this current president.”
Sanders also touted his Medicare for All plan, citing “poll after poll” public support for it.
The Sanders plan envisions a future in which all Americans have health coverage and pay nothing out of pocket when they visit the doctor. His plan, the Medicare for All Act, describes a benefit package that is more generous than what other single-payer countries, like Canada, currently offer their residents and includes new income taxes on both employees and employers
“American people know that there is something absurd in our dysfunctional health care,” said Sanders. “When 34 million people have no healthcare, you are under-insured with high deductibles and high co-payment. Now, we lost 34 million people because they can’t get to a doctor.”
In the latest national poll conducted by CNN, Sanders who is at 14 percent, is trailing a top-three of Joe Biden (22 percent), Kamala Harris (17 percent) and Warren (15 percent).
Nonetheless, supporters like Miles Johnson, of Ankeny, who marched in the parade with Sanders is still confident.
“That’s my guy,” said Johnson. “All of other candidates and their plans on Medicare, climate change, free college, who do you think they got that from? Why not elect the man who’s trailblazing and leading the way for all of us.”