Thousands of people sojourned to Civic Center park early Monday night, where they loudly and proudly cheered on Bernie Sanders as the progressive presidential contender denounced insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and America’s military industrial complex.
The rally had a rock concert atmosphere, with strumming guitarists, volunteers throwing T-shirts to a front row of superfans, and chants of “Bernie!” before, during and after. State Rep. Emily Sirota, a Denver Democrat whose husband is a Sanders speechwriter, introduced the candidate by saying, “To all the CEOs out there, hear us loud and clear: Your greed is coming to an end.”
The 78-year-old democratic socialist senator from Vermont, a darling of liberals young and old, made a loud return to Colorado, 11 months after he stumped for now-Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse last October in Boulder and Fort Collins.
“I am here in Denver asking your support for more than just defeating Trump,” Sanders told the cheering crowd in a raspy, cracking voice. “I am here to ask you to help me transform this country and create an economy and government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
“Please don’t tell me that the United States cannot provide health care to all as a human right,” he said later in the night. “Don’t tell me we can’t make public colleges and universities free and cancel all student debt.”
For the Sanders faithful who poured into the park, Monday’s rally was an opportunity to cheer on a man they believe can bring about massive, institutional reforms, such as single-payer health care, a Green New Deal, a $15-per-hour minimum wage and a restructuring of the nation’s trade deals.
“I remember Bernie from the 1970s and I’ve always liked him a lot, because he stands for something,” said Kelly Duncan, who recently moved to Colorado, as she sold Sanders buttons and flags before the event.
Mike Pryce, of Denver, said he supports Sanders’ stances on single-payer health care, ending student loan debt, raising taxes on the wealthy and decreasing American involvement overseas.
“I’m here to support the best candidate for president that there is,” Pryce said as he applied sunscreen and waited to enter the rally.
Theresa O’Neil, of Longmont, was a volunteer for the Sanders campaign Monday, directing attendees in line to water. Some had arrived in the park 90 minutes early. O’Neil said she’s most worried about tariffs and trade wars that President Donald Trump’s administration is engaged in.
“There was a time when Democrats would hesitate before embracing fringe ideas like banning fracking or ‘ending’ fossil fuel,” said Kyle Kohli, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party, referring to other Sanders ideas, “but 2020 Democrats are showing those days are over.”
Colorado’s Democratic and unaffiliated voters will cast ballots March 3 in the Democratic presidential primary. Sanders easily won Colorado during the 2016 Democratic contest against Hillary Clinton, but the state used a caucus system then, which favored him and his dedicated supporters. Next year, Colorado returns to a primary system for the first time in two decades.
In August, an Emerson Polling survey showed Sanders virtually tied with Joe Biden in Colorado’s 2020 primary, 26% to 25%. Elizabeth Warren had 20% of support and Kamala Harris had 13%. The poll of 403 Democratic primary voters had a 3% margin of error.
“I need your help to win the Colorado primary,” Sanders told rambunctious rally attendees Monday night, “and with the turnout here tonight, I think we’re going to do it.”
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