Bernie Sanders in Iowa
Solutions can't happen, Sanders said, until progressive Americans turn out en masse to participate in the political process. He lamented turnouts for the 2014 midterms, in which only 36 percent of registered voters went to polls.
Sanders cast his vision of an America where the minimum wage is $15 and where pay equity is law. He called on the U.S. to take cues from Germany and Scandinavia and make college free. He said it's consumers who drive the economy and create jobs, not CEOs.
Sanders, a second-term senator at 73, describes himself as a Democratic Socialist but serves as an independent. He spent 16 years in the House of Representatives, making him Congress' longest-serving independent.
One Drake student, Clay Pasqual, 19, asked Sanders if he would run for president.
Sanders said he's considering it, of course. But he has hesitancy. Sanders said the only way he could win the presidency in 2016 is with an unprecedented grass-roots movement in Iowa and beyond.
Even if 3 million Americans gave his campaign $100 each, Sanders said to Pasqual, it would amount to a third of the nearly $900 million conservative billionaires Charles Koch and David Koch plan to spend in 2016.
"Let me throw it back to you," Sanders said. "All right, Clay, tell me: Do you think there is the support in this country?"
"There was for President Obama," said Pasqual, a freshman in political science. "I think there would be for you as well."
"I'm going to take on people that President Obama didn't take on," Sanders said.
Pasqual didn't seem fazed: "Well, we'll just have to mobilize harder."
Pasqual is ready, if Sanders can find enough Pasquals in Iowa, he is in.
IOWA CITY | Listening to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders talk about the current state of the nation could be a real downer —the decline of the middle class, the rise of the oligarchy, money in politics, double-digit "real" unemployment, climate change deniers and the collapsing infrastructure.
"These are tough times for our country. No ifs, buts and maybes about it," the second-term independent told an Iowa City audience Thursday evening.
"On the most significant issue facing the nation — whether America will have a middle class with a decent standard of living," he said, "that struggle has not yet been won and, in fact, to be honest with you, we are losing that struggle."
Or Sanders could be an inspiration.
That's because the longest-serving independent in the history of Congress has "absolute confidence … when we come together as a people there is very little we cannot accomplish."
And that's what like-minded people must do, he told about 150 people at Prairie Lights Bookstore. Later he spoke at a fundraiser for domestic abuse intervention and to a University of Iowa student group.
Obviously Sanders has set some internal goals for what he wants to accomplish with his tour of Iowa. How many people signed on to the his mailing list, how many people offered to start pro-Sanders organizations, and so on and so on. We will know more in March.