Amid cheers, whistles, and chants of “Bernie,” US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called for the Democratic party to recast itself as the party of the working class, rather than the “liberal elite” during a political rally Friday night in Boston.
“And when we do that, when we transform the Democratic Party, we transform America,” the former presidential candidate told a 1,600-person audience in Orpheum Theater. “Because ... on every major point facing this country, the American people do not believe in a right-wing agenda. They believe in a progressive agenda.”
Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, told the crowd filled with young supporters that he plans to introduce legislation on Monday that would make public colleges and universities tuition free.
“Now people say, ‘Well, Bernie it’s an expensive proposition,’... it costs a lot of money, and it’s true, it does,” he said. “How are we going to pay for it? I will tell you exactly and gleefully how we’re going to pay for it. We’re going to put a tax on Wall Street speculation.”
The announcement was greeted with a standing ovation and another round of “Bernie” chants.
For Sanders, the rally was the final stop of a busy day in the Boston area. He spoke to sold-out crowds at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Dorchester, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren joined Sanders for the rally, organized by advocacy groups, including Our Revolution, which formed after Sanders lost the Democratic nomination for president to Hillary Clinton.
Warren, the Democratic senator from Cambridge, struck the same liberal tone as Sanders, urging the crowd to look to the future and fight for a progressive agenda. But she also warned those in attendance to pick their fights.
She compared the public’s relationship with the Trump administration to a scene from the Disney movie, “Up.”
“Donald Trump is like the guy who yelled ‘Squirrel!’ We can’t be the golden retrievers that all turn that way,” she said.
She also addressed Trump’s allegation of voter fraud in New Hampshire.
“Let it go, just let it go,” she said. “And the next time you do a fact check and find out he hadn’t told the truth, that is no longer a news flash.”
The rally brought together two leading Democratic voices in the Senate, both of whom are up for re-election next year. Warren is seeking her second term, Sanders his third.Sanders opened his remark with an avid endorsement of Warren’s re-election, before delving into issues he campaigned on: a $15 minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and immigrants’ rights.
To achieve those goals, he said, activists must get their “hands dirty” and work to register voters who may have given up on the current political system.
“The Democratic Party cannot any longer afford to be a party of New England, a party of the West Coast,” he said. “We’ve got to be a 50-state party.”
His message resonated with audience members.
“Everything is being affected. Everything is on the table of destruction,” said Gay Gibson McDonald, 63, of Stow.
She attended the rally with a friend, Janet Wheeler.
“I think we’ve just been so disappointed since this election that we need this motivation,” said Wheeler, 63, also of Stow. “It’s such a negative, always about taking away rather than expanding.”
Max Feldpausch, 38, of Braintree, said he wants to see the country go in the “right direction” and hopes Sanders and Warren can lead the way with their progressive ideas.
Attending a large rally with a wide range of activists in attendance is one way to rebuild the party and take action, he said.
“It’s just as important that the Democrats have something to offer,” he said, “and not just point fingers at Trump.”Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.