Politics

Bernie Sanders draws 7,000 to Rhode Island rally

US Senator Bernie Sanders greeted supporters following his rally Sunday at Roger Williams Park in Providence.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images
US Senator Bernie Sanders greeted supporters following his rally Sunday at Roger Williams Park in Providence.

PROVIDENCE — Senator Bernie Sanders barely mentioned Hillary Clinton during a rally that drew more than 7,000 people to the grassy fields of Roger Williams Park just two days before the state’s primary.

What supporters and curious voters did hear was Sanders’ assertion that a “political revolution” for the working class could only advance if voters of the Ocean State went to the polls.

“What we have found throughout this campaign is when voter turnout is high, when working people, and young people, when the middle-class people come out in big numbers, we often win,” Sanders told a cheering crowd before a backdrop of a lake and the classical columns that make up the Temple to Music pavilion.

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“When voter turnout is low, we don’t do well,’’ he said. “I would hope on Tuesday that Rhode Island has the largest turnout for a Democratic primary in the history of the state.”

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Sanders’ remarks about voter turnout came after he said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that while his campaign has drawn large crowds, he has suffered losses to Clinton at the polls, “because poor people don’t vote.”

As it stands, Sanders’ support from delegates and superdelegates is lagging far enough behind Clinton that his path to securing the Democratic nomination is now viewed as slim to impossible. According to the Associated Press, Clinton is 442 delegates short of clinching the nomination, thanks in part to her large lead among superdelegates. Sanders needs another 1,192 to win the Democratic party nod.

On Sunday, Sanders made campaign stops in two states — Rhode Island and Connecticut — among the five that will vote in Tuesday’s primary.

Clinton also stopped in both states over the weekend, and Governor John Kasich of Ohio, a Republican, campaigned in Rhode Island on Saturday.

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“Right now as we speak, you’ve got Republicans running all over the country, they’re talking about family values,” Sanders said. “Oh they love families — not families here in Providence where 40 percent of the children live in poverty. I guess those families don’t count.”

Sanders mentioned Clinton only twice during his hour-long stump speech, once chiding her for failing to join him in supporting his proposed legislation for a carbon tax. In another instance, he suggested that she was unwilling to take on the interests of private insurance and drug companies to deliver more affordable health care.

Actress Shailene Woodley introduced Sanders at the rally.
Steven Senne/Associated Press
Actress Shailene Woodley introduced Sanders at the rally.

Jimi Grondin, a carpenter from North Kingston, said he hasn’t decided whom he will support on Tuesday. He came to Sunday’s rally because his 8-year-old daughter, Marguerite, and her 5-year-old sister, Gabby, were excited to see Sanders in person.

“My biggest issue is getting Citizens United reversed,” Grondin said, noting the Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for corporate money in political campaigns. He would rather see a system that was “all publicly funded and everyone gets the same set amount.”

“Bernie has a shot of doing that,” Grondin added.

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Bill Reilly, an Attleboro, Mass., science teacher who lives in Warwick, said he will vote for Sanders on Tuesday, because of his stance on eliminating student debt and bringing about tuition-free college.

As a science teacher, he also prefers Sanders’ position over Clinton’s against fracking and taking action to curb climate change.

Reilly said even if Sanders does not secure enough delegates to win the nomination, his campaign is still putting out a message that’s driving the Democratic primary.

“The whole idea of superdelegates is ridiculous to me,” Reilly said. “It’s an antiquated system. Even if he doesn’t get the nomination, his message is getting out there.”

Christie Dubois, of Warwick, said this year was the first time she came out to support a presidential candidate because she is inspired by Sanders’ message.

“He is one of the first honest politicians I have seen,” she said. “He actually cares about people in the world.”

Dubois said she believed it was important to keep supporting Sanders despite some predictions that the delegate math already puts him beyond reaching the Democratic nomination.

“If we give up he is not going to have a chance,” she said.

About 7,000 attended Sunday’s rally.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images
About 7,000 attended Sunday’s rally.