UI ‘Feels the Bern’

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the ARC on March 12, 2016. Photo by Lily Katz

By Abigale Svoboda and Declan Harty

With a white, “Feel the Bern” t-shirt, matching button and green hair, the 25-year-old Marion, Illinois resident stands out from many in the crowd. After driving three hours alone to Champaign, Hogue’s excitement to see Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was more than obvious.

“Everything that he stands for would make for a better future for my children,” she said.

Hogue was just one of the thousands in attendance for Sanders’ visit to the University at the Activities and Recreation Center on Saturday.EJ Presidential candidates like Sanders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made stops across the state from big cities like Chicago to small college towns like Bloomington and Champaign.EJ

Sanders’ rally was to promote voter turnout Tuesday for Illinois’ primary, according to Matt Pasquini, president of Illini for Bernie.EJ But the Vermont Senator talked about everything from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to minimum wage and healthcare.

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He addressed his opponents’ campaign funding strategies; Sanders told the crowd his campaign has received over 5 million individual campaign contributions — the most in the nation’s history.

“If you want to vote for me great, if you don’t want to vote for me that’s OK,” Sanders said. “But you don’t have the right to buy elections because you’re a billionaire.”

Though Sanders’ rally mainly revolved around his own platform, he addressed some of Clinton’s stances as well as Trump’s campaign tactics.

He reminded attendees that Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq war, and he remained confident that Trump will not win the election. Sanders said he will defeat Trump because U.S. citizens won’t elect a president who insults Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans and women.

“The American people understand that in every religion on earth,” Sanders said, listing a multitude of religions. “They all understand and teach us, that love trumps hatred.”

The diversity amongst attendees was evident even in the wide range of ages. Toddlers, students and elderly community members were all in attendance — including nine-year-old Sophia Swofford, who was just tall enough to see over the metal railing that separated attendees from the media.

“I will sit in the shade of the trees you plant,” reads the white cardboard sign that she holds over the railing.

For Ali Swofford, Sophia’s mother, climate change is a crucial part of the presidential race that isn’t being recognized by many — other than Sanders.

“I want to see an end to crony capitalism,” said Ali, a Rantoul resident. “I want whoever is in charge to pay attention to the climate.”

Sanders did acknowledge climate change in his speech stating that the debate is over, simply calling climate change “real.”

Sanders’ policies on universal healthcare and more accessible education were a leading force for Hogue’s support. Meanwhile, Randy Stanfield, from Charleston, said he supports Sanders’ because of his economic stance.

“You have people trying to sustain themselves off of jobs that were normally taken by high schoolers or college students. But you’ve got people trying to raise families off of that, and that’s not right,” he said as he stood near the back of the crowd. “You’ve got to expand the middle class, bring back industrial jobs into the United States so that an honest man can make an honest living. And that’s why I’m supporting Bernie.”

Sanders reminded attendees that “this campaign is listening to young people” and encouraged the crowd to vote in the primary.

“If there is a large voter turnout we will win,” he said. “We’re going to make sure there is a large voter turnout.”

Sophia obviously can’t vote in the primary — she won’t even be able to vote in the next presidential election in 2020. But Ali knew that seeing Sanders on Saturday was an opportunity both her and her daughter couldn’t miss.

“It’s important to fight for what you believe in,” Ali said.

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