FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, Aug. 24, that there are two reasons he’s running for president: 1) President Donald Trump is “dangerous” and must be defeated and 2) to promote economic equality.
“This country cannot continue to have a president who is a pathological liar; who conducts public policy via tweet; who is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, and a xenophobe and a religious bigot,” he said.
This was the first time Sanders, 77, has brought his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign to Minnesota. The Vermont senator spoke Saturday from the Minnesota Public Radio building. He defeated Hillary Clinton in Minnesota’s 2016 Democratic caucuses and has thousands of volunteers in the state.
MPR News host Tom Crann had planned a casual Q&A, but the feisty senator often co-opted the interview, standing and stumping for his top issues — climate change, free college tuition and expanded Medicare.
Crann asked what would happen to the thousands of people in Minnesota currently employed in the health insurance business if that industry were eliminated?
“When we move to a ‘Medicare for All,’ will there be dislocation? There will be,” Sanders said. “But we provide a period of time to make sure that all workers who might see their jobs go … will get jobs in a new and growing health care system.”
Brian Peterson, 25, of Minneapolis, liked the sound of that.
“I’m going to be 26 and lose my health care soon,” he said, “so I guess you could say that’s pretty personal for me.”
Sanders has thrown his support behind the “Green New Deal,” which proposes that government should rapidly prohibit the use of fossil fuel energy and impose 100 percent renewable energy, mostly solar and wind.
“What the scientists are telling us is that we have fewer than 12 years to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy or there will be irreparable damage done to our country and to the entire world,” he said.
Crann asked Sanders how would the country pay for the over $16 trillion project.
Sanders told him he was asking the wrong question.
“The right question is, What happens to this country, and the planet, if we do not transform it?” he said. “Climate change is real; it is already causing devastating problems and it is caused by human activity.”
He proposed reaching out to all the nations of the world to persuade them to stop spending money on defense, and instead fight together against the common enemy of climate change.
He was against using nuclear energy, which is often promoted as clean compared with fossil fuels, because of the concern of nuclear waste and the expense of building new plants.
Crann asked what his message is to coal miners and others working in the fossil fuel industry who would lose their jobs under his plan.
“We’re not going to throw you out on the streets,” Sanders said. Under his plan, they would have free health care and free tuition to transition into a different occupation.
Blake Farber, 28, of Minneapolis, said he trusts Sanders because he’s consistent.
“Bernie has an understanding of what really matters to the working class,” he said.
Sanders took questions from the audience about gun violence, immigration and legalizing marijuana.
He promised to end Trump’s ban on travel from some majority-Muslim countries, tighten gun control measures and take the legalization of marijuana one step further.
“We want to expunge the records of those people arrested for the possession of marijuana,” he said.
Nationwide, Sanders is polling in second place behind former Vice President Joe Biden, according to an average of national polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. He has the support of 16 percent of Democratic voters.
Art Charleton, 59, was in town from Pennsylvania. He’s not sold on Sanders but stopped by to hear what he had to say.
“It’s interesting that his ideas he had four years ago are now very mainstream,” Charleton said.
Other presidential candidates who have visited Minnesota this year include former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; entrepreneur Andrew Yang, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and Minnesota’s own U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.