Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) visited Ann Arbor Thursday to campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, drawing hundreds of students and community members.
Roughly 200 were let into the University of Michigan Museum of Art to hear Sanders speak, with several hundred left outside. The senator briefly mingled with the crowd before the speech, touting his plans for college affordability, before stepping inside to speak.
This is Sanders’ second visit to campus. His first visit was in March, when he was still running to be the Democratic nominee for president.
Throughout his campaign, Sanders was extremely popular among college students and other millennials — during his primary run in Michigan, he won 80 percent of the millennial vote, according to a CNN poll — and during his visit Thursday, Sanders aimed to channel that energy toward Clinton.
“Politics aren’t complicated,” Sanders said. “You decide what the candidates stand for and what is better for you and your family. Any objective assessment of Clinton’s agenda to Trump’s shows that by far and away Hillary is the superior candidate and should be elected president.”
LSA junior Taiwo Dosunmu, communications chair of the College Democrats, wrote in an email interview that Sanders’s visits showed the importance of young people in the upcoming election.
“The fact that Sen. Sanders is making his second visit to our campus so far this cycle indicates how much value Democratic candidates place on motivating U of M students and students across the state to get out and vote on Nov. 8th with that same level of enthusiasm,” Dosunmu wrote.
Along with encouraging students to vote on Election Day, Sanders also emphasized the need to push a progressive agenda beyond the presidential election, calling for attendees to stay involved in the political process.
“Politics doesn’t end on Election Day,” Sanders said. “It means that we are about more than just electing candidates. If we are to transform this country, then we have got to start working the day after the election on a progressive agenda that demands that Congress and president represent the need of the middle and working class, not the billionaires.”
Speaking to specific progressive policy points, he highlighted how Clinton has incorporated some aspects of his plans for higher education into her platform, saying he was confident a Clinton administration would tackle the issue of student debt. Drawing from Sanders’ plan for tuition-free public institutions for all students, Clinton has proposed the establishment of tuition-free in-state public colleges and universities for families with annual incomes up to $125,000.
“Clinton and I want it so that when you leave school you can do the work you want to do and not be burdened from oppressive student debt,” Sanders said. “That is why she is proposing for students to refinance their debt at the lowest interest rate they can find.”
For many of the students in attendance, their support for Clinton partially stemmed from their support for Sanders, and they said they were glad to be able to hear how Clinton has brought his ideas into her campaign.
LSA senior Miranda Henry said she was excited to see Sanders because she voted for him in the primaries but is planning on voting for Clinton in the general election, and was curious to see how their ideas were similar.
“I felt really inspired by him as a candidate and what he stood for,” Henry said. “It’s exciting to see him on the campaign to support Clinton knowing that he isn’t just done. I hope and think she will adopt some of his policies. It seems like they have collaborated on things like education, debt and stuff like that.”
During his remarks, Sanders said his endorsement of Clinton was a reminder for many students that her support helped him display how a candidate with his progressive views could remain competitive or the Democratic nomination.
“I want to thank you for supporting me during my primary run,” Sanders told the crowd. “We learned that the agenda we brought forth is not something that is fringe but rather is mainstream America. It is a progressive movement.”
LSA junior Emily Kaufman, who also voted for Sanders in the primaries, said she was always planning to vote for the Democratic candidate in the general election, but is especially satisfied that Clinton is incorporating some of Sanders’s policies. She also noted that as a transgender student, it is important to her that Clinton, and the presidency, support the transgender community.
“I did have some reservations about Hillary,” Kaufman said. “Seeing that she is willing to take on some of Bernie’s policies and ideas really shows me that she is a transformative candidate and that she can evolve. As a transgender person, knowing that she is supportive of trans rights and having people in my life know her and who have met her really has pushed me towards voting for her.”