With less than a week until the presidential election, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) encouraged students to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Western Michigan University Wednesday discussing key issues of her campaign from higher education reform and rising economic inequality.
Sanders’ speech primarily focused on issues he highlighted during the primaries and direct attacks on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. This strategy differs from other surrogates who recently held rallies in Michigan for Clinton, such as Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, who emphasized Clinton’s personal strengths and refrained from mentioning Trump by name.
“When we talk about the economy, we have got to talk about the moral economy,” Sanders said. “An economy that works for all not just the wealthy … We have got to rekindle hope in America and create an economy that provides opportunity for all.”
Over the past few days, both campaigns have stopped in Michigan in the last week left on the trail. In addition to Sanders’ rally, Trump stopped in Warren and Grand Rapids on Monday, his children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. rallied in Troy and Detroit Wednesday and a Clinton rally is scheduled for Detroit on Friday.
Support in the state and at the University of Michigan has leaned in favor of Clinton for most of the general election season. The most recent RealClearPolitics polling average shows Clinton leading by 6.4 points, and the most recent Michigan Daily election sample survey showed Clinton with 70.3 percent of student support and Trump with 13.1 percent.
In his remarks, Sanders stressed the importance of voter turnout and encouraged students to vote, as young people traditionally have the lowest voter turnout rates. Additionally, he mentioned the accusations Democrats have made against the Republican National Committee for voter intimidation efforts targeting minorities.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to get more people voting, more people engaged in the process,” Sanders said. “I want this country to have a vibrant democracy.”
The Clinton campaign has also stressed the importance of higher education reform throughout the campaign season. After she accepted the nomination, Clinton and Sanders collaborated to update Clinton’s New College Compact to include tuition-free college for families earning less than $125,000 per year. While the feasibility of these plans has been questioned by some institutions, higher education reform is a popular topic among students.
On Wednesday, Sanders stressed that more jobs require a college degree than in previous decades, meaning higher education must be provided at little to no cost for maximum employment equity.
“When we talk about public education, it is not good enough to say kindergarten through 12th grade,” he said. “The world has changed and education has got to change. When we talk about public education, it must be making public colleges and universities tuition free.”
Western Michigan University sophomore Mara Minott said she was inspired by Sanders’ speech and plans to vote for Clinton because she believes she will best help all citizens.
“It was really a moving speech that makes you think about what is going on in our country,” she said. “For African Americans I think (Clinton is) for everybody and it’s not as if you are this color you get looked upon more highly than someone — it’s equal. For me, I was like, ‘I can be down with that.’ ”
In his remarks, Sanders also asked the audience to consider each candidate’s stance on the issues rather than consider the candidates as individuals.
“There are a lot of people in Michigan and a lot of people in Vermont who don’t like Donald Trump and who don’t like Hillary Clinton,” he said. “I am asking you to go beyond personality. Take a hard look at the issues that are impacting the middle class and impact this country, and on every issue you will find Hillary Clinton’s position far, far superior to Donald Trump’s.”
Paul Clements, WMU professor and 6th district Democratic Congressional candidate, in his introduction of Sanders praised the senator to the crowd for the grassroots movement he created during the primary election.
“He inspired me, like I know he inspired many of us here today, with a vision of what government of, by and for the people needs to be in the 21st century,” he said.
WMU junior Erin Huggett said Clements, who appeared popular among the crowd from cheers and numerous , earned her support due to his ability to further Sanders’ goals on more local level.
“I knew once Bernie wasn’t able to make the primary election goals that he had that I would want to vote for someone who he backed and supported for our local election,” she said. “I think as the revolution goes on, it is important that we look at the local elections.”