Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., paid a visit to the University of Michigan campus Saturday to encourage the student body to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections. The event, hosted by progressive advocacy groups NextGen America and MoveOn, was held in the Rackham Auditorium, drawing a crowd of over 1,000 students and Ann Arbor residents.
Sanders previously visited the U-M campus in March 2020 with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as part of his 2020 presidential campaign. Sanders is currently touring college towns across the country for the “Our Future is Now” event series.
The event kicked off with a speech from Branden Snyder, executive director of Detroit Action, a nonprofit focused on housing and economic justice.
“In 2020, we endorsed Senator Sanders for president — Black and Brown working-class folks knocking doors throughout the city of Detroit for his fight to build a multi-racial democracy,” Snyder said. “If we want that type of democracy, if we want that type of world where we have good jobs, good neighborhoods and good schools, we have to continue organizing not just on Election Day, turning out our friends and neighbors, but year-round.”
Before the event, Social Work student Abbey Malbon told The Michigan Daily she hopes young people will vote in this election, but political engagement should not stop at voting.
“I think voting is definitely a civic duty,” Malbon said. “But it’s not the end-all-be-all, and there’s a lot of advocacy that has to occur afterward. So encouraging students to stay involved and putting more pressure on establishments rather than the individual to hold people accountable, I think, is really important.”
As the event’s final speaker, Sanders started his remarks by reminding attendees of the importance of the midterm elections.
“One of the problems that we have is that midterms are not necessarily sexy elections,” Sanders said. “Somebody runs for president, everybody knows who the candidate is — they like this guy, they like that woman, whatever it may be. But midterms have to do with who controls the legislature, who controls Congress, who controls the Senate.”
Michelle Deatrick, head of Our Revolution Michigan, also spoke on the importance of voting in the midterm election. She said she is confident in the outcome of Tuesday’s election if young Democrats vote.
“The armchair pundits are saying this election has already been decided, and that by and large, Democrats have lost,” Deatrick said. “They are wrong, and we are here to prove it. Change is possible. Change is always possible.”
NextGen Executive Director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez recalled the record turnout from young voters in the 2020 election and urged continued political participation in the face of restrictions on voting across the country.
“The other side wants us to be cynical, to believe that voting doesn’t matter,” Ramirez said. “Yet, in state after state, they are trying to make it harder for us to vote because they know how damn powerful our vote is.”
LSA junior Lilian Shreiner, a student organizer for the U-M chapter of Un-PAC — a non-partisan organization dedicated to ending Political Action Committees — said in order to make a change, young people must vote for officials who focus on the issues they are concerned about.
“The fact of the matter is, young people know that our political system has been damaged by big money,” Shreiner said. “When that money buys influence, the will of voters, and particularly young voters on student budgets, is not prioritized. This is why we haven’t seen action on issues impacting our generation — issues like climate change, healthcare, racial justice, reproductive justice, education and much, much more.”
Sanders also spoke on the significance of the election in relation to abortion rights, saying people must vote progressive candidates into Congress in order to codify Roe v. Wade.
“This decision overturning Roe v. Wade is so outrageous, it’s almost hard to comprehend,” Sanders said. “We are not in 1922, 1822, 1722. In the year 2022, these people have determined that women are not intelligent enough to control their own bodies, and that is so insulting. It is literally almost beyond comprehension.”
“In a nation in which 60% of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, people did not have the choice about whether they (could) stay home,” Sanders said. “They have to go to work. People who kept the economy going died by the tens of thousands, and during that same period, the billionaire class saw a $2 trillion increase in their wealth.”
Sanders criticized the Republican candidates running for office who have denied the results of the 2020 elections.
“I want you to think about what kind of political systems we can have when you have candidates saying that ‘the only way I lose an election is if there is fraud,’” Sanders said. “That is a cowardly, wimpy response to political defeat.”
In an interview with The Daily, MoveOn Executive Director Rahna Epting said the goal of the “Our Future is Now” events is to encourage college students in swing states to vote for progressive candidates.
“Students and young people that live in Ann Arbor are our key voting demographic that’s going to help us win here,” Epting said. “So we wanted to make sure we came out and talked to folks and reminded them about how important this midterm cycle is.”
Epting also told young people to encourage the people in their lives to vote and be politically active.
“The most important thing people can do is talk to their friends, talk to their family members, talk to their co-workers, their classmates, about voting and importance,” Epting said. “If we get involved, if we participate, then we have a fighting chance at making sure that we can actually create a country that works for everyone.”
After the event, state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, spoke with The Daily about the importance of the midterms.
“This is one of the most critical elections that we’ve ever faced,” Rabhi said. “Democracy is literally on the line. The ability for us to vote in future elections, the ability for us to have a democratic process, that’s what’s on the ballot here, and we all need to show up to vote. I won my first election by a single vote.”
Rabhi is running against Republican Leslie Shannon for the position of District 8 County Commissioner. Shannon has not released a public platform.
In an interview with The Daily after the event, Washtenaw County Commissioner Jason Morgan urged young voters to vote in spite of an overwhelming political climate.
“What I really want young people to know is that this is not hopeless,” Morgan said. “Your voice and you showing up will make the difference of whether we move forward in this country or whether we move very, very far backwards.”
Morgan is running as the Democratic nominee for Rabhi’s current seat in the House against Richard Sharland, a retired farmer and resident of Plymouth Township.
Sanders concluded his remarks by encouraging attendees to stay engaged in politics and to combat divisive right-wing rhetoric.
“What the establishment ends up telling us, one way or another, is ‘you have no power,’” Sanders said. “But if we stand together and not let Trump and his right-wing friends divide us up by the color of our skin or where we were born or sexual orientation or religion — if we stand together around an agenda that makes sense for the ordinary American — there is nothing that we cannot do.”
Correction 11/8: A previous version of this article misspelled Abbey Malbon’s last name. The article has been updated.
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