Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders drew well over a thousand attendees Friday afternoon to James Madison Park, his first appearance in Wisconsin since launching his latest campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Despite temperatures in the high 30s and wind chills below freezing, rally goers waited for over an hour to see Sanders speak.
“Thank you for coming out on this warm, beautiful, sunny afternoon,” Sanders said jokingly, as snow flurries began to fall over the crowd.
Sanders, a self-described democratic Socialist, is widely considered to be a front-runner to receive the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination when the party holds its conference in Milwaukee next summer. Sanders won Wisconsin easily in the 2016 Democratic primary, beating Hillary Clinton in every county in the state but Milwaukee County. However, Clinton went on to lose Wisconsin to Donald Trump in the general election, the first time Wisconsin went to a Republican presidential candidate since 1984.
Sanders remarked on his win in Wisconsin but acknowledged the challenge he would face in flipping the state if he were to get the nomination.
“Four years ago … Donald Trump carried [Wisconsin] and won enough electoral votes to be elected president,” Sanders said. “Together, we are going to make sure that does not happen again. We’re going to win here in Wisconsin. Together, we are going to win this election.”
Sanders dedicated a large portion of his speech to attacking the president, who he called a “pathological liar,” for his policies that Sanders believes hurt the American working class.
“He has lied thousands of times since he has been president,” he said. “The biggest lie of all was when he said during the campaign that he was going to defend the interests of the working class of our country and that he was going to take on the powerful special interests to do that. What a monstrous lie that was.”
Sanders, who spent the weekend touring Midwestern states carried by Trump in 2016, likened the problems facing Wisconsin with those facing the country as a whole.
“I can understand why people voted for Trump based on what he said and the reason for that is because in Wisconsin … there are a lot of people who are hurting,” he said. “People are working two or three jobs, they’re worried about their kids, they can’t afford healthcare, can’t afford to send their kids to college. Our job in this campaign is to reach out to working families who are hurting and to work with them to finally create a government and an economy that works for all of us.”
Sanders did not spend the entire speech attacking Trump and instead promoted his various policy proposals like universal health care, tuition-free public college, immigration reform, union protection and universal affordable pre-K education.
“We are fighting for the future of this country, we are fighting for democracy, we are fighting to protect our children and our parents, we are fighting to preserve the planet,” Sanders said. “Now is the time to get to work, now is the time to transform this country, now is the time to win this election.”