by Sean Hull
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke on Feb. 24 at the Kansas City Convention Center ahead of the Kansas caucuses and the Missouri primary.
Mostly adhering to his usual stump speech, Sanders worked in some criticism of the Kansas state legislature and the governor. He criticized Kansas’ continuing cuts to welfare programs aimed at helping the poor and used this criticism to transition to a condemnation of corporate welfare.
“Now I know that in Kansas you have a governor that likes to beat up on the poor,” said Sanders. He later continued, “Let me tell the governor of Kansas, the biggest welfare recipient … in America is the Walton family of Wal-Mart. They pay their workers wages that are so low that many of these workers are forced to go on Medicaid, food stamps and subsidized housing.”
Sanders also addressed what he said is a need for campaign finance reform, higher education funding reform, his plans for a single-payer medical care system and criminal justice reform. A small group in the crowd was there seeking to force Sanders to address pension cuts. One man from the group shouted “pensions” from the seating to the side of Sanders’ podium until the candidate spoke to the issue.
“[This campaign] will tell workers that their pensions that were promised to them will not be cut by greedy, irresponsible corporations,” said Sanders.
The crowd at the rally filled most of Hall B in Bartle Hall, with some spilling over into Hall C. Organizers expected a turnout of 2,000 to 4,000 people. No official counts have been released yet.
Though the crowd consisted of a wide demographic, many young people filled the crowd. They were loud and energetic, oftentimes forcing Sanders to pause for them to stop cheering. Sanders is widely recognized for being heavily favored by the youth vote, evident in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The first group of people that were at the doors to Bartle Hall was a group from the Young Democrats Club at Lawrence High School, who arrived shortly before 7 a.m.
Justin Lorick came from Oklahoma to spend time with his family and ended up at the Bernie Sanders rally. He says Sanders is the candidate for him, citing his views on green energy and his promises of a better quality of life for Americans as reasons.
“I think that he doesn’t waver on any of his views,” said Lorick. “I that he’s very electable as a leader of this country and just a revolutionary to help us get over some of the years of stagnation that we’ve had in our country, and I think he’s the right man for the job to bring us the next generation of great living and great quality of living for all Americans.”
The Kansas caucuses are March 5 from 1–3 pm. The Missouri primaries are scheduled for March 15.