#FeelTheBern – Bernie Sanders Heats up Houston
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders visited Dallas and Houston on Sunday, speaking to thousands of people about his bid for president.
Many have wondered why Senator Sanders would bother visiting cities in overwhelmingly conservative states when the assumption is that no Democrat (or an Independent from Vermont running on the Democratic ticket) could ever hope to win over such states. Sanders responded to those inquires at the beginning of the Houston event, held at the University of Houston, to thunderous applause.
“The reason I am here, and the reason that next month I’m going to Alabama, Mississippi, to some very conservative states is for a couple of reasons. It is wrong for the Democratic Party, in my view, to surrender half of the states in America. The simple truth is that you cannot be a national political party, which claims to represent working families and low income people, and turn your back on some of the poorest states in America.”
Beyond giving advice to other Democratic candidates, Sanders went on to say he would stand up for those who need representation the most, including folks in a red state like Texas.
“I’m here to tell you that when 26% of the children in Texas live in poverty, we are not going to abandon those kids. When 24% of the people in Texas have no health insurance, we are not going to abandon those people. When 168,000 people in Texas are incarcerated, we are not going to abandon those people. And when workers in Texas still make a $7.25 per hour minimum wage, we are going to stand with those workers to raise those wages.”
Sanders’s speech focused primarily on economic inequality, and he called it the great moral, political and economic issue of our time. He reiterated his desire to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, overturn Citizen’s United, and have public funding of elections.
Sanders also highlighted the need for pay equity legislation to close the wage gap between men and women, and also stated women should be able to access the health care they need, including contraceptives and abortion.
Unfortunately, Sanders was a little shaky on other inequality issues. While calling out Republicans for their so-called family values that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry, he made no mention of anything beyond marriage, addressed “our gay brothers and sisters” as if speaking to a room of only straight people, and left trans* people out of the speech altogether.
During a forum at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix last week, Sanders was interrupted by protesters chanting “Say Her Name,” which refers to black women who have died at the hands of police brutality and racism in the U.S. Sanders took some heat over his response to the Black Lives Matter protestors, at one point threatening to leave the stage if they didn’t stop.
In his Houston speech, it seemed Sanders attempted to make up for his non-response at the progressive conference, and he made a point to speak to some of the issues protesters wanted candidates to address.
Sanders condemned police brutality and named black Americans who have died in police custody, including Sandra Bland, a young black woman recently found dead in a Waller County jail cell.
“It is unacceptable that police officers beat up people or kill people. If they do that, they have got to be held accountable,” Sanders said while Houstonians gave him a standing ovation.
While Hillary Clinton is widely regarded as a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination and a favorite amongst liberal voters, Senator Sanders — who is fondly referred to as Bernie by supporters — is making a big splash.