Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders built on his momentum coming out of the Iowa caucuses to deliver a strong performance at the CNN New Hampshire Town Hall.
Sanders was asked by an audience member if he was going to raise taxes on the middle-class. Sanders explained his comprehensive health care plan that would raise taxes by $500 but save $5,000 in healthcare costs. The audience member responded that he would be happy to pay more taxes if it would lower his health insurance premiums.
Sen. Sanders admitted that his proposals do depend on getting them through Congress, and said that his campaign was about creating a political revolution where millions of people stand up and demand a government that represents all of us, not just wealthy contributors.
Sanders said that his political revolution is different from Reagan and Gingrich’s, but it is a process. Next, Sanders was asked how he will better connect with minority voters and faith-based voters. He answered, “There will be no president who will fight harder to end institutional racism than I will.” Anderson Cooper asked about faith-based voters. Sen. Sanders answered that he would not be running for president without faith and spiritualism. He said his spirituality is that we are all in this together, and when children go hungry and veterans sleep on the street that impacts him.
Sen. Sanders was asked about terrorism by a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing and how he would keep us safe from terrorism. Sanders answered that we have got to crush ISIS, but learn the lessons of Iraq. He called for improved intelligence.
The next question came from a college student that asked about police brutality and racial injustice. Sen. Sanders said that most police officers work hard and do a good job, but if a police officer breaks the law, they must be held accountable. Sanders also said that police departments must be demilitarized and look like the communities that they serve. He also called for federal funding for model programs and a deemphasis on lethal force.
Sanders called out Republicans for talking how much they love veterans, but vote against bills to benefit vets. Later, he was given a tough question about how he will be able to work with a Congress that does not share his goals. Sanders touted his record of compromise in the Congress to soften his reputation as a liberal ideologue. He said, “Change has always come from the bottom on up.” He repeated his call for a bottom-up movement that will bring about real change.
Sen. Sanders would take the bait when Anderson Cooper asked if Hillary Clinton was a real progressive. Sanders said that Clinton has a long and distinguished public career. He said that she was a good secretary of state and a good senator, but there are some issues where she isn’t progressive. He pointed to her super PAC, vote for the Iraq war, her support in the past for trade agreements, and her previous talk about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline.
Sanders was asked if Obama has let progressives down. He pointed to his disagreement with Obama on TPP, but he strongly praised the president’s record on the economy. Sanders is a pretty strong Obama support, with the exception of free trade, so there was no way that he was going to bash Obama.
After tearing apart Trump, and answering some light and fluffy questions from Cooper, Sanders closed with an argument against establishment politics.
Sen. Sanders delivered a strong performance at this event that built upon his momentum from his near victory in Iowa. The questions at the New Hampshire town hall were right in his wheelhouse. Unlike the Iowa caucuses that were a dead heat, Sen. Sanders has a clear lead in New Hampshire.
The Senator from neighboring Vermont could have played it safe, but instead, he used the town hall to share his vision for America. The Sanders campaign is a dual track effort. Yes, Bernie Sanders is trying to win the Democratic nomination, but there is also the goal of launching a political movement that will change the country.
Multiple times during the town hall, Sanders discussed what his political revolution looks like and the need for a populist movement to take the country back. Bernie Sanders was on some nearby home turf. He looked very comfortable and primed for a win in New Hampshire.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association