By Addison Flores-Thorpe and Fin Martinez / NM News Port
Vermont Senator — and former presidential contender — Bernie Sanders urged a crowd of an estimated 1500 people at the University of New Mexico (UNM) on Tuesday (Oct. 18) to cast their vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election.
“I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t become president and that Hillary Clinton does become president,” Sanders said in his speech.
Sanders sounded many of the themes he hammered during his bid for the Democratic nomination for president: access to college, reducing student debt and closing the gap between rich and poor.
The senator asked students at the rally to raise their hands if they currently have student loans. As expected, dozens of hands rose.
According to research done by the Institute for College Access and Success, the average student loan debt in New Mexico is just over $18,000. For students at UNM, the average cost of attendance is around $20,000.
“Politics is supposed to be about who represents the middle class,” Sanders said. “This campaign is not about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, it’s about you and your families.”
Sanders called for a change in the “corrupt campaign finance system.”
He also touched on other issues important to New Mexicans, like immigration reform.
“We will not elect a president who is trying to divide us up,” Sanders said in response to Trump’s call for the United States to build a “wall” across the Mexican border.
“Our strength is in our diversity,” Sanders said.
The senator recalled the struggle his own father experienced after immigrating to the United States with little money and experience. Sanders compared immigrant struggles to the struggles of indigenous people, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.
Sanders also called for America to reform its criminal justice system.
“The American people are tired of looking at videos of unarmed African Americans getting shot,” Sanders said. “We need real police department reform.”
Sanders’ final message was clear – voting is the only answer to all of these issues.
“My message to you is one, Hillary Clinton is to be elected on Nov. 8 . . . and two, we have got to roll up our sleeves and fight to transform this country,” Sanders said.
Jacob Gamble, 18, a UNM political science major, said he thought Sanders touched on a lot of good points.
“I know that I was kind of begrudging to vote for Hillary Clinton at first as a Bernie supporter,” Gamble said, “but I think he kinda smoothed the transition a little bit and showed me that while she’s not maybe the perfect candidate to represent millennials, she does offer a lot of things that Bernie had proposed.”
Cathleen Burke is a former delegate for Sanders who, like some Sanders supporters, refuses to switch her support to Hillary Clinton.
“We believe that Hillary is being installed, not elected, and that the Democratic party is installing her,” Burke said. Then she added, “Bernie was the true winner — but because of all the election fraud going on — especially in New Mexico.”
Another student, Bryce Dix, 18, a photojournalism major, said he attended the rally to gain more perspective.
“I really don’t support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton at all,” Dix said. “I want to hear both sides of the story and be an educated voter.”
Dix said the rally might not sway his vote, but he is leaning toward Donald Trump.
“I’m a registered Democratic,” Dix said. “But voting Republican would be the way to go for me in this election.”
Dix says it is hard to say who he will vote for at this point.
“I’m still iffy,” Dix said. “I don’t really know.”