(Huntington, West Virginia) – They were “feeling the Bern” last Tuesday night in Huntington, West Virginia, with Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visiting the Mountain State. Huntington is right on the Ohio River in the Tri-State region, so a lot of voters from Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia were there. Wins in the West Virginia primary on May 10, and Kentucky on May 17, are crucial to Sanders staying viable in the race. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:
“College Kids” – The crowd was packed with college-age voters, many of whom will be casting ballots for the first time. A poll earlier this year showed Sanders winning 82 percent of voters from ages 18 to 30. Natalie Holmes, a first-time voter, praised Sanders saying, "He wants free college and health care, and I like that he is anti-war and pro-choice, and there's just so many things."
“Open Primary” – Sanders may have a big advantage in the next two primaries – Indiana and West Virginia. Indiana is an open primary, meaning Democrats can vote for Republicans, and vice-versa. West Virginia is semi-open, in that anyone registered non-partisan can vote in either the Democrat or Republican Primary. Letting independents vote in partisan primaries helps Sanders, as the candidate noted. "And what we have learned in this campaign is that when there are large voter turnouts, we win. When there are low voter turnouts we lose," Sanders said. Last Tuesday Sanders won the only open primary – in Rhode Island - while losing the four closed primaries to Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Connecticut.
“Education” – Sanders is promoting a platform of free college tuition for all, a plan that is supported in many European countries such as Germany. "They understand that investing in their young people is investing in the future of their countries," Senator Sanders said. It’s a promise that resonated with the crowd, even though how you pay for it remains unresolved. "He supports free education and, like, reformed health care," said Justine Simpson, a college-age West Virginia voter.
“JFK Playbook” – Sanders’s one-hour speech was spellbinding. Normally on primary night, a candidate speaks for 15 to 20 minutes, win, lose, or draw. In Huntington, Sanders spoke for a full hour. He talked in sharp detail about economic problems in West Virginia, including McDowell County, one of the most impoverished in the nation. In 1960, Senator John Kennedy used a similar strategy to defeat Senator Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia Primary, and it propelled Kennedy to the nomination. Sanders’s strategy sounded a lot like Kennedy’s.
"I hope that on May 10th West Virginia will have the largest voter turnout in the history of the state,” Sanders said, to loud applause.
“Tired of Business as Usual” – The thing that has always struck me about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is that they are tapping the same well of public frustration and anger, albeit from opposite ends of the political spectrum. They are bookends of the American political system, yet resonate with people on both sides who know that politics is broken for them. Anna Smith will vote for the first time this year, as she turns 18 in July, and is a passionate Sanders backer. "He's so honest and so truthful with everything he has said so far," Smith said.
“The Cold Reality” – Sanders gave a very heart-felt and inspiring speech, and the audience loved it. But people at the other campaign rallies feel just as passionately about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. The question everyone needs to ask when they hear these lofty and idealistic promises is, “How are we going to pay for all of this?” The youngest voters – who will inherit all of our debt – need to ask that question more than anyone else.
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