Dems rally in Des Moines

Western Courier Decision 2016 coverage

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Dems rally in Des Moines

The three Democrat candidates, Bernie Sanders (left), Hillary Clinton (center) and Martin O'Malley (right), take the stage before the start of the keynote speeches.

The three Democrat candidates, Bernie Sanders (left), Hillary Clinton (center) and Martin O'Malley (right), take the stage before the start of the keynote speeches.

Nicholas Stewart

The three Democrat candidates, Bernie Sanders (left), Hillary Clinton (center) and Martin O'Malley (right), take the stage before the start of the keynote speeches.

Nicholas Stewart

Nicholas Stewart

The three Democrat candidates, Bernie Sanders (left), Hillary Clinton (center) and Martin O'Malley (right), take the stage before the start of the keynote speeches.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Saturday, Oct. 24 marked not only the annual Jefferson-Jackson (JJ) Dinner at Hy-Vee Hall for Democratic presidential candidates. It also marked exactly 100 days until the Iowa caucus.

On the day of the dinner event, all three Democratic candidates held rallies early in the day to get voters riled up and ready for the dinner, which is said to be a possible turning point for the candidates.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley personally serenaded his supporters at a rally outside of Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, a block away from where the JJ Dinner was to be held.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was across the river, gathering supporters to march across the bridge and up to the hall as a unified group.

Meanwhile, the largest rally held was by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The warmup before the main attraction, 42nd President Bill Clinton spoke to the crowd of more than 2,000. One of the topics he brought up was Hillary’s 11-hour testimony to the Benghazi Select Committee Hearing earlier that week.

“We had the friends of our lifetime, Hillary and I did, emailing me furiously saying they thought she was doing great and all that,” Bill said. “To every one of them, I wrote back a simple answer, ‘I think I’ll vote for her.’”

Before ending his speech, Bill proudly proclaimed that he wanted to follow in Hillary’s footsteps and break a different “ceiling.”

“There’s been a lot of talk about ‘breaking the glass ceiling,’” Bill said. “I want to talk about one barrier that has not been broken. I want you to support Hillary for me, too. I want to break a ceiling. I am tired of the stranglehold that women have had on the job of presidential spouse.”

After his speech, pop-star Katy Perry entered the stage and performed the songs “Roar,” “Wide Awake,” “God Bless America” and finally “Firework.”

Those in attendance then marched together to Hy-Vee Hall to await the dinner.

This year was the final year that it will be known as the “Jefferson-Jackson” Dinner, as the name will be changing due to the named presidents being known slaveholders.

The JJ Dinner is known to be a pivotal moment in the election for the Democratic Party, particularly after current President Barack Obama’s performance in 2008 against Hillary Clinton. After performing well in the caucus state, Obama went on to win the Democratic nomination and was elected for two terms as president.

After beginning an hour behind schedule, the program began as the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus sang the national anthem. After Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire gave opening remarks and introduced the candidates, Sanders was the first to take the stage.

Sanders, who usually speaks behind a podium, was faced with a test as the JJ Dinner is held “in the round,” meaning that the stage is encircled by the audience. Sanders, however, rose to the challenge and delivered an impromptu five-minute speech criticizing the Republicans before beginning his prepared remarks.

“Reach out to our Republican friends and colleagues who are suffering from a very, very serious illness,” Sanders said. “They suffer from amnesia. They forgot what the world looked like seven years ago. They forgot that 800,000 people a month were losing their jobs. They forgot that the world’s financial system was on the verge of collapse. They just forgot that we ran up the largest deficit in the history of the United States in the last year of George Bush.”

Along with criticizing the Republicans, Sanders also alluded to the inconsistencies in Hillary’s voting record by bringing up the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

After Sanders was finished, O’Malley took to the stage to hopefully sway more voters his way, as he is often polling in the single digits.

Rather than directly calling out his opponents, O’Malley asked that the three candidates be on the same terms when it comes to gun safety laws.

“The NRA (National Rifle Association) has one goal, and it is one goal only, and it is selling as many guns as possible,” O’Malley said. “No matter the cost in American lives. That might be their interest, but that is not what is in the best interest of the United States of America. For 40 years, the NRA and its muscle have dictated to our Congress which laws they can write, what laws they can pass and what laws they can reject. I say it’s high time we find our backbone again as Democrats and stand up and say ‘no’ to the National Rifle Association and start saving lives.”

O’Malley also acknowledged that he is currently looked at as the contender behind both Hillary and Sanders.

“A lot of people tell me, in this race, they say, ‘Man, you’re up against some tough odds, this is a tough fight,’” O’Malley said. “There are also a lot of people who would look you (the audience) in the eyes and tell you that you have a tough fight. You’ve got a tough fight being able to pass onto your children a better quality of life than what you’ve enjoyed. But you know what? I kind of like the tough fights. I’ve always been drawn to the tough fights.”
To end the night, the former Secretary of State made her way to the stage as the her supporters lit up the room with their blue glow sticks. Hillary wanted to make her reason for running very clear to the voters.

“I’m not running for my husbands third term and I’m not running for Barack Obama’s third term,” Clinton said. “I’m running for my first term, and I’m running as a proud Democrat.”

Unlike her opponents, Hillary brought up the issues with women’s reproductive rights.

“Republicans sure love using government to step in and make decisions for women about our bodies and our rights,” Clinton said.

Her public supporter, Katy Perry, was also at the dinner, sitting close to the stage and cheering whenever Hillary said something she agreed with.

Throughout her speech, Hillary criticized the Republicans. At one point, she accused them of going back in time to revoke the progress made in more recent years in civil rights and
gender equality.

“I sometimes wonder whether you sign up to be a Republican candidate for president, or they put you into some kind of time machine and they take you back 50, 70, 100 years, because they keep saying the same out-of-date, out-of-touch things,” Hillary said. “We will never let the Republicans cut or privatize Social Security or end Medicare, as some are now promising.”
With the growing rivalry and shrinking difference in polling numbers, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination gets closer and closer.


‘Forward, together’

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday.

Nicholas Stewart
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday.

Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont leads the Democratic candidates in number of people coming to hear him speak and leads with the number of individual campaign donors, and at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Saturday night, Sanders had the loudest supporter section in attendance.

Sanders spoke on his record of standing up for his principles while serving as senator for Vermont and for his stance on not discriminating against segment of the U.S. population.

“I promise you tonight as your president I will govern based on principle not poll numbers,” Sanders said. “I pledge to you that every day I will fight for the public interest not the corporate interests. I will not abandon any segment of American society – whether you’re gay or black or Latino or poor or working class – just because it is politically expedient at a given time.”

Sanders expanded on this later in his keynote when talking about the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and how he always fought for the rights of the gay and lesbian community, unlike candidate
Hillary Clinton.

“It’s purpose was clear, to discriminate against gays and lesbians the law,” Sander said. Let us remember, that gay and lesbian rights were not as popular then as they are today. It was a tough vote, and I’m sorry I have to tell you that that bill won by an overwhelming majority in the house of 342-57. That was not a politically easy vote. Now, today some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse.”
Sanders discussed the problem of income inequality and what his plans are to reverse the trend of the shrinking middle class.

“When you see the middle class of this country disappearing, and you see people who are working two or three jobs so their families can survive, you don’t shrug your shoulders and say, ‘That’s the way it is,’” Sanders said. “You fight to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 dollars an hour. And we fight for pay equity for women workers.”
Sanders also discussed the unemployment issues and what can be done to employ Americans while also working on U.S. interests.

“You fight for a massive federal jobs program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and put millions of our people back to work,” Sanders said. “You fight for an economy that works for all Americans and not just the wealthiest people in this country.”

Like the other candidates, Sanders discussed climate change and criticized the Republican candidates’ refusal to recognize the problem. Sanders also discussed his plan to switch the country’s dependence on fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

“While many in the Republican Party continue to deny the reality of climate change, you have demanded that we lead the international community in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. And you understand the moral imperative that we leave this country in a way that is healthy for our children and grandchildren.

“Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by human activity and climate change is already causing devastating damage in America and all over the world. It is a very sad moment in American history when almost all Republicans running for president reject science and the need for bold action to combat climate change.”

Sanders ended his keynote by reiterating his political agenda.

“So let us go forward together,” Sanders said. “And let us tell the Republicans that their reactionary agenda may work for the billionaires, but not for ordinary Americans, and we are going to defeat them.”


‘Actions, not words’

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks second during the keynote portion of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

Nicholas Stewart
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley speaks second during the keynote portion of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

While Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lead the polls by a substantial margin not only in Iowa, but across the United States, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley tried his best to send a message at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner: His experience and record working in the executive branch of government is worth voter’s attention.

“While all of the candidates here tonight share progressive values, not all of us have a record of actually getting things done. I do,” O’Malley said. “With 15 years of executive experience, as mayor and as a governor, I have learned how to be a very effective leader.  I have learned how to get things done. I am clear about my principles.   Passing a living wage and raising the minimum wage. Freezing college tuition for four years in a row:   Actions, not words.”

Like the other Democratic candidates, O’Malley did not directly attack his opponents by name, but did take jabs at Republican candidates, including
Donald Trump.

“All of us here tonight agree that we cannot allow Donald Trump or any of the Trump-wannabes in this year’s Republican field to take over the White House,” O’Malley said.

“To that immigrant bashing, carnival barker, Donald Trump, let us stand up together, and say, the enduring symbol of our nation is not the barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty.”
O’Malley also touched on dealing with the banks and the “bullies of Wall Street.” O’Malley believes the banks should be broken up in order to prevent another financial crisis like in 2008.

“If a bank is too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage, then it’s too damn big, and it needs to be broken up before it breaks our national economy once again,” O’Malley said.

“Tell me how it is, that not a single Wall Street CEO was ever convicted of a single crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not. A. Single. One. What have we come to as a nation when you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the nation’s economy you are untouchable?”

O’Malley directed a large portion of his second half of the keynote discussing the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun crimes in the U.S.

“We must have the courage to put our children’s safety, each and every day, ahead of the craven and morally bankrupt interests of the National Rifle Association,” O’Malley said. “The NRA has one goal and one goal only; selling as many guns as possible, no matter the cost in lives. Well that might be their interest, but that is not what is best for America.

“To save lives we must require universal background checks,” O’Malley said. “We must ban the sale of combat assault weapons. To save lives we must use the buying power of our own federal government – the biggest customer gun companies have – to refuse to buy guns from any company that doesn’t use the latest and the best safety technology. And to save lives we have stop giving immunity to gun manufacturers and gun dealers who sell weapons of mass murder to criminals and psychopaths.”

O’Malley finished his keynote by summing up his reason for running.

“We are fighting for something worth saving,” O’Malley said. “The American Dream is worth saving. It is time to stand up. It is time to join the fight. I am in this to win this.”

‘Deal me in

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks last at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

Nicholas Stewart
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks last at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took to the stage as the final speaker of the event, her supporters erupted in the chants “I’m with her,” and “Hill yes,” while waving bright blue glow sticks.

Clinton censured her Republican counterparts throughout her entire speech, at one point accusing the party of ignoring scientific facts.

“Of course, none of them are serious about climate change,” Clinton said. “I love it when they’re asked about it, you know what their answer is: ‘I’m not a scientist.’ Well, why don’t they start listening to those who are scientists and understand what we’re up against in
the world.”

Clinton also spoke out against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization dedicated to supplying men and women with reproductive health services.

“I’ll tell you, I will do everything I can to protect a woman’s right to choose and to defend Planned Parenthood,” Clinton said. “Republicans say I’m playing the ‘gender card.’ Well, if talking about equal pay, paid family leave, affordable childcare and women’s health is playing the gender card then deal me in.”

Another prominent issue in Clinton’s speech was the current debate about gun safety laws.

“You should be safe when you go to school, when you go to the movies, when you go to church,” Clinton said. “That’s why I’m proposing common gun safety measures like universal background checks, closing the loopholes that let guns fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them and repealing that law that shields gun makers and sellers from accountability.

“Now, I’ve been told to stop shouting about ending gun violence,” Clinton continued. “Well, I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting. But I won’t be silenced, and I hope that you won’t be either.”

Clinton also directly criticized Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and used it as a platform to portray her plan to raise the federal minimum wage and reduce tax breaks for the upper class.

“So I hear Donald Trump when he says we have to ‘Make America great again,’” Clinton said. “Well here’s what I say: America is great. We just have to make it fair and just. We have to make America work for everyone, not just those at the top.

“Americans need a raise,” Clinton continued. “That’s why we must raise the minimum wage. No one who works full time should live in poverty. I want companies to have incentives to share more of their profits with their employees who help make those profits in the first place. Companies that ship jobs and profits overseas shouldn’t get tax breaks, you should get tax breaks again.”

Clinton also spoke about her influences for running for office: her parents and grandparents.
“My mom, who had a hard life, abandoned, mistreated and working as a maid at the age of 14, told me that at crucial moments people showed her kindness,” Clinton said. “She taught me that everybody gets knocked down in life, but that doesn’t mean you stay down. Get back up. Face your challenges. Solve your problems. Don’t just complain about them.”

Clinton explained that people like her parents are who she strives to help.

“I’m fighting for everyone who’s ever been knocked down, but refused to be knocked out,” Clinton said. “Together, we’re going to build an America where there are no ceilings for anyone, where no one gets left behind or left out, where a father can tell his daughter, ‘You can be anything you want to be, including president of the United States of America.’”

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