Sen. Bernie Sanders praised California for embracing the progressive ideals he championed in 2016 in places much like the college campus where he campaigned Friday for more than a dozen Southern California candidates.
“Three years ago, $15 minimum wage and a union seemed like a radical idea. Today, it is spreading right here in California,” he said at MiraCosta College in Northern San Diego County. “Thank you, California.”
The independent Vermont senator’s appearance was part of a nine-state campaign-style swing that extends his 2016 presidential bid and catapults him toward an expected reprise run in 2020. Though he fell short in 2016, Sanders gave prominence to several issues — income inequality, universal healthcare, student debt — that continue to resonate in this year’s election.
Sanders recalled his 2016 campaign and mentioned another politician who tends to reminisce about past elections, calling President Trump “a pathological liar.”
“He says one thing today and something very different tomorrow,” Sanders said.
He encouraged the young voters in the Oceanside audience, along with union members and others, to cast their votes in the midterm election as a check on Trump.
“Brothers and sisters, a week from Tuesday will be the most important midterm election, perhaps in the history of our country, and that election will determine whether or not Donald Trump continues to do his things unchecked by either the House or the Senate,” Sanders said. “We cannot allow that to happen. Please, in the next week, do everything you can do to bring your friends to vote.”
Sanders appeared alongside Mike Levin, the Democratic nominee for California’s 49th Congressional District; State Sen. Kevin de León, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein; and a dozen progressive candidates running for county and state-level seats.
Levin was the only candidate Sanders mentioned by name, praising him as a champion of working families. Levin is running against Republican Diane Harkey for a seat that GOP Rep. Darrell Issa is vacating. That race, in a district that spans south Orange County and northern San Diego County, is one of seven in California where Democrats have a chance to flip a Republican-held seat and help the party gain a majority in the House.
Levin painted a dark future if the students in the gymnasium don’t vote Nov. 6: “You stay home on election day, and Republicans stay in charge, and your healthcare gets taken away and your student loans become more impossible to pay off. … You feel more unseen, more unheard. Your faith in your country dims.”
“I’d like to offer you a very different future. In this one, you take the time to vote and you get your friends to vote, and we flip the House,” he said. “Suddenly government is fighting to protect your healthcare and your environment. Government is valuing your education and helping you to manage those onerous student loans. Government suddenly becomes a lot less corrupt and a lot more humane.”
An overflow crowd at the event hosted by California Young Democrats, open to registered voters, was treated to a brief stump speech by Sanders before he went on to address the 1,500 people inside the college’s gymnasium.
Sanders hasn’t always had success transferring his continued popularity within the party’s left wing to other candidates. His most prominent victory came in Florida, where his support helped lift Democrat Andrew Gillum to an upset primary win in August in the governor’s race.
Elsewhere, however, many Sanders-backed candidates have fallen short and his campaign spinoff, Our Revolution, has not been the force for progressive advocacy its adherents had hoped.