WASHINGTON, D.C - On Wednesday night, Bernie Sanders electrified the University of Maryland’s campus for the sixth installment of The New York Times’ “Get With The Times” speaker series, events designed to engage college students to discuss the world’s most pressing issues.
The ever-charismatic Senator from Vermont addressed a wide range of topics including income inequality, campaign finance, the Supreme Court, race and gender issues, and health care. However, he stuck to one central message: that “politics is not a spectator sport” and young people must utilize the vote to make their voices heard.
Students across the country tuned in to watch Sanders’ live streamed conversation with New York Times political correspondent Alex Burns. Additionally, ten college campuses held their own watch parties, allowing students to congregate and hold their own discussions.
Sanders, the face of progressivism in our current political moment, used both nationwide data and personal anecdotes to demonstrate the power held by individual voters. The crowd at UMD’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center burst into laughter when he described winning his first election to become Mayor of Burlington, VT by fourteen votes. A recount cut that already slim margin to ten.
However, the mood in the theater was not always light-hearted. Sanders called Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination an “issue of veracity.” He also directly attacked President Trump, who “disgusted [him] beyond words” by mocking Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Not pulling any punches, Sanders described the upcoming midterm elections as a choice between Trump, “a president who is trying to divide us up,” and American unity.
Sen. Sanders stuck to many of his talking points from the 2016 election. He preached grassroots activism as an antidote to the “corrupt” American campaign finance and political system. To Sanders, mass mobilization is the best way to “revitalize American democracy” and reshape a Congress that “today, in no way, shape, or form represents the American people.”
Although “Get With The Times” served as a forum for Sanders to reemphasize his positions rather than provide new insights, the environment’s intimacy showcased how adeptly the Senator connects with his base. As the night ended, Sanders left the stage to a standing ovation and a room chanting his name.
The nearly-octogenarian seemed truly at ease surrounded by students a quarter his age. As I walked out of the theater, a jovial Terp exclaimed his sympathy for Bernie. The young man was thankful that it was Sanders, and not him, who must leave College Park and return to Capitol Hill where the real children await.