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Senator Sanders Rallies Enthusiastic Crowd of Supporters

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STANNARD — Vermont’s senior Senator, Bernie Sanders shared his unique blend of pessimism and optimism with an enthusiastic crowd who hung on his every word and offered applause at appropriate moments.

by Chris Steel
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to a packed house at the Stannard Town Hall and takes a question through the window from Skip Hoblin, standing outside, on Saturday, July 6.

The town hall rally following an intense Saturday, July 6, downpour that had organizers scrambling to move the gathering inside. Sanders arrived just minutes past the scheduled start time and was immediately invited to take what little stage was available in the packed and steamy room. He had been in Greensboro earlier that day, where he marched in the town’s Funky Forth Independence Day celebration.

Sanders began by recounting his time in Stannard, remembering Rep. Chip Troiano among his earliest local friends from 1968, naming subsequent owners of the home where he’d lived and sharing stories of Vermont winters cold enough that car tires froze to the ground. He expressed that he is “very grateful for those who accepted us into the community.”

Moving on to discuss issues, he said, “We are living in an increasingly oligarchical society due to wealth inequality,” where the “average worker is in worse shape than they were 50 years ago.” His comments touched on climate change, the fossil fuel industry, education and health care, in which he said the U.S. falls far behind other countries.

photo by Vanessa Fournier Vermont Senior Senator Bernie Sanders (left) addresses the crowd during a political rally at the Stannard Town Hall on July 6.

Referring to the “divisive reality” of our national political situation, he noted that he caucuses with the Democrats, but understands they are not perfect; suggesting that the Democratic elite don’t listen to voters, who feel abandoned by both parties and find a sympathetic ear in former President Donald Trump.

Sanders’ suggested the “Country may never recover from a Trump presidency,” saying, the first goal is to prevent Trump from being elected.” So, “we need to defeat Trump. but we have to do more than that.”

More progressives have been elected to Congress over the last six or seven years, creating a caucus that is much larger and stronger than ever, Sanders said. When he was elected there were five members of the U.S. House caucusing as progressives, now there are over 100. His comment that “health care is a human right,” drew loud applause from the crowd. He went on to discuss there being wide support for expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing; not so for a Medicare-for-all proposal, which he later said President Joe Biden opposes, though he supports expanding the program..

Audience questions followed, with those leaning in through windows and doors to hear the questions and ask their own.

About Trump, he said, “He’s crazy, but not stupid. He knows how to communicate with people and he does it well.” Sanders suggested that GOP proposals need to be countered by a clear Democratic agenda.

Biden, he said, is “an old fashioned politician” and “has a very good heart,” suggesting people look at what he’s done, hopes to do and what policies will be best for your families and your future. He said he disagreed with Biden on his policies about the war in Gaza.

When asked what Vermonter’s can do now because it’s unlikely Trump will win the state, he suggested they pay attention to down-ballot races because having a Democratic House “can put the brakes on anything Trump tries to do.”

About what gives him hope, Sanders said, he “meets decent people everywhere he goes.”

As the skies cleared, many rally-goers filled their plates with lunch and left, or moved outside to chat with Sen. Sanders while he signed autographs and stood for photos.

Inside, Craftsbury’s Rep. Katherine Sims, running as a Democrat for the Orleans County Senate district soon to be vacated by Sen, Bobby Starr, spoke to those that remained.

Sims was followed by Rep. Chip Troiano of Stannard, who is not running to be reelected, but shared that, on that day, June 6, he and his wife, Regina were celebrating 52 years of owning the Stannard home they purchased in 1962.

Troiano introduced Amanda Cochrane, executive director of St. Johnsbury’s Umbrella women’s advocacy organization, who is running as a Democrat to fill the Caledonia County Senate seat soon to be vacated by Sen. Jane Kitchell.

Troiano’s hand-picked successor, Sabrina Morrison of Hardwick, running as a Democrat to represent the towns of Stannard, Walden and Hardwick in the Caledonia-2 Vermont House district, was next to be introduced; last were Glover’s Leanne Harple and David Kelley of Greensboro, who are vying for the chance to run for the Orleans-4 district on the Democratic ticket to represent Greensboro, Glover, Albany and Craftsbury.

By then Sanders had departed and the last of the crowd departed, leaving organizers to clean-up.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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