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Senator Bernie Sanders returns to West Virginia

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers his address to over 2,000 at the Charleston Municipal Theatre on February 13, 2016.

Ryan Fischer

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers his address to over 2,000 at the Charleston Municipal Theatre on February 13, 2016.


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“Feel the Bern” was once again a chant that West Virginians would shout outside the steps of the Charleston Municipal Auditorium. The Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to over 2,000 West Virginians Feb. 12 to promote his new book and continue to push his message of progression.

The event was mainly centered around issues that states like Vermont and West Virginia both face. Drugs, environmental issues and health care were at the top of the list of Sanders’ speech. 

Sanders is known for being the left’s political outsider who built his campaign through a grassroots movement that asked supporters for only a $27 donation. The campaign grew enough steam to rival Hillary Clinton in the June primaries, also winning the state of West Virginia in the process.

As Sanders took the stage, he was greeted by a roaring standing ovation. His last visit to the state brought him to Big Sandy’s Superstore Arena back in April.

Originally, Sanders had planned to go to McDowell County to host a “town hall meeting” to address the problems the town faces with opiates, unemployment and healthcare.

Sunday afternoon, the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs & Public Safety released a statement saying they would not host Sanders.

“U.S. Department of Defense policy does not permit the use of military facilities for political and election events and specifically includes town hall meetings as an example of such activities,” the statement read. “The West Virginia State Armory Board has a similar policy.”

Sanders addressed the cancelation at the beginning of his speech.

“It appears that along the line that someone made a decision that we could not use the armory that MSNBC had secured,” Sanders said.

The crowd responded with boos, but Sanders reassured the crowd that he would be coming back to McDowell.

“We held a very moving town meeting, and during a campaign you hold hundreds and hundreds of town meetings, but that’s one that was memorable for me,” Sanders said. “Because as all of you know that part of the state has a whole lot of problems in terms of high unemployment, in terms of very serious opiate addiction, schools not adequately funded.”

Sanders said he was inspired by the courage shown by those facing adversity in McDowell.

“I was enormously impressed by the dignity and the courage of the people there who stood up and talked about the issues, who talked about the new future and that moved me very much,” Sanders said. “And we’re going back to McDowell County.”

Sanders also addressed the new administration in the White House. He said President Donald Trump knew how to sympathize with the working class in the mountain state, but said Trump wasn’t genuine about most of what he said.

Sanders said Trump is not keeping his promises. He said Trump told his voters he’s going to take on the establishment, the Republicans and Democrats and take care of the working class of America.

“Now the truth is, it’s a good speech,” Sanders said. “The bad news is he never meant a word of it.”

He addressed issues such as the “Muslim Ban,” Trump’s border wall and not having a viable replacement for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The last half of the night, he spoke about his book, “Our Revolution.” The book begins with his life growing up in a poor family in Brooklyn, New York. Sanders said his upbringing gave him an understanding of what it is like growing up poor and helped him relate to many other Americans who struggle financially every day.

He then spoke about his career in Vermont and grassroots politics. Sanders talked about his perseverance in politics, saying that when he first ran for governor he got two percent of the vote.

Sanders actually dropped to under two percent the second time he ran for governor, but continued to run until he decided to run for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the largest city in the state. He only won by 10 votes.

Overall, Sanders ran for governor four times, garnering 6 percent of the vote the last time. The idea centered around talking about his career, was to say that anyone can and should be involved in politics.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport; I know in West Virginia you all love your football and basketball and those are spectator sports,” Sanders said. “But democracy is something everyone should participate in.”

“I think everyone should get into politics in some form or another,” said Marshall student Julieanne Batten, who was at the event in Charleston. “Whether it is just trying to find some local cause or a community group to help in any way they can.”

Sanders said he will continue to push to have the town meeting in McDowell County, so that the senator can hear the citizens’ views, complaints and try to find a way to help them.

Tom Jenkins can be contacted at [email protected]

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1 Comment

One Response to “Senator Bernie Sanders returns to West Virginia”

  1. Marcus on February 13th, 2017 10:48 pm

    Stop the drug war with objective of shutting down the black market. The drug war has failed. The drug war is driving the problems, not fixing them. Decriminalization/legalization is necessary, it needs to be backed up with public health announcements explaining exactly why it is needed. Its not in any way condoning the abuse of addictors, it is done bc the alternative, the drug war, has made things infinitely worse on almost every level, to include making drugs abundantly available to any & all that wants them.
    We need to pull LE out of the drug biz – that will free up a lot of resources currently chasing their collective tails. When the laws create more harm and cause more damage than they prevent, its time to change the laws. The $1 TRILLION so-called war on drugs is a massive big government failure – on nearly every single level. Its way past time to put the cartels & black market drug dealers out of business. Mass incarceration has failed. We cant even keep drugs out of a contained & controlled environment like prison.
    We need the science of addiction causation to guide prevention, treatment, recovery & public policies. Otherwise, things will inexorably just continue to worsen & no progress will be made. Addiction causation research has continued to show that some people (suffering with addiction) have a “hypo-active endogenous opioid/reward system.” This is the (real) brain disease, making addiction a symptom, not a disease itself. One disease, one pathology. Policy must be made reflecting addiction(s) as the health issue that it is.
    The war on drugs is an apotheosis of the largest & longest war failure in history. It actually exposes our children to more harm & risk and does not protect them whatsoever. In all actuality, the war on drugs is nothing more than an international projection of a domestic psychosis. It is not the “great child protection act,” its actually the complete opposite. Let’s remember, opioids (drug) prohibition is a historical and cultural aberration, just 100 years old. We had fewer drug problems in my own grandparents’ time when opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis could all still be bought legally over the counter. (Re)legalizing opioids would not be a “risky social experiment”, as some think. On the contrary, drugs prohibition was the reckless social experiment. And its a massive failure. Alcohol prohibition didn’t work, and opioid prohibition is failing even more miserably. The longer we’ve had drug prohibition laws in place, the worse have the social and health problems they cause gotten.
    The lesson is clear: Drug laws do not stop people from harming themselves, but they do cause addicts to commit crimes and harm others. We need a new approach that decriminalizes the disease. We must protect society from the collateral damage of addiction and stop waging war on ourselves. We need common sense harm reduction approaches desperately. MAT (medication assisted treatment) and HAT (heroin assisted treatment) must be available options. Of course, MJ should not be a sched drug at all.

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