STOCKTON – For the first time in nearly a decade, a candidate for the Presidency of the United States has made the Northern San Joaquin Valley a stop on the campaign trail.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders – who is currently locked into a dogfight with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination that will be handed down at the convention in July – spoke to a crowd of nearly 5,000 people at the Weber Point Event Center in Downtown Stockton Tuesday about what he sees as the best future for America and what he hopes he’ll be able to accomplish once elected in November.
They face each other in the June 7 California primary.
Sasnders didn’t waste any time in getting down to commiserating with the people that had waited in line for hours for him to arrive and give a rousing and raucous speech that touched on everything from America’s income inequality to the failing war on drugs – bringing up Stockton multiple times in his speech and using specific local examples that either the crowd could relate to or will be facing in the near future.
“I know, nationally, they tell us unemployment is at 5 percent – that’s official unemployment – but real unemployment is double that and in communities like Stockton, Detroit, and all over this country the numbers are much higher,” Sanders said. “I was in Flint, Michigan a few months ago, and children there have been poisoned by lead in the water. Our infrastructure – that means our water systems not only in Flint, but all over this country – is failing the American people. Our wastewater plants, our roads, our bridges, our rail systems our levees and our dams need repair.
“We are going to create 13 million decent paying jobs rebuilding our infrastructure. We are going to put the American people back to work at good wages. I want our young people not to be hanging out, unemployed on street corners, I want them to learn the skills they need.”
Sanders arrived to the event roughly three hours after the gates opened to the general public – who enjoyed music from a variety of bands and a stirring address from his outreach coordinator for Latino affairs, who herself is technically an illegal immigrant. He arrived by motorcade just before 10 a.m. after spending the previous night in Sacramento where he delivered a speech to a crowd of 15,000 at the California Exposition Center.
Despite the fact that Sanders has won multiple states – including a surprise win in West Virginia on Tuesday – he is still trailing Clinton in the number of delegates thanks to the Democratic Party’s system of allowing free-floating delegates that aren’t tied to the decision of individual state primaries or their voters.
But one thing was apparent in Sanders’ visit to Stockton on Tuesday – he’s resonating with voters.
While Clinton made a brief stop in San Francisco and Los Angeles last month for a high-priced campaign fundraiser, Sanders hit two cities that are often skipped by Presidential hopefuls in favor for big money donors in the richer parts of the state.
The last Presidential candidate to visit Stockton was John McCain in 2008, and before that President George W. Bush made a visit where he spoke at the Stockton Civic Center, visited an elementary school in a poorer part of town, and appeared at a fundraiser at the A.G. Spanos Jet Center to benefit who was at the time California’s Republican Gubernatorial hopeful.
One of the things that Sanders did hit on – and drew a large response from the crowd – was the fact that “big banks” had left a lot of people, including the City of Stockton itself, holding more debt than they could process when the housing market collapsed as a result of packaged subprime mortgages that were being sold and represented as higher-rated bonds.
Those sorts of things, he surmised, should be criminal, and those responsible should be held to the same standard as anybody else.
“This is, brothers and sisters, the wealthiest country in the world but nobody knows it – nobody knows it because cities like Stockton are suffering because people are working two or three jobs. The problem is not our wealth – the problem is who has that wealth, and we are going to create together an economy that works for all of us, not just the top one percent,” Sanders said. “I want to give you an example of what a corrupt campaign finance system is all about and what a rigged economy is all about. People of Stockton know Wall Street very, very well. You know what Wall Street’s greed, recklessness and illegal behavior has done to this community. Now some of you may not know that just about a month ago that a major Wall Street Financial Institution called Goldman Sachs – Goldman Sachs reached a settlement with the United States of America for $5 billion. Other large banks reached even bigger financial settlements with the government. Why? Why did they do this? Because you all know they were selling worthless packages of subprime mortgage loans.
“And yet, Goldman Sachs – that paid a $5 billion settlement – their executives, not one of them has been charged with a crime. You know, some kid here in California gets picked up for possession of marijuana and that kid gets a police record that stays with him for the rest of his entire life. And by the way, that’s why I think you got a pretty good ballot initiative coming up in November. But on the other hand, if you are an executive on Wall Street whose greed and illegal behavior has impacted the lives of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, here in Stockton, their homes, their life savings, you know what happens to you – you get an increase in your compensation.”
Sanders then continued by attacking Wall Street institutions that he has claimed throughout his campaign are only hurting the majority of Americans through their pursuits of high profits at the expense of everyday citizens.
“Well you know what you’re going to do? How about bringing justice back to a broken criminal justice system? How about telling Wall Street that they have got to obey the law like everybody else? And how about telling Wall Street that when six financial institutions have assets equivalent to 58 percent of the GDP of this country – when they issue two-thirds of the credit cards and one-third of the mortgages – that maybe they are just too big and we’re going to break them up,” he said to a round of cheers. “We need a financial system which works for small and medium sized business which makes affordable loans which helps those businesses afford the jobs we desperately need. We don’t need a Wall Street – which is an island unto itself – which is based on fraud and only concerned with their own profits.
“We do need to break them up.”
In a surprising twist, the Vermont Senator was introduced to speak not by Mayor Anthony Silva – who was present at the event – but by his challenger for the position, Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs, who has been an outspoken critic of Silva at times while on the dais.
And just like the man he introduced, Tubbs ignited the crowd with his remarks.
“Too often communities like Stockton and people like us are forgotten in the national discussion. But today is different because today is the realization that for us, economic inequality is not just a buzzword – for us poverty is more than just a government classification. That for us we can’t always pull ourselves up by our bootstraps if we don’t have boots,” Tubbs said. “For us immigrants aren’t just people we need to fence out and kick out but they’re our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters and our friends. That for us here in Stockton Muslims aren’t just people to be feared, but they are woven into the very fabric of our community.
“For us in Stockton we know firsthand and understand what years of bad leadership can do to a community. For us in Stockton we understand the importance to reject and resist a failing status quo. And for us here in Stockton, fighting bullies is what we do for a living. Whether it is big agriculture and political interests thinking they could destroy our delta and our ecosystem, or whether it’s bouncing back from bankruptcy in Stockton we know how to stand up, dig our heels, and even give a Stockton slap if we have to.”