Aug. 22, 2015, 7 p.m., Charleston Convention Center. Rock music blared from speakers. Crowds cheered and waved signs. Couples danced together, laughing and smiling. What would appear to be a summer music festival was quite the opposite – this was the Bernie Sanders rally. Over 3,150 South Carolinians journeyed to North Charleston to get a glimpse at the newest candidate to enter the presidential race.
One of three opening speakers at the rally was Tristan Fletcher, a junior at the College of Charleston. He supported Sanders’ plan for free public education at the collegiate level. “College is an expensive proposition for us,” he remarked. “Countries all over the world are providing free and inexpensive education for their youth.” Yet, Fletcher’s cousin, like far too many American students, he said, will graduate from medical school with over 250,000 dollars in debt.
When Sanders rose to the stage, the audience erupted in cheers and chants, yelling “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” while waving campaign signs. Sanders touched upon many key components of his campaign such as increasing minimum wage and stopping corporate greed. He especially emphasized his policy on free education at the collegiate level. Sanders wants to place a “Robin Hood” tax on stock transactions on Wall Street, taxing the wealthy to serve the middle and lower classes.
“You can’t have it all,” Sanders stated emphatically. “You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America if you refuse to accept your responsibilities as Americans.”
He then spoke on youth unemployment, citing statistics that 5.5 million of Americans between the ages of 17 and 20 are unemployed. This rate, Sanders claimed, is directly related to the fact that America has more citizens incarcerated than any other country in the world. “We are turning our backs on young people… We need to invest in jobs and education,” he resolved.
Sanders’ platform also includes raising minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15.00. Dubbing the new wage as a national living wage, Sanders argued that any working citizen laboring 40 hours a week should not have to live in poverty or have to keep multiple jobs to provide for their family.
Sanders maintained his hard positioning throughout the rally, hoping to inspire the audience to join in his “so called” political revolution. Sanders concluded, “Corporate greed is destroying America, it is immoral and unsustainable. You and I, together, we are going to change that.”
Attendees of the rally came from all over the state. Avid Bernie supporters Steven and Joy Austen, for example, drove 150 miles from Rock Hill, S.C. When asked why he would make such a trek to see Sanders, Steven replied, “Because Bernie is really progressive and is trying to do things that should have been done a long time ago.”
College of Charleston student Kylie Beall found Sanders’ stance on the rising cost of collegiate level education to be the most resounding issue .
“A lot of kids are really in debt now because of school or they can’t get jobs,” Kylie stated. “I just don’t think any of the new candidates would address the issues of the younger generation that’s going to inherit the earth.”