Chants of “yes we can” ripped through the chilly air Saturday evening as supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) rallied in downtown Austin to watch the presidential candidate give a live-streamed national address.
The address came just one week before the Iowa Caucus on Feb. 1, when Iowa Democrats will be the first to vote on a democratic presidential nominee. As the early voting states approach, polls are showing a tightening in the race, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton losing ground as Sanders has taken the lead in some polls the last few weeks.
Although supporters here in Texas will get their chance to vote later on March 1, that didn’t stop Texas voters and supporters around the nation from rallying as the Sanders campaign attempts to channel as much momentum as possible leading into the early voting states.
“It is wrong that working families have to work longer hours and earn lower wages, that people have to work two or three jobs while almost all of the new income in wealth is going to the top one percent,” Sanders said in the address. “[People] understand that it is an obscenity that the top one-tenth of one percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.”
The most enthusiastic cheers of the night came when Sanders focused on income inequality, worker’s rights or any of his other “bread and butter” issues.
“I really like his stance about how we have this socioeconomic distribution that’s just totally skewed with the top one percent having the majority of wealth in the United States,” physics freshman Dane Rohrer said. “I think that’s a testament to the fact that we don’t really live in a free class system.”
Sanders also touched on reforming campaign finance and fixing a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets people of color.
Although Clinton has led every national poll released over the course of the primary campaign, polls in Iowa and New Hampshire have shown a back-and-forth between the top two candidates in leads since the summer 2015.
“It’s kind of cool to see the underground candidate, who 10 months ago was brushed off as a bump in the road, now beating the leading Democratic candidate,” radio-television-film senior Christopher Nickelson said. “I think it says something about our democracy that you can’t say somebody is a shoo-in for some position.”
Campaign volunteer Savannah Norton, a Cornell University graduate from Austin, said the Sanders campaign is feeling strong heading into Iowa because they believe they have a clear advantage among young voters.
“He advertises that he’s a Democratic Socialist, he talks about revolution,” Norton said. “That’s very Austin.”
Although he came ready to support Sanders, Nickelson said he believes all Democrats and especially students should eventually rally around the Democratic nominee in order to stay united against the Republicans in November’s presidential election.
“Just because you’re a Bernie supporter now doesn’t mean you can’t support Hillary if she’s the Democratic nominee,” Nickelson said. “I think it’s really important for people to stick with the Democratic values we’ve seen so far.”
Tonight at 8 p.m., CNN is hosting a presidential town hall, where all three candidates for the nomination will have one last chance to make their case to Iowa Democrats voting on Feb. 1.