Campaign finance reform. Taking on Wall Street. Income inequality.
It didn’t really matter which issue Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) addressed at his rally Saturday afternoon; the crowd of more than 10,000 yelled over and over again “We love you, Bernie!” in a powerful showcase of strength and enthusiasm for Sanders’ campaign as it heads further into the primary season.
“It was awesome putting a figure to the face,” said computational biology sophomore Masha Aseeva, who saw Sanders for the first time Saturday. “It was like Woodstock, kind of.”
Sanders supporters from across the state coalesced in Austin outside the Circuit of the Americas to rally around Sanders’ campaign as he prepares for the Super Tuesday primaries, when voters throughout Texas and ten other states will cast their ballots on March 1.
Sanders touched on many of his proposed initiatives, including curbing a corrupt campaign finance system, if he makes it all the way to the White House next January.
Sanders frequently attempted to drive a wedge between his campaign and that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arguing his is more dutiful to the people because it relies on small-dollar donations rather than on money from Super PACs.
“Sadly, it requires a lot of money to run for president,” Sanders said. “But we have chosen to do it a very different way from Secretary Clinton.”
Sanders added a caveat on all of his initiatives, stressing that “no president alone can” legislate without crowds full of supporters such as the one in Austin.
“What you all know about American history is understanding that real change in this country never comes from the top on down,” Sanders said. “It always comes from the bottom on up.”
Even though the stop in Austin wasn’t announced until late Friday evening, a line stretching for nearly half a mile formed early in the morning at around 6 a.m., three hours before gates even opened, campaign officials said.
“I remember last night, I was just going through my social media, and the second the news dropped … rally information was being shared,” said Student Government Vice President Rohit Mandalapu, a volunteer for the Sanders campaign.
While Sanders spent his Saturday making appearances in Austin and Dallas, Democrats in South Carolina simultaneously spent theirs at the polls in the final primary before Super Tuesday.
In South Carolina, Clinton outperformed Sanders among every demographic — mainly in the heavily African-American and Latino precincts throughout the state — resulting in a lopsided 74 to 16 percent in her favor.
With Clinton wins in three out of the four early voting states, Sanders supporters acknowledge that the senator needs to perform well in most of the heavily populated Super Tuesday states to avoid letting the nomination slip away from him.
Texas provides the largest prize out of all 11 states, with 251 delegates to be allocated proportionally to the candidates. Clinton is currently in the lead at 54 percent to Sander’s 46, according to a Texas Tribune poll released last week.
“He needs to get within ten [points] in Texas,” said aerospace engineering sophomore Charlie Henry, a member of University Democrats. “If we start thinking further down the line, he just needs enough to keep Hillary out of the [majority] at the convention.”