U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) returned to Michigan on Monday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of his own presidential campaign. The purpose of the visit was to support his former opponent Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee.
“Now, it is no great secret that Joe Biden and I disagree on a number of issues,” Sanders said. “But there is also no question that the economic proposals that Joe is supporting are strong and will go a long, long way in improving life for working families.”
About 200 vehicles of supporters turned out to see Sanders speak at the drive-in style rally at Macomb Community College. Voters have begun to cast ballots in Michigan through early voting. Election Day is Nov. 3. Biden won the March 10 Michigan presidential primary defeating Sanders, the second-place finisher, by a 53-36% clip. Sanders said that Biden has the “temperament to see us through this unprecedented moment, the worst public health crisis in over 100 years” and would listen to health experts and scientists to get the pandemic under control. Biden campaigned in Grand Rapids on Friday.
Sanders said controlling the pandemic goes hand in hand with having a successful economy – pushing back on the idea that the two goals are at odds with each other.
“The truth is that we will never have a strong economy so long as this terrible pandemic continues to surge as it is today,” Sanders said. “We will never have a strong economy if people are afraid to go to work, afraid to go to school, afraid to shop, afraid to go to a restaurant or afraid to do all of the things that we have always done throughout our lives. We will never have a strong economy unless we get this pandemic under control.”
Sanders said President Donald Trump being diagnosed with COVID-19 and becoming hospitalized is an indication that “no one is safe from the pandemic.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an essential worker at a supermarket, if you’re a worker in a packing house, or a bus driver. And it doesn’t matter if you are the president of the United States, or his campaign manager, or his press secretary, or his close advisers,” Sanders said. “Each and every one of us is vulnerable and we will remain vulnerable until there is a vaccine or a perfected cure. That is the reality, and there is no way of getting away from that.”
But Sanders said that simply returning the economy to where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic started is not enough.
“I know the president would not agree with me, but let me get him straight: it was not a good economy when, before the pandemic, over half the American people were working paycheck to paycheck. That is not a strong economy,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that Biden would support a number of policies to address income inequality and poverty, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and creating jobs by investing in infrastructure like roads, bridges, water systems, schools and affordable housing.
Macomb County, where the rally was held, is a crucial swing district. The county supported Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and 2012, but flipped to support Donald Trump in 2016. Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes and the presidency.
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) said that he is seeing grassroots enthusiasm in the area and predicted a win for Biden.
“I was out knocking doors this weekend for my first time, and I’ll be doing it now that we’re out of session, I’ll be doing it straight through. I was really encouraged. I think Macomb County will continue its bellwether status. It’s going to vote with the winner,” Levin said. “Joe Biden and Gary Peters [Democratic U.S. senator from Michigan who is seeking re-election] are both going to win Macomb County, and therefore they’re going to win Michigan, and therefore Joe Biden’s going to be our next president.”
Sanders said the stakes of the election couldn’t be higher, arguing that there hasn’t been a more important election since the Civil War.
“This is the most important election, not only in our lifetimes but in the modern history of this country, perhaps going back to the Civil War and the election of 1864,” Sanders said. “The stakes involved in this election, not just for us, but for our kids and future generations, are of enormous consequence.”