Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is used to attracting large crowds during his campaign rallies, and his 3 October rally in Boston was no different. Speaking to a crowd of near capacity 20,000 people at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Sanders discussed progressive reforms and launched pointed attacks at Republican candidates.
The Democratic presidential candidate has continued to surge in the polls, catching up or surpassing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in a number of key states, including Iowa and New Hampshire. In a recent Iowa Caucus poll by Gravis, Sanders trailed Clinton by a mere eight points, 39.5% to 30.6%.
Tackling issues that are of key importance to many liberal voters, Sanders has seemingly injected a sense of enthusiasm into the Democratic race that many say is not present in the Clinton campaign. Diane Alexander, a 20-year-old senior at Tufts University, told IBTimes UK that it was that enthusiasm that attracted her to the campaign.
The Tufts for Bernie co-founder said Sanders is "speaking the language of the people" and is appealing to many university students in Massachusetts and throughout the US.
Speaking to droves of college students and older supporters, Sanders delved into his proposed economic and social reforms. "In America today, we are living in a country that has more income inequality than any other country on Earth, and it is worse today than it has been at any point since 1928," he said.
Among the most popular reforms were the 74-year-old's plans to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, therefore tackling the ever-growing levels of student debt in the US. The topic of the affordability of higher education and student debt has been one that several 2016 candidates have discussed.
"In terms of the landscape in this country right now, it used to be OK for candidates just to say that they thought college was important and that should be affordable," Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign director Maggie Thompson told IBTimes UK during a phone interview. "But because we're at a crisis point in this country, from our perspective, student debt and a solution are part of the political conversation. So, our leaders have to have a plan for this."
Thompson continued, "It's just important that just regardless of sort of the specific solutions that are being talked about. Right now, this year, we're in a situation where things like debt-free, tuition-free or free community college or free public are things that are part of the national conversation and that's a huge sea-change from where we were a couple years ago."
Sanders added that the US should spend more on jobs and education, rather than on jails and incarceration, and vowed to add more employment opportunities for young people.
As expected, Sanders took aim at Wall Street, Republicans and even Congress. The New York native said GOP candidates "suffer serious amnesia problems", blame President Barack Obama for everything and seem to be unable to remember what life was like seven years ago. "During this campaign we're going to rattle their amnesia and force them to face reality," Sanders said.
He claimed that the GOP's alleged focus on "family values" was just the party's way to control women's bodies and to "deny our gay brothers and sisters the chance to marry".
Despite his attacks towards Republican candidates, the liberal socialist claimed he was eager to reach out to working class Republican voters, who he says continue to vote against their best interest. However, American Enterprise Institute scholar and Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone, believes Sanders has "a low chance, but not a zero chance" to win over Republican supporters, he told IBTimes UK in a phone interview.
In his continued effort to focus on the working class, Sanders also shot at Wall Street and the "1%", who he believes has too much influence on the government and on the economy.
"Today the American political system has been corrupted," he said. Sanders noted that if elected he will not nominate anyone to the Supreme Court who is not ready to immediately overturn Citizen United, the Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to make massive political donations. "Now's the time for Wall Street to help the American middle class," he added.
The former civil rights advocate made sure discuss racial inequality as well, taking on police brutality and racism. "We should be proud that America decided to vote for someone for his ideas and not the colour of his skin," Sanders said of President Obama, noting, however, that the US still has far more to achieve. While praising law enforcement, Sanders assured, "When a police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable."
Wrapping up his 75-minute speech, Sanders thanked his Boston supporters and welcomed them "to the political revolution". The rally appeared to convince his supporters that he is just one step closer to clinching the Democratic nomination. "I believe that it is increasingly likely that Bernie will get the nomination and I think it becomes more true every hour," Alexander said.