Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders implored a crowd of over 1,000 to defeat Donald Trump, unite behind a progressive agenda and elect Democrat Hillary Clinton during a rally at Deering High School in Portland on Tuesday.
The event, exactly one week before Election Day, was Sanders’ second visit on Clinton’s behalf and part of a late 12-state blitz designed to ensure that progressive voters turn out on Election Day. Sanders stressed Maine’s importance in what he described as a tight race.
Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is on a similar cross-country swing. The two progressive firebrands are attempting to close an enthusiasm gap between Clinton and Trump reflected in several national tracking polls.
The Democrat does have an edge in early voting, including in Maine, where Democrats have outpaced Republicans in absentee ballot returns by nearly 2-1.
Sanders blasted Trump for his treatment of women and minorities, invoking the Republican’s role in furthering the so-called birther conspiracy that was designed to delegitimize President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.
He also criticized the national news media for turning the presidential campaign into a “personality contest.” He warned of the country’s lurch toward oligarchy, where a handful of people are influencing American elections. He said Trump was a prime example of the trend, saying his policies would return the country to a set of policies that would hurt the middle class while benefiting the wealthy.
“We are not going back to Donald Trump’s trickle down economics,” Sanders said.
He said progressives should unite to defeat the monied interests that seek to rule the country.
“They’ve got the money. But we’ve got something that they don’t and that is us. And we will defeat them,” Sanders said.
He said Trump also proved that the American tax system is rigged when it was revealed that his claimed loss of nearly a $1 billion in 1995 allowed him to avoid paying federal income tax for nearly two decades.
“Not only is Donald Trump going to lose the election next week, but next year he’s going to start paying his fair share in taxes,” he said.
As he did during his previous rally Maine in Bangor, Sanders told the crowd that his goal is to help Clinton get elected while also assisting Democratic congressional candidates. Both tasks are required, he said, if Democrats are going to help implement a progressive platform that he helped craft after a tough primary fight with Clinton, with policy initiatives including overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that unleashed a flood of election spending, raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, broadening Social Security, tuition-free college and infrastructure spending.
Sanders did not address the FBI’s recent announcement that it’s investigating whether newly discovered emails are connected to Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state. He also steered clear of any references to the methodical and withering release of emails by Wikileaks that were stolen from her campaign manager John Podesta.
While the Podesta emails have yet to show any wrongdoing by Clinton, they offer an inside look into her campaign machinations that dovetail with Trump’s soaring rhetoric that she’s part of a Washington establishment that has failed American citizens.
The FBI probe was on Maggie Miller’s mind. Miller, 57, of Portland said she was a Sanders supporter early on, but didn’t have a difficult time making the switch to Clinton.
“Up until this past weekend I was feeling a little confident. On Friday my heart went into my stomach and I got very concerned. But I have not felt completely confident all along,” she said. “I’ve been keeping my eyes on the polls and worried, on a lot of levels, that anything can happen.”
Juliette Gordon, a Sanders supporter, was still ambivalent about the race. She said she’ll vote for Clinton, but with deep reservations. But Trump, she said, wasn’t an option.
“It’s beyond unappealing. It’s upsetting and it’s soul-shaking to think this is a real possibility,” said Gordon, 35, of Pownal.
Trump has visited Maine five times this year. He’s attempting to swipe at least one of Maine’s four electoral votes, something that hasn’t happened in modern history.
Christie-Lee McNally, who is leading Trump’s Maine effort, released a statement on Sanders’ visit.
“Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers are in a full-fledged nosedive. She simply cannot build enthusiasm on the ground, and must resort to bringing in surrogates to rally her base. Mainers are ready to drain the swamp in Washington, and on Election Day they will vote for the only change agent campaigning for president, Donald Trump,” she said.