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BOSTON—Bernie Sanders, presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, delivered yet another speech last Saturday at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. This time, though, it was in front of an audience of more than 20,000, the biggest political rally in Boston since 1968. Cameron Wolfe, a senior from Brandeis University, said that, as far as he could tell, he was surrounded with Brandeis affiliates. He had come with another student, while behind him stood three more, and to his left, in her sixties, a graduate cheered tirelessly. The rest of the crowd, in spite of Sanders’ efforts, was similarly young, if only in mindset, and white.
The 74-year old independent senator from Vermont went down an exhaustive list of the challenges the next President of the United States will face, closing with foreign policy about an hour and fifteen minutes later. Eternal campaigner, the attrition caused by the political marathon was only given away by a rasp. Exhausted by the countless speeches, his hoarse voice would only worsen as the speech progressed.
His discourse, centered on the plight of a disappearing middle class, and teeming with Republican criticism, was nothing new to his constituency. Addressing an already convinced crowd, his goal was to muster the forces. “When nobody votes, Republicans win,” he said, indignant.
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He slammed conservative’s interpretation of family values which, he denounced, aim to justify gender-based inequities. He reproached Republicans their climate change denial, calling it an “international embarrassment” while expressing his condolences to those who had “had the misfortune of watching the Republican debate.”
Yet, he failed to address the concern that on one policy, his stance may lay dangerously close to his right-wing counterparts’, as it appears to be gaining sway over the election.
A mass shooting, last week, at an Oregon community college, which left nine dead, prompted an ill-timed national debate for the Senator. An exasperated Obama’s response to the epidemic only exacerbated the outcry, leading for renewed demands for gun legislation.
Another “aging, graying Vermonter,” as he was introduced by author and environmental activist Bill McKibben (homologous to the senator on those traits,) Sanders’ rural roots have fettered him to gun freedom. Endearment for weapons, and the extent of hunting in the state, have made regulations virtually non-existent. For his most liberal supporters, the senator’s lackluster push for gun control blemishes his progressive stance.
His speech, however, bore little mention of the issue. He briefly evoked the president’s address, and insisted on his own move to ban semi-automatic weapons, but was careful not to let his duplicity transpire. The Senator’s on-and-off, love/hate relationship with guns, indeed, predates the election by several decades.
Sander’s first race for office in the house of representatives in 1990 was supported by National Rifle Association leaders. Depending on who is talking, their involvement will have been either paramount, or tangential, to his victory. (The latter may be more likely as Sanders walloped his opponent, Peter Smith, by 16 points.) The NRA is said to have sent 12,000 letters to its members urging them to vote for Sanders in the days preceding the election, according to the Washington Post.
By 1994, they had reversed their stance, and were instead handing out bumper stickers that read “Bye-bye Bernie,” Sanders stated in his memoir. Since then, he has repeatedly voted for on issues such as allowing firearms in checked bags on Amtrak, prohibiting product-misuse lawsuits on sellers and manufacturers, and ultimately voted against, in spite of initial support, the Brady bill, which would have introduced a mandatory five-day waiting period prior to the acquisition of a gun.
While the political arena is awash with contrived Trump-Sanders comparisons, there may be one that still stands. The Donald, and the Bern, have both linked gun violence to mental health issues, and trying to prevent gun-deaths by tackling the latter dwells somewhere at the top of both of their lists. Unfortunately for the senator, the two play on different fields, and while Trump’s opponents will not likely be pushing for legislation on the matter, Hillary Clinton, Sander’s main rival and democratic frontrunner, has already stated she would use executive action to curb gun-violence.