Free speech

Walled in by people, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (lower left) spoke on the UNR campus.

Walled in by people, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (lower left) spoke on the UNR campus.


Most of the crowd at Bernie Sanders' Aug. 18 Reno speech was made up of the already converted, but not entirely.

Bill Taggard retired as a Portland electrician, moved to New Mexico—his wife has trouble with the climate in Portland—then moved to Reno to be nearer to Portland when grandchildren started arriving. He said he has followed Sanders for years and just wanted to hear his message in person.

“He's talking about all the right stuff,” Taggard said. “He's talking about how corporations are getting way too big, our country needs infrastructure, money's going in the wrong direction, too much inequality. So yes, I hope to hear some of that.”

One the other hand, Lori—an office worker who declined to give a last name—didn't know enough about Sanders yet.

“I'm really interested to hear what he has to say,” she said. “I want to know more about him as a candidate.”

So she hasn't decided on him yet?


What is she looking for in a candidate?

“Someone who wants to really address the issue of climate change … because I think it is a tremendously important issue. Especially for future generations, it need to be addressed very energetically. It needs to be top priority, I guess.”

Sanders' positions and voting record have already cut him off from the kind of lobby and corporate money other major candidates get, so he is free to say anything he wants. He uses that freedom fully, knowing there's no way he gets big money except, perhaps, from the National Rifle Association. (He is that rare leftie, a gun fan.) So his words, not the way they were delivered, carried a punch with this crowd. He was saying things they have hungered to hear. More than once the crowd interrupted his speech with “Ber-nie, Ber-nie” chants.

Sanders called for a business climate that aids small- and medium-sized companies. But bigness is one of his principal targets. He recalled the claim during the Wall Street meltdown that huge financial corporations had become so big they could not be allowed to fail because they might take the nation down with them—yet they were allowed to get even bigger after the meltdown.

“What we have got to tell Wall Street right now is that if a financial institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” Sanders said, eliciting wild cheers.

Two days later, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said breaking up the large financial institutions might be worth looking at, but Democrats in Congress are basically not allowed to legislate under the current GOP majority.

When Sanders said he wanted to make sure the planet's climate is cared for, a small smile appeared on Lori's lips.