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Sanders Begins Next Phase Tour In New York

Mike Groll

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made the second stop in his ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ tour in Albany Friday afternoon, where he told a small but loyal group of supporters that he’ll fight to get key items into the national Democratic Party platform, including a nationwide $15 minimum wage, and has been in talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign over a greater focus on progressive issues.

The 450 supporters at the theater at the State Capitol was a smaller, quieter crowd compared to the thousands of cheering fans that Senator Sanders drew at the height of New York’s hotly contested presidential primary back in April. But they were eager to hear the presidential candidate recount how his candidacy changed the debate, including more talk about income inequality, barriers to health care, like high co-payments, and the problem of acute poverty in one of the world’s richest nations.

Sanders, who said earlier in the day that he will vote for Hillary Clinton in November, did not mention Clinton, or for that matter, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, by name, other than to say that he’s talking with the presumptive Democratic nominee’s campaign about the issues going forward.

“We are talking to the Clinton campaign, to try to determine whether or not they can come up with some very serious proposals which will help us transform America,” said Sanders. “Whether it will happen or not remains a good question.”

He says he’ll use the influence of his delegates to create what he calls a “people’s platform,” including a nationwide $15 minimum wage, and prevention of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement from becoming law.  

Sanders, who lost the New York primary, though he won many upstate areas, including Albany, had harsh words for the state’s regressive laws on voter registration, including a long lead time of several months for registering to vote in a primary. Sanders estimate that three million of his supporters were barred from voting in New York’s presidential primary contest.

“Here in New York, clearly you’ve got to knock down a lot of barriers,” said Sanders, who said the current system is designed to keep the “established leaders” of both major political parties in power.  

“It’s a corrupt system,” he said.

Sanders say he wants to include simpler voting methods in the national party platform.

Senator Sanders says his second mission, now that the primaries are over, is to encourage his supporters to run for office, and infuse municipal level government with their ideas. He says when he ran for successfully for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981, he didn’t know a lot about running a government, and faced a steep learning curve.

Sanders, who will campaign for several Congressional candidates around the country in the coming weeks, urged people to become involved, not out of a passion for politics, he says, but a “passion for justice.”

“Struggle and victory is not easy,” said Sanders, who said his campaign opened the doors to a process that “must, must, must continue.”

Sanders supporter Allison Davenport said afterwards that she’s inspired to use her skills to help a friend seek local office.

“I thought it was amazing. It was a call to action, giving his words of wisdom on how to go forth,” Davenport said. “And not be afraid.”

Supporter Suzanne Bishop says she would have liked to hear more, encouragement to vote in November, even though Sanders won’t be on the ballot.

“Please speak to the people in the country, and in this room who say ‘I’m going to stay home,’” Bishop said. “He didn’t touch on that.”

Bishop, like many other Sanders supporters at the speech, concedes that she will likely vote for Hillary Clinton, if only to try to prevent Donald Trump from wining the presidency.