Bernie Sanders, Trump supporter embrace in Carson City, Nevada stop

Bernie Sanders, Trump supporter embrace in Carson City, Nevada stop

James DeHaven

Reno Gazette Journal

Published 2:29 PM EDT Sep 14, 2019

Bernie Sanders took aim at Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden on Friday, telling a Carson City, Nevada, audience that the former vice president had distorted Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal during Thursday’s nationally televised debate.

Sanders, a two-time presidential contender, said he was dispirited by the on-stage exchange at Texas Southern University, where Biden attacked Sanders’ single payer health plan as too costly. Sanders went on to deride what he saw as Biden’s willingness to “parrot” the health insurance industry’s talking points.

“Apparently the Vice President thinks its just wonderful for people to be paying thousands of dollars per month in premiums and paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said in front of a crowd of around 300 supporters gathered for a town hall at the Carson City Community Center. “Well, I think those are problems.”

Sanders spent much of the rest of the event listening to audience members who had struggled with the skyrocketing cost of health care, including a recently laid off Trump supporter.

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Bill Herron, 56, told Sanders he lost his insurance along with his job at PepBoys. He wondered what the longtime independent senator from Vermont could do to help him and others facing a lapse in health care coverage.

The exchange started combatively, with Sanders and Herron shouting over each other about the state of the health care system.

But it ended with the pair locked in a half-hug, as Sanders asked Herron to help him take on entrenched corporate health care interests.

“Work with me to tell the drug companies and the insurance companies that the function of health care is to provide quality care to all of these people,” Sanders said, using a free hand to gesture to a crowd that was already giving him a standing ovation.

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The moment stood out as a highlight for many in the audience, including Darren Jenkins, a Sanders supporter from Carson City.

“I love Bernie, he’s going to be the next president of the United States,” Jenkins said. “Look at the way he had that Trump supporter come up. He put his arm around him and talked to him, with kindness and love.”

Sanders adopted a sharper tone for his second stop, a “College For All” rally on the campus of the University of Nevada–Reno.

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The 77-year-old self-described Democratic Socialist opened with a typically passionate rebuke aimed at the nation’s top 1% of income earners, quickly revving up a crowd of hundreds of students gathered on the lawn in front of UNR’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center.

He later won loud applause for his pledges to cancel student debt, make college tuition free and end the war on drugs. His plan to create a universal pre-kindergarten program received a similarly warm welcome, as did each mention of Sanders’ activist-endorsed, $16 trillion climate change prevention plan. 

Overall, Sanders’ latest appearance at UNR was less eventful than his previous stop on campus, when the progressive firebrand called out a small handful of pro-Trump supporters perched atop a nearby parking garage.

The former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, is now polling about six percentage points behind front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden among likely Nevada caucusgoers.

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Sanders won Washoe County’s contentious 2016 Democratic presidential caucus before dropping the statewide vote to ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ended up carrying Nevada in the general election.

He has a pair of stops scheduled in Las Vegas on Saturday, including another campus appearance to discuss Latinx issues at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to right here. 

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