Thousands filed into the Gropetti Automotive Stadium on Sunday, braving a 91 degree high temperature to hear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speak Sunday afternoon.
Sanders, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, found himself with a friendly crowd. Most of the rally’s attendees hope he will make history by being elected the next president. He did make history in Visalia, becoming the first nominee to give a speech in the city since Bob Dole stopped in the city in 1996.
He launched his speech with a portion tailored to the Central Valley.
Sanders referred to the situation in East Porterville and other Valley communities left without water and dried-up wells, or with water tainted by pesticides.
“As all of you know, the children in Flint, Michigan were poisoned by the water they drank,” Sanders said. “I did not know that there are thousands of homes right around here, that people have got to go out and buy bottled water.”
He also focused on working conditions and increased wages for farmworkers.
“It is not acceptable to me that farmworkers continue to work at starvation wages and terrible working conditions,” Sanders said. “Farmworkers who do backbreaking work in hot days like today must receive decent, decent wages, and decent benefits.”
Sanders pivoted from the locally-tailored parts of his speech to explain why he should receive the Democratic nomination, starting with his odds against Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
“In every poll that has come out in the last couple of months,” Sanders said, “in almost all of those polls, we beat Trump, but we not only beat him, we beat him by double-digit margins.”
And, in Tulare County, a groundswell of Republican support in the state of California, local Trump supporters did make themselves known at Sanders’ rally. A small contingent — no more than 10 overall — peacefully protested with signs and American flags.
Sanders’ supporters came prepared. Some had shirts and signs that said “Dump Trump,” and others had much less family-friendly variations of the phrase. Sanders himself found no shortage of ways to attack the Republican candidate.
“Democrats want a candidate who will beat Trump, and beat him badly,” Sanders continued, “Our campaign is the campaign to do it.”
Sanders also spoke to issues that he has become known for steadfastly taking on: financial inequality, student debt, and free public college.
He asked how many attendees were dealing with student debt — to a large show of hands.
“If we could provide free tuition at the great University of California forty-five years ago–you know what?” Sanders said. “We can do it today.”
The Democratic contender left the crowd with a call to action:
“On June 7, let the people of California, one of the most progressive states in this country, tell the entire world that they’re going to help this country into a political revolution.”