Bernie Sanders in Ann Arbor: Biden will best protect people from COVID-19

Ann Arbor — Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders stumped for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket Monday and extolled the Democratic presidential candidate as the leader the country needs to get through the coronavirus pandemic and fight to improve the lives of the average American.

The one-time rival to Biden for the Democratic nomination spoke at a Biden campaign event that is  intended to encourage Michigan residents to vote. Sanders, the self-declared democratic socialist who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton four years ago in Michigan’s primary, also implored young people to get to the polls and support Biden given their historical reticence to vote.

“Which candidate for president has shown that he will be disciplined, that he will be responsible, that he will do his best to protect the people around him as we deal with this pandemic? And the answer is Joe Biden,” Sanders said to applause outside the Kerrytown Market and Shops here.

“Which candidate for president has made it clear that he will develop policies which are based on science, not politics, and that he will seek the advice of the best scientists and doctors in our country and around the world in order to combat and defeat this pandemic? And the answer is Joe Biden.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks to supporters in 2019.

Sanders’ visit to Michigan came on the same day that President Donald Trump tweeted that he would be released from the Walter Reed Medical Center by 6:30 p.m. after being hospitalized Friday after testing positive for COVID-19. The Republican president made a brief public appearance Sunday by acknowledging and waving to his supporters outside the Maryland hospital as he rode in a sport utility vehicle with his security detail.

Sanders began his remarks by sending well wishes to Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, who last week were diagnosed with COVID-19. Melania Trump has remained quarantined in the White House.

“What the last few days have told us is that, if there was ever any doubt, it should now be clear that no one, no one, is safe from this pandemic,” the senator said.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a front line worker in a hospital — and we thank our medical personnel for the extraordinary sacrifices they have made for us during this pandemic. It doesn’t matter if you are an essential worker at a super market, a packing house worker or a bus driver. And it doesn’t matter if you are president of the United States. Each and every one of us is vulnerable. And we will remain vulnerable until there is a vaccine or a perfected cure.”

The Vermont senator is headed later Monday to Warren for what is being billed as a “car rally.” 

Sanders, who made numerous trips to Michigan during his quest for the nomination, also pressed issues such as climate change, raising the minimum wage and helping students with college tuition as important to Biden.

While Biden and Sanders disagree on issues such the senator’s Medicare for All plan that would abolish private health insurance and have the federal government finance universal coverage, Sanders said he is confident that the former vice president will expand needed health care coverage, including for mental health.

“And when we talk about the need to raise wages in America, let’s be clear.  When Joe Biden is president, he will increase the federal minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to a living wage of $15 an hour,” Sanders said. “Joe also knows that if we are going to expand the middle class in this country, we must make it easier for workers to join unions, engage in collective bargaining and end the heavy-handed corporate tactics that make it hard for workers to unionize in America.”

Sanders was joined by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who said she encouraged Sanders to come to Ann Arbor to rally young people to vote given the importance of this year’s election.

“This country’s democracy is at stake,” Dingell said. “Your vote matters. It does.”

This generation does not vote enough, Sanders acknowledged, and that needs to change.

“So today I say to young people: If you are worried about the outrageous level of student debt that many of you have incurred or are incurring, if you are upset about the high cost of college, if you are concerned about low-paying jobs, climate change, sexism, racism, homophobia and religious bigotry, it is not good enough to complain and moan and groan. That doesn’t change anything,” he said. “You have to do something about it, you have to fight back and the first step forward is to vote.”

Marilyn Warner, 54, of Ann Arbor, said she liked Sanders’ speech and saw it as important that he and others rivals support the Biden ticket “because I think it will be the best for our country.”

“I think  to the degree that they can agree and work together, I’m sure that there are compromises that would be best for the country,” Warner said about issues such as health insurance and lowering tuition costs. She initially backed Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren but shifted to Biden.

“Working together is the way to get it done,” she said. 

Sanders said he isn’t going away and will continue to fight for the less fortunate. And with Biden, the country has the best chance to help everyone by working to reduce student debt and seek free tuition for working families.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

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Twitter:@leonardnfleming