Bernie Sanders wants to see a revolution.
The Democratic presidential candidate came to town Saturday, talking about his plan to make changes — raising the minimum wage, creating a federal jobs program, revamping the criminal justice system and investing in education and youth.
The independent senator from Vermont said he wants to see the country’s campaign finance system, which he calls corrupt, overhauled, and he wants to make sure that men and women are paid equitably.
But in order to do any of that, he said he needs Texans to vote for him during Tuesday’s presidential primary.
And while polls show him trailing fellow Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the fiery 74-year-old said he believes supporters can still spur him on to victory.
“It turns out that it is one thing to have the support of the establishment,” he told a crowd of more than 7,000 gathered in the Verizon Theatre for a high-energy campaign rally. “It is another thing to have the support of the people.
“I think we’ve got a surprise coming for some people on Tuesday,” he said. “Texas can help lead this country forward in the political revolution.”
Sanders, who has drawn praise and criticism alike for plans such as free college tuition, hopes to disrupt Clinton, the front-runner in Texas and across the country.
He blasted her ties to Wall Street and Super PAC funding and said he is the candidate who can defeat GOP front-runner Donald Trump in November.
A new WFAA Texas TEGNA poll found that between the two Democratic front-runners, Clinton holds an almost 2-to-1 advantage, leading Sanders 61-32 percent. She had the advantage in most categories, except for the youngest Texas voters.
Sanders’ campaign has spread like wildfire, inspiring supporters to turn out and support him.
“Democracy is not a football game,” he said. “It is not a spectator sport. All of you are enormously powerful people if you choose to use your power.”
Feel the Bern?
Sanders, who had an earlier rally attended by thousands in Austin, spoke for an hour to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters during a concert-like political rally.
As supporters yelled “We love you” or “Feel the Bern,” he outlined a plan that calls for revamping the criminal justice system that he said disproportionately represents African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.
He calls for raising the minimum, or “starvation” wage, to a “living wage” of $15 an hour.
He said the current campaign finance system is one where “billionaires are trying to buy elections,” which is why he wants to move toward the public funding of elections.
Sanders noted that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and said he wants to expand Social Security benefits for senior citizens and disabled veterans who are financially struggling.
“The reason we are doing as well as we are is because we are doing something very radical and unusual,” Sanders told the crowd. “We are telling the truth.”
And he said he’s listening.
He said he hears concerns from the African-American community that is worried about turning on the television and seeing more videos of unarmed black people being killed by police officers. He said any police officer who breaks the law “must be held accountable.”
And he said he wants Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and create a path toward citizenship. “If Congress does not do its job … as president of the United States, I will use all of the executive authority in my power” to create such a plan.
“Our job is to unite families, not divide families.”
‘Every single vote counts’
Sterling Gafford hasn’t been involved in politics for years, but Sanders revived his interest in the political process.
“I want this guy to be president of the United States,” said Gafford, 33, of Denton. “Bernie kind of ear-wormed me.
“He gets it,” said Gafford, who held a sign that read “Bernie is my bestie” for a friend. “He’s been on the right side of history. And I trust that Bernie, no matter what happens, will be on the side of the people.”
Tabitha McGough joined a group of friends that drove in for the rally from Abilene on Saturday morning.
The 28-year-old was among those who waited for hours outside the Verizon Theatre for the doors to open.
“I’ve been a fan for two years,” she said. “I hoped he would run. And once he did, I knew I would do anything to help with his campaign.
“I think he can win Texas,” she said. “But every single vote counts.”
Texans head to the polls Tuesday.
Texas’ March 1 primary
To learn more about candidates on the March 1 ballot, check out the online Star-Telegram Voter Guide.