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Bernie Sanders says he is tired of Republican “hypocrisy”, in which members of the party claim to abhor government meddling in the lives of Americans, but insist upon legislating what women can and cannot do with their bodies.
The presidential candidate laid into the Republicans during a speech in Des Moines on Saturday night, where he was greeted by dozens of Iowa caucus goers and members of NARAL, a pro-choice advocacy group that holds forums for presidential candidates.
And, the Vermont senator said that Democrats must go on the “offensive” in fighting for abortion rights, to counteract what he described as a well-funded attack determined to undermine Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court case that established women’s right to have an abortion.
“How hypocritical can they be?” Mr Sanders asked those inside of the Hilton Embassy ballroom just a short drive from the Iowa State Fair.
“Right now, all across the country, there is a well-funded and extreme attack on the right of women to control their own body and their own future, and we’ve seen that right here in Iowa,” he said. “We are here today to say as loudly and clearly as we can that we will not go backwards. We absolutely must stand up to these attacks together.”
Mr Sanders’ speech came just a day before he was set to take part in that fair’s annual “Political Soapbox”, where candidates seeking the support of Iowa flock to make their cases from a slightly raised stage, surrounded by hay.
And Mr Sanders took to the stage after most of the other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, who number almost two dozen.
Earlier on Saturday, for instance, Elizabeth Warren delighted fairgoers with her calls for “big systemic change” to the American political system, drawing what to that point had been the largest showing of the whole affair — much larger than the turnout for Joe Biden on Thursday, and noticeably bigger than the crowd Kamala Harris had attracted earlier in the day.
In the Hilton ballroom in downtown Des Moines, supporters who listened to Mr Sanders promise to codify Roe, and to repeal the Hyde Amendment, said its his consistency that stands out to them — and why they could consider supporting him against those other candidates.
To prove the point, one speaker who held the mic before Mr Sanders even recited a 1993 quote of his, arguing for women’s rights.
Pierse Coen, 19, a college student from Nebraska, said Mr Sanders calling out Republicans on such an important issue is necessary, given the stakes.
“I think it’s important that he calls Republicans out for their hypocrisy,” she said, noting she would expect a similar sort of a check on Democrats.
And, she said his experience speaks for itself: “I like his consistency. He doesn’t waver. He just stays strong.”
Makayla Meyer, 15, a Des Moines high school student, said she is attracted to Mr Sanders’ unapologetic push for his values.
“There’s a lot of people who say America can’t be a socialist government, but Bernie stands by who he is,” she said.
Jake Atkinson, 23, a recent university graduate who was visiting from London, said that the anger he sees in Mr Sanders can speak to people on a broad range of issues, helping people connect them and understand the bigger picture — and thinks that’s how the Democrats can win the next presidential election.
“He really nails the intersectionality of all the issues, and how they’re all related,” Mr Atkinson said. “I think that’s how we beat Republicans in 2020.”