CEDAR FALLS — More than 300 people packed the Central Ballroom at the University of Northern Iowa’s student union Saturday for a Bernie Sanders rally.
But the big draw wasn’t the Vermont senator vying for the Democratic nomination — Sanders wasn’t in Cedar Falls.
“Bernie Sanders, you see him all the time, but today I came because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That’s why I’m here today,” said Joe Organist of Waterloo, a second-time-around Sanders supporter who agrees with the candidate’s “Medicare for All” proposal and opposition to war.
“She’s my favorite. I wish she was running for president. She just needs to put a few years on, then we’ll put her in the White House,” said Organist, who protested the Vietnam War when he was 8 years old and the Iraq war in 2003.
Following surrogate stump speeches by filmmaker Michael Moore — “Roger and Me,” “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 911” —- and Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. D-N.Y., took the stage to a standing ovation and chants of “AOC!”
“In nine days, this is where it’s all going to start, and you all are going to be the ones to kick off this revolution,” Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd.
“We need to push for a fundamentally different approach, because it’s not just left versus right, it’s top versus bottom. We must win in November, but we also must heal. And the work of healing is deeper than the work of merely winning,” she said.
During a question and answer session, she embraced Amber Hess of Larchwood when Hess broke into tears recounting how her wages were being garnished to pay for medical debt.
“This is so wrong. To garnish a person’s wages because they needed to go to the doctor is morally wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This is about power. Your wages are being garnished so that there could be a justifiable profit margin, and that’s wrong.”
Ocasio-Cortez also autographed a copy of an “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force” comic that 10-year-old Ramona Saavedra-Dubord of Cedar Falls brought. The girl said meeting Ocasio-Cortez was inspiring.
“It was very cool,” she said.
The campaign’s swing through Iowa ahead of the caucuses continues Sunday with Sanders appearing with Moore and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Perry, Storm Lake and Sioux City.
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