Dem presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told a capacity crowd here Wednesday night one of his first acts if elected would be to provide free college education to Americans, regardless of family income.
The pledge, which ignited the crowd, was one in series of progressive causes Sanders hit during his speech.
Sanders spoke emphatically and at length about his plan to dismantle the “corporate greed” that he says is running America. He vowed to fight the fast-track trade authority that was recently approved, take down Wall Street and big banks, provide universal healthcare, and overturn Citizen's United to give power back to the people during elections.
"It's time we come together as a nation and tell the billionaire class 'you can't have it all,'” he said.
Sanders is touring progressive communities as he launches his bid for the Dem presidential nomination against heavily favored Hillary Clinton. More than 3,000 attended an event in Minneapolis on Sunday after 5,000 turned out for him Saturday at the University of Denver
Ahead of the Madison event, which drew an estimated 10,000, the state GOP is put up billboards in Milwaukee and Green Bay knocking Clinton and Sanders as "Left and Lefter."
"Yesterday's candidates -- extreme candidates," the billboard reads.
The billboard is a take off of the "Dumb and Dumber" movie and shows Sanders driving a moped with Clinton on the back.
Sanders, who took several jabs at Gov. Scott Walker, opened by joking about being surprised that Republicans let him enter the state, mentioning the billboard.
“I don't think my views are extremism,” he said. “When you deny the right of workers to come together in collective bargaining, that's extremism. When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that is extremism. When you accept tax breaks for billionaires but refuse to raise the minimum wage, that is extremism.”
Sanders told the crowd he needs an almost unprecedented grassroots support system if he stands a chance of winning the White House.
“And it doesn't matter how skilled a candidate is. He or she cannot address the issues of hardworking middle class families without an active, organized grassroots effort,” Sanders said.
Missy Eymann and Kelli Meserole, two recent college graduates from northern Illinois, drove more than 90 miles to attend the rally.
“The more I learn about him, the more I support what he stands for, and that's why we're here,” Eymann said. “The more people show up, the more seriously he gets taken.”
Both carried signs, one side listing measures Sanders has voted for, the other, what he's voted against.
Meserole, a teacher, said one of the reasons she supports Sanders so strongly is his stance on making public college free. She said her dream is that none of her students will ever have to suffer under the weight of student loans like she has.
“He's inline and in tune with the goals of the younger generation," she said. "He's a bit more liberal than Republicans might like, but he's been a uniting factor too, working across party lines, which I think gives him a really good chance in this election.”
Throughout the night, Sanders hit on a message that America belongs to all people, and that the job of politicians is to bring people together around a progressive agenda that improves the lives of all citizens.
“What I would like to ask of you, is please think big, not small. Our vision should be, that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, there is nothing that we can't accomplish,” said Sanders in closing.
-- By Gina Lehner