Bernie Sanders talks climate, economy at Middlebury rally

By Jack Summersby

After a two-year hiatus, Senator Bernie Sanders returned to the annual Labor Day Rally on Middlebury’s Town Green last Monday, Sept. 6. The event also included speeches from Congressman Peter Welch, Bill McKibben, Dr. Deborah Richter, Iris Hsiang, and Jubilee McGill. The speakers highlighted the current challenges that Vermont faces, from labor shortages to rising healthcare costs.

Middlebury was the final stop on Monday for Sanders, who also held meetings in Springfield, Newport, St. Johnsbury, and Brattleboro earlier in the weekend. 

“I didn’t know there were this many people in Middlebury,” Sanders joked as he took the stage. 

Sanders spoke to a large crowd of community members, touching on climate change, Covid-19, housing issues, and childcare and education costs. The senator accordingly emphasized the current Democratic legislative agenda, as the party looks to pass a $3.5 trillion spending plan with razor-thin majorities in Congress.

“We have issue after issue after issue,” Sanders said. “We must look these problems in the eyes, and not only can we solve them, [but] we can move this country and our world to a much better place.”

Sanders spoke first on the American Rescue Plan, which was passed in March to address economic fallout from Covid-19. Sanders discussed the resulting decline in poverty and other points of progress, emphasizing the persistence of small businesses like those that line Middlebury’s downtown. 

Sanders also addressed current work in Congress, including moving forward with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) and other initiatives supported by President Biden. 

Some of the other speakers at the rally addressed one of the issues closely tied to Sanders platform: climate change.

Bill McKibben, a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, then praised Sen. Sanders and credited his 2016 presidential bid for awakening a progressive reckoning in the country. 

Iris Hsiang, a youth member of Vermont’s climate council and high school student, delivered a speech that stressed the intersectionality within climate change issues and the need to combat those challenges individually in order to combat climate change as a whole.