By Scott Sonner
RENO — Sen. Bernie Sanders said Wednesday many of the campaign themes his critics dismissed as too radical when he ran for president in 2016 are now viewed as much more mainstream, including “Medicare for all.”
The Vermont Democrat told a crowd of more than 500 at an outdoor rally in downtown Reno that many said he was living in a “dream world” when he campaigned four years ago for a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
Since then, he said seven states have adopted that minimum wage and the U.S. House will vote in the coming months on a proposal to make it the national standard.
“The message there is that when an idea seems so radical, it can happen if people stand together and fight for that idea,” he said to cheers.
Sanders said many states also have embraced his call to “end the so-called war on drugs” and legalize recreational use of marijuana.
“Four years ago, when I was here in Nevada I talked about the need to legalize marijuana. Four years ago, that was seen as a radical idea. Not so radical today,” he said.
Sanders said polls also show more and more people support “Medicare for all” — the plan for a national, single-payer health care insurance program that he campaigned for when he lost the 2016 Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton.
“A lot has changed in four years,” he said.
Sanders was popular with progressives in the early caucus state in 2016 and carried northern Nevada’s Washoe County the last time around, including Reno and Sparks. He lost Nevada’s statewide Democratic caucus vote to Hillary Clinton, 55 percent to 45 percent, based largely on her strength in Las Vegas.
“The last time we came pretty close to winning Nevada. This time we’re going to win Nevada,” he said.
The crowd at Wednesday’s event was larger than the 200 to 300 people who turned out for presidential campaign rallies in Reno in recent months for Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Nevada was one of the few key swing states that President Donald Trump failed to carry in 2016.
Sanders has scheduled three stops in Las Vegas on Thursday before moving on to Southern California on Friday and San Francisco Saturday.