Martin O'Malley at Netroots Nation 2015
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley speaks at Netroots Nation 2015 during the presidential town hall (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Wel­come to our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2015 in Phoenix, Ari­zona! Our first con­ven­tion-wide ses­sion of the day is a town hall dis­cus­sion with pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates Bernie Sanders and Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, who are seek­ing the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion along with Hillary Clin­ton, Lin­coln Chafee, and James Webb. Clin­ton was invit­ed to today’s event, but declined to par­tic­i­pate; for rea­sons we can’t fath­om, Chafee and Webb were not invited.

We will be live­blog­ging the town hall in real time once it gets start­ed. Patrick from our staff will report on Mar­tin O’Mal­ley’s remarks, while Ren­nie will cov­er Bernie Sanders’ remarks. Enjoy our live cov­er­age of this town hall con­ver­sa­tion, and leave any com­ments or ques­tions in the thread below.

10:36 AM: Jose Anto­nio Var­gas takes the stage to intro­duce him­self, wel­come the can­di­dates (who will speak one at a time), and set the theme for the event.

10:41 AM: Var­gas talks about immi­gra­tion issues and asks about pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates if they know where they come from (in ref­er­ence to the nativist state­ments by can­di­dates like Don­ald Trump). Asks if they know,“that white is not a country”?

10:42 AM: Var­gas also brings up the root caus­es of immi­gra­ton, asks to the audi­ence why no one is talk­ing about NAFTA, why peo­ple are immigration.

10:43 AM: Mar­tin O’Mal­ley takes the stage, intro­duces him­self. Talks about his work as Bal­ti­more may­or and Mary­land gov­er­nor to make progress.

Martin O'Malley at Netroots Nation 2015
For­mer Mary­land Gov­er­nor Mar­tin O’Mal­ley speaks at Net­roots Nation 2015 dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial town hall (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

10:46 AM: O’Mal­ley states his sup­port for the $15 min­i­mum wage. Asks how many peo­ple think their chil­dren will have a bet­ter life than they did. Not many hands were raised, O’Mal­ley called the group opti­mistic com­pared to oth­er groups he’s talked to.

10:48 AM: Goes over his suc­cess­es as Gov­er­nor. Out­lines why he’s the best Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date. 15 years of exec­u­tive expe­ri­ence, actu­al­ly hav­ing con­crete victories.

10:49 AM: Jose Anto­nio Var­gas asks O’Mal­ley about his being heck­led when he announced run­ning for pres­i­dent for being the “father of mass incar­cer­a­tion” in Bal­ti­more city. Asked about what con­crete actions he would take to ensure that Black Lives Matter.

10:51 AM: O’Mal­ley isn’t doing well answer­ing the ques­tion. Try­ing to defend what hap­pened dur­ing his announce­ment, den­i­grate the peo­ple who heck­led him.

10:55 AM: Have to be tougher on fight­ing to stop extreme poverty.

10:56 AM: O’Mal­ley says that we need to stop the sen­tenc­ing dis­par­i­ty between crack and pow­der cocaine.

10:57: Jose Anto­nio Var­gas com­mends O’Mal­ley for hav­ing the broad­est and most spe­cif­ic immi­gra­tion pro­pos­al. Asks how O’Mal­ley how he would deal with pri­vate fed­er­al pris­ons hav­ing min­i­mum bed quo­ta. O’Mal­ley says he oppos­es pri­vate pris­ons and “is not thrilled” about pub­lic pris­ons either.

11:00: Asks O’Mal­ley about War­ren’s call for can­di­dates to pledge to sup­port the “revolv­ing door” bill to pre­vent con­flicts-of-inter­est in reg­u­la­to­ry bod­ies. O’Mal­ley says he sup­port­ed it before War­ren issued the call.

11:02: Social Secu­ri­ty expan­sion is brought up. O’Mal­ley sup­ports it.

11:04: Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers come up to the front of the stage. Tia Oso from the Black Alliance for Just Immi­gra­tion comes up to the stage with, gives con­text about the land we’re stand­ing on, the cre­ation of the Black­Lives­Mat­ter hash­tag, and the anniver­sary of the date of the death of Eric Gar­ner. Brings up that 25% per­cent of black immi­grant refugees who are here as polit­i­cal refugees because of US for­eign policy.

11:09: Oso says that if we are to be a pro­gres­sive space, must acknowl­edge the black women that have been the core of a pro­gres­sive move­ments in the country.

11:11: Pro­test­ers say the name of black women who have been killed by police in the recent months.

11:17: Patrice, one of the co-founders of Black­Lives­Mat­ter, comes to the stage, say­ing that the pro­test­ers “don’t like shut­ting #$%& down, but are being shut down every­day”. Black folks are in a state of emer­gency, and if peo­ple are aren’t rec­og­niz­ing it, those folks “aren’t human”.

11:18: O’Mal­ley answer­ing, say­ing that that we wants every police depart­ment to have a cit­i­zen review board, hav­ing the fund­ing to hire pri­vate detectives.

11:23: O’Mal­ley drew boos from the audi­ence by say­ing “Black lives mat­ter, white lives mat­ter, all lives matter.”

11:25: O’Mal­ley’s time is up, leaves the stage, Bernie Sanders come up onto the stage.

Bernie Sanders waves
Bernie Sanders waves to atten­dees of Net­roots Nation (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

11:26 : Sanders opened by stat­ing “We live in a nation where media is con­trolled by large cor­po­ra­tions.” Sanders con­tin­ued by describ­ing how lop­sided the media is: 95% of talk radio is con­trolled by con­ser­v­a­tives; con­ser­v­a­tives own their own TV net­works. Then he praised Net­roots Nation as an orga­ni­za­tion that is very impor­tant in get­ting the peo­ple’s mes­sages heard.

11:30: Sanders says that there is good news and bad news. The good news is that most of what we believe, the vast major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans also believe. The Black Lives Mat­ters pro­test­ers began yelling dis­rup­tive­ly again at this point. Sanders turns to the mod­er­a­tor and asks “Do you want me to con­tin­ue, or should I leave?” The mod­er­a­tor encour­aged Sanders to continue.

11:33: Sanders attempts to con­tin­ue with: “The issue that we are talk­ing about is [inequal­i­ty has been the great­est that it has ever been] and we need to do some­thing about it! The top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bot­tom 99%. Maybe that is why we need to over­turn Cit­i­zens Unit­ed.” There are loud cheers from the audi­ence, how­ev­er chant­i­ng sounds can still be heard from Black Lives Matter.

11:36: Sanders con­tin­ues say­ing that a lit­mus test he will use to appoint Supreme Court Jus­tices is that they will be in favor of over­turn­ing the Cit­i­zens Unit­ed case. There was more dis­rup­tive noise from Black Lives Mat­ters and Sanders tries to speak to them and says “A study came out about youth unem­ploy­ment in Amer­i­ca. White youth have an unem­ploy­ment rate of 33%. His­pan­ic youth have an unem­ploy­ment rate of 36%. African-Amer­i­cans have an unem­ploy­ment rate of 51%! It is time to invest in jobs and edu­ca­tion and not jails and incar­cer­a­tion.” There is applause from the audience.

11:40: Sanders con­tin­ues “The only way in my view to trans­form Amer­i­ca is to turn a grass-roots move­ment into a polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion.” Sanders states that he is the only pres­i­den­tial can­di­date that will say that there will need to be a polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion to achieve what has to be done. “This coun­try needs to work for all of us and not just for a hand­ful of us.” Applause from the audi­ence tem­porar­i­ly drowns out the chants of Black Lives Matter.

11:45: Black Lives Mat­ter become loud and dis­rup­tive again. Bernie waits and then tries to speak to them again “Black peo­ple are dying in this coun­try because we have a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem that is out of con­trol. A black male baby has a 1 in 4 chance of being jailed.” Noise from Black Lives Mat­ter con­tin­ues. Bernie con­tin­ues by say­ing “What we are going to do is make tuition free for all pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. We are going to push poli­cies to cre­ate decent jobs with decent wages. We are going to repair and improve out crum­bling infra­struc­ture and fun­da­men­tal­ly reform police agencies.”

11:50 A Black Lives Mat­ter yells out some­thing like “How are you going to help us?” Sanders answers by talk about the Afford­able Care Act mak­ing health­care avail­able to the poor and that $12 mil­lion was used to invest in com­mu­ni­ty health­care cen­ters in poor areas of the coun­try. The noise from Black Lives Mat­ter grows louder.

11:53 Sanders is ques­tioned about his “no” vote on the 2007 immi­gra­tion bill. Sanders explains that there were too many cor­po­rate give­aways in that bill. He says that the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce real­ly want­ed that bill to pass. He con­tin­ues “Why does the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce want immi­gra­tion reform? The good part of the bill is that it will take 11 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants out of the shad­ows. The not so good part is the increase in H‑1B Visas and oth­er guest work­er Visas that will bring cheap labor to the U.S.” Bernie con­tin­ues say­ing that he vot­ed for the last immi­gra­tion bill because it had a pro­vi­sion to cre­ate jobs for youth, which is a very impor­tant issue for him. Bernie stress­es that he is against cor­po­rate inter­ests that try to add provisions

11:57: Black lives Mat­ter con­tin­ues loud chant­i­ng. Bernie con­tin­ues to talk over them say­ing “The prob­lem is the con­gress that we have is not for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. We have a lot of work to do to change con­gress.” There is applause. Sanders returns to the sub­ject of edu­ca­tion and says that he has intro­duced a bill for free tuition at pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. Sanders tries to con­tin­ue to talk about the stu­dent debt cri­sis but the dis­rup­tion just becomes too much. Sanders ends his speech and walks off the stage.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “America needs progressive leadership: A town hall with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley”

  1. Sounds like Hillary found a way to dis­rupt an event that was only going to help her main com­peti­tors in her race to the whitehouse.

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