Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his presidential campaign to Norfolk's Scope Arena Tuesday, where he urged the crowd to support his effort to "radically rethink the way we do politics."
Sanders was introduced by former Virginia Del. Michael Futrell, a one-time rising African-American star in the state Democratic Party who unsuccessfully sought nomination to a state Senate seat in 2015. Futrell told the crowd, "welcome to the revolution," saying the presidential race was "about us as a collective."
An unusually subdued Sanders took the podium and launched into an hour-long discussion of the issues he sees holding back America's poor and working class families.
At the top of his list: corporate donors who control political campaigns, economic inequality, institutional racism, and a corporate media elite that refuses to tell the whole story.
"If politicians don't listen to the pain of the American people," Sanders said, "they are going to learn what unemployment is all about."
Sanders painted his campaign as telling uncomfortable truths to those in power. "The establishment is getting very, very nervous," he said, because, "we are doing something very radical in American politics. We are telling the truth. We are listening to the American people.
"The truth is there is a lot of pain in this country," he added, "pain that the media isn’t going to talk about. Our job is to talk about the pain, talk about the reality of American life and how we go forward."
In response to the Hillary Clinton campaign's recent charge that Sanders is a single issue, anti-Wall Street candidate, he linked his assault on the capital markets to the plight of American workers and minorities, bashing trade deals that he says have shipped American jobs overseas and given to workers who make "pennies an hour."
When some in the audience voiced their disapproval at his mention of Clinton's name, Sanders said, "No, no. I respect secretary Clinton, [but] we have some differences."
But Sanders' biggest applause lines were reserved for his campaign's "listening to young people," particularly those laboring under large amounts of student debt.
The crowd also roared its approval at his pledge to end income inequality, the pay gap between men and women, and his embrace of expanding gay rights.
Sanders returned to his base message against large corporations by promising to tax their foreign profits in order to pay for infrastructure projects here at home.
He also took a swing at Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, linking the New York real estate developer to the moneyed interests that Sanders believes control the political process.
Telling the audience that if "you don’t participate in the political process," Sanders said, "the big money interests will win out all of the time. Do not allow the Trumps of the world to divide us up."
Sanders' stop in Virginia, a key swing state in the November general election, follows his narrow loss to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. Virginia is one of 11 states where voters will cast ballots on March 1.