SHELDON, Iowa — "We know that we have to beat Mr. Trump," Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer told voters at a town hall in Sheldon Friday morning.
Noting that just a month remains before the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus, Steyer spent a few minutes explaining why he feels that he is the best candidate to face President Donald Trump, then took questions from audience members.
Steyer said addressing climate change is his top priority, which sets him apart from the other candidates.
"Only the United States can lead the change that has to happen globally," he said.
Although Steyer doesn't support the Green New Deal, he does have an environmental plan that begins with declaring a state of emergency on Day One of his presidency. This step is essential in getting other nations to partner with the U.S. on confronting climate change, he said.
"If we're not putting our own house in order," he asked, "why is India going to listen to us? Or China? Or Brazil? Or Poland or Turkey?
"We have to re-establish the United States as the moral leader of the world," he said.
Steyer added that he has spent 12 years developing his climate plan and is confident that it's the best solution for the earth, but will also create jobs and keep the power in the hands of the people.
Trump will run his 2020 campaign based on economic policy, Steyer said. He posited that the Democratic nominee must be someone who can stand on the debate stage with Trump and win on economics.
Steyer called Trump "a terrible steward of the American economy" and presented his own plan to help working Americans and farmers — ending the trade war immediately, removing tax breaks for the richest Americans and corporations, addressing the trillion-dollar deficit, reinvesting in public education and creating class mobility.
"Someone has got to go on the (debate) stage and say that Mr. Trump is full of baloney," he said. "I can do that."
Steyer called for comprehensive tax reform, stating that mega-billionaire Warren Buffet is in a lower tax bracket than his secretary. He also delivered an impassioned answer on addressing the trillion-dollar deficit.
"This is supposed to be a society that treats people fairly, where people contribute fairly back through a progressive tax system," he said. "We don't have it. So if any Republican — any one of them — tried to say something about the deficit, I would say, 'Do not. Don't. We listened to your guff for decades, and the minute you had control, you blew up the deficit by giving money to rich people. Forget it.' ... I think these Republicans have run this country in a way that is cruel to Americans."
He proposed alleviating the deficit by asking the richest Americans to pay a fair tax rate.
"I'm running because I didn't think anybody was leveling with the American people about the truth," Steyer said. "I didn't think that people were talking about what I think of as a broken government in Washington, D.C. that has been bought by corporations."
He called for structural change in the U.S. government, including 12-year term limits for members of Congress.
"If we want real change, we need new and different people in charge," Steyer said. "I always say, 'Six words: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley.' You want to change the Congress of the United States? Term limits are the way to go."
He added that he believes American citizens should have the right to pass laws by popular vote, rather than relying on Congress to pass bills that are approved by a majority of Americans. He also said he plans to increase the number of seats on the Supreme Court.
Steyer described his vision for government as politicians and the people figuring out solutions to problems cooperatively, rather than government telling the people what to do.
Town hall attendees wanted to know how Steyer plans to work across both sides of the political aisle and facilitate cooperation in Congress.
"There are two ways of thinking about how we're going to succeed as a country and as a Democratic Party," Steyer said. "One is that we're going to meet in the middle with elected Republican officials, and the other is that we are going to go to the grassroots and win profit.
"I'm a grassroots person," he added. "I have no problem with Republican voters — none. As far as I'm concerned, they're American citizens who thought this government didn't serve them, who were mad as hell, and in my mind made a terrible choice about how to break the system. ... But I look at the Republican electeds and I see people who are absolutely not being truthful across the board."
Steyer suggested that rather than trying to work with what he sees as a corrupt Republican party, there should be an increased focus on getting more eligible voters registered and to the polls.
"There are people running for President who are saying, 'I know how to get along with Republicans.' Really? What have you ever done that's gotten along with Republicans? What I see is a party that's denied science; we can't compromise on science. They say overtly racist things; we can't compromise with racists about racism. They're doing things that hurt Americans; we aren't going to do that. We aren't like Republicans — we're actually going to do the right thing," Steyer said.