“because I’m tired of the puppet show, tired of the games Democrats and Republicans play pretending to be enemies until their corporate bosses need something passed. Then it gets passed really easily.” Chris Vardijan at the Vallejo Bernie Rally, as quoted in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
“Young people ought to have the right to vote for their future, ” Bernie Sanders at the San Jose Rally.
I went to a Bernie Rally last Wednesday… and somewhere in the middle of his speech, around when he was talking about going all the way to the Convention, Bernie said something like, “I have the support of more young people than any other candidate and young people ought to have the right to vote for their future”. It brought me up short. My generation, the Greater Baby Boomer Generation for lack of a better descriptor, has not been a good steward of their future, or our planet, or our democracy, or, even, the economy in whose name we have been trashing our planet and distorting our democracy. Yet we still think we know best. Huge numbers of young people have been brought into the system and are supporting Bernie because they don’t think we do know best, they do not like our decisions for their future, and as Bernie points out, it is really their future that we are all voting on.
When I asked the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Bernie kids why they were for Bernie, they said “That’s easy, Education and the Economy.” That is at the top of their list because education and an economy that works for them is what they value. What we think and say we can afford, as individuals and as a nation, depends on what we value. When Hillary says we can not afford to have free college education, it is because that is not something she values enough to move up her list and these young people know it. These kids do not want perpetual war – and it has been perpetual war since most of them were alive – they do not consider war valuable and Hillary does, she thinks ISIS or Islamic Fundamentalism, or whatever you want to call it, is a major threat to the United States. I think she is wrong, I think educating our children and protecting our planet is more important to our long-term survival than bombing tribal chiefs in Afghanistan, or the Middle East, or North Africa, or even Sub Saharan Africa, but what I think isn’t particularly important, what is important is what these young people think and they think Hillary is wrong.But it wasn’t only young people at the Rally, there were lots of what we used to call minorities and a sprinkling of older people.
When I asked the woman standing next to me, a self-described healer from Santa Cruz about my age, why she is for Bernie,she said, “He is a real human being not a politician pretending to be human.” At the Rally, Bernie’s passion is not canned, his message is deeply felt – although it seems to be his standard stump speech – and it resonates with this crowd as being much truer than an applause line. He is not a particularly good speaker, looking down often at his notes – and like everybody else there, I am sure they were his notes and not a focus group tested line written by a speechwriter – but that only adds to his authenticity. This is a major part of Bernie’s allure, one sign said Not polished, not packaged, not for sale, Bernie Sanders, and maybe that lack of packaging and professionalism – as shallow as it is – along with his age, is part of why I find it hard to be as excited about Bernie as I was about Obama. The first rally I went to for Obama was about as big as this rally and it wasn’t any better organized but it was in a nightclub in May 2007 – eight months before the first primary – and this rally was in the hot sun, four and a half months after that primary.
The Rally itself was in a strange court, on the Santa Clara County Fairground, with stands seating maybe 150 people each, facing each other – and Bernie – at right angles, but most of us stood on the macadam nearby, and it was hot as hell in the sun. When I got back on the Freeway on the way home, the car thermometer said 94° so it must have been close to 90° on the court with no shade, after parking in a dirt parking lot – for ten bucks – and walking about a mile, including a long dirt back alley – past a dirt bike park and an even stranger looking paintball court – before we got to the Secret Service checkpoint. I was worried it would turn people off but that was obviously just projection on my part. A general cognitive dissonance reduction field must have cranked in because nobody seemed particularly upset. Although nobody seemed particularly joyous either. This seemed less like a party than a group of people who were very aware that they are getting the short end of the stick. They listened to Bernie and cheered for Bernie because they believe him and, more importantly, they know he believes in them. FiveThirtyEight gives Hillary a 93% percent chance of winning California and that would almost certainly give her the nomination. That brings up the question, Will Bernie’s supporters switch to Hillary? and I think, in most cases, No! These do not, in the overwhelming majority, seem like the usual political junkies. They are people who think Hillary is part of the puppet show. They do not seem like a group who will easily switch over to the Establishment’s choice for the nominee and Bernie did not seem like the kind of politician who will go quietly into the night. He is more concerned about the message and the cause than the party and so are most of his followers.