Bernie Sanders is the kindest “radical” I have ever heard speak. I suspect that’s what makes him scary to The Powers That Be — the extremely wealthy and the extremely powerful who make up 1/10th of 1 percent or 1 percent of America today. Contrary to Larry David’s Saturday Night Live impersonation, today at a rally in Hartford, CT, Bernie told it like it is but never said a violent thing in his hour-long speech. There were no “bomb Iran”, there were no “kick out this group or that group”. There was no hatred for anyone, but there was truth.
As the rally began, I was actually worried about his chances, because — contrary to 20,000 people in New York City or on a college campus, it seemed like there were maybe 1,000 people here. By the end of the rally, though, that number had doubled or tripled in size.The early people looked very much like the people sent to the sofa in the frat house of the movie “Animal House”. They were — for the cameras to see — weird. There was a person in front of me with a black coat painted with a transgender rights symbol and painted on words like, “Stop thinking clothes have a gender”. There was a guy on my right with a marijuana headband who kept saying “Light one up for Bern!”. There were tired men and women in the bleachers behind the podium. There were women wearing Islamic head scarfs in the same bleachers. There were more piercings and ear holes and colored hair than anyplace I had seen in a long-time. I grew sad as I saw their numbers and their composition until I realized that these were the hippies of today’s generation — the great unwashed intellectuals fighting The Establishment of today. They are the people that no one else cares about winning their vote. In short, these are the people that Jesus cared about — the ones who threw palms at his feet because that’s what they had. As I saw the Muslim women, I grew said because I realized in that moment that these are the people who will die if Trump gets elected. They were there not just to support Bernie. They were there for their own self-preservation.
An African-American minister came out for a few minutes and spoke about his local church and the incredible unemployment around his church. He spoke as a community organizer about things in the local neighborhood that nobody ever talks about because nobody knows his neighborhood, because no one ever goes to his neighborhood. In short, he was just a local guy who cared about his community. Later, Jim Dean, of Democracy for America came out and he spoke about why DFA was supporting Bernie: because they had asked people who they wanted between Hillary and Bernie and — when 3/4 of people said they wanted Bernie, that’s who they supported. He lost a little street cred when he mentioned he was from Fairfield (a rich city here) but gained respect with his rolled up sleeves and rumpled suit jacket. He was a worker, and a tireless one, in the old mold of community organizing.
Then the man himself spoke. He looked tired and was a bit hoarse, carrying his handwritten notes to the podium. Once he got going, though, any tiredness was gone. He was speaking from his heart about things that mattered to him. Lots of things mattered to him. Lots of people mattered to him. He wants things like families that can support themselves on one income while someone raises the kids. He wants marriages to succeed because people don’t have to never see each other while they make enough money to live. He spoke of money being poorly spent on Big Banks and the Walton Family through our system while workers at Walmart had to get food stamps at most people’s expense. He spoke about fairness over-and-over. Clearly having read the Constitution, he talks about things like “one person, one vote” and “equal justice under the law” and believing that the law should apply equally to everyone — from the kid who got busted with a joint to the CEO who didn’t serve any time for destroying the lives of millions 8 years ago. Sanders questioned and didn’t support the new anti-LGBT laws being passed and said “That’s the state’s right, but there should be no federal support for such things (he acknowledge the actual limited power of the president as written in the Constitution).
Sanders wants corporations not to write trade bills, but our elected officials to do it. He wants everyone to get to vote (even conservatives!) instead of limiting voting rights. He wants people to have jobs that match their skills, he wants colleges to teach people that want to do that and jobs for people who don’t. He spoke about the criminal justice system and how bad it was, while saying clearly that most cops are good, hardworking, decent people doing a difficult job. He didn’t tell them how to do their jobs. He fine-tuned their jobs by saying that “they should be trained to have deadly force be their last option instead of their first”. He thought we could use some of the money we’re now spending on for-profit jails to do that. When he finally got around to Native Americans and how important they were for us to learn from, he got to the heart of the matter. To my knowledge, since native Americans are from their own nations, they don’t get to vote in American ones. Here was a politician who was caring for people who can’t even vote for him. That’s not politically smart, but it is moral genius on the level of Santa Claus at Macy’s sending people to Gimbels in Miracle on 42nd Street. It brings back humanity and hope. It makes us believe in goodness again when people do things because they are right, rather than expedient.
Bernie Sanders is that guy. You should vote for him. I’m going to.