Not Me, Us: The Mobilizing Force of Senator Sanders’s Candidacy
It was the day after the first big winter storm hit Iowa, but this didn’t deter a sizeable crowd from attending Senator Bernie Sanders’ town hall in Newton on Jan. 11. Upon entering the venue, a local middle school, I noticed that there were considerably more older individuals than I had seen present at previous Sanders events; perhaps because of the Des Moines Register poll that had been released the day before putting him in the lead. I also found it worth noting that there was a “check-in” by the entrance where union workers could sign in and pledge their support for the Vermont senator – something I hadn’t seen at other campaign events.
This was not my first Bernie Sanders event, I’ve heard him speak before multiple times – including a couple of events in 2016. However, his message and delivery have remained consistent throughout the years. Sanders walked out to Lennon’s “Power to the People”, and despite how he may appear on television, he is remarkably tall and his presence alone can command a room. In his delivery, Bernie is blunt and unapologetic about who and what he’s advocating for, something that may be off-putting if he hadn’t remained so firm in his identity and advocacy throughout his political career. Something that I’ve noticed from hearing him talk over the years is that even though he reiterates the same stances each time, he does so with a passion and conviction that keeps you entertained – even if, like me, it’s your third or fourth time hearing his spiel.
Sanders detailed the key components of his platform, including raising the minimum wage, combatting climate change, and of course, Medicare for all. The senator then opened the floor up to questions and was quickly taken up on his offer. One younger man, with a very stereotypical hipster beard, asked him about his take on vaping. Bernie replied that he was “not a big fan of it” but recommended that it continued to be studied to gauge the long-term effects on the user. Perhaps the most touching interaction was the 82-year-old man in the front row who stood up and declared that he had been waiting for Bernie Sanders since he was sixteen. It’s this kind of connection to a politician that I haven’t felt before, or really expected to feel ever; someone to act as an agent of change within our communities, someone we could rally around. Whether or not Sanders wins the nomination, his candidacy has sparked smaller movements throughout the country and for many, myself included, reignited the belief that if we come together we truly can make change happen for everyone in this country.
P.S. On a side note, Bernie if you’re reading this, I’ve been trying to get a picture with you for four years – make 2020 the year I finally accomplish this goal. #BernieTakeAPictureWithMe2020