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Making History with Bernie Sanders


Bernie Sanders in Cloverdale

by Tish Levee

On Friday night nearly 6,000 people crowded onto the tarmac at the Cloverdale Municipal Airport to see and hear Bernie Sanders. It was standing-room only.

I was there with a friend, and because of mobility limitations, we were seated in the ADA section to the right of the podium – right next to the airfield and the mobile fence where Bernie and his family walked by. My friend, also a senior but several years younger than I, shared that she had been too young to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. or to go to Woodstock, but now she felt that being here was the same thing – a once-in-a-lifetime event.

It was a real down-home celebration, with people from not just Sonoma County, but Lake, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties, a lot of them young, but quite a few seniors like myself. A young man from Monterey, who said he had “opened for Bernie” there a few days earlier, played guitar and harmonica before a young woman from Arcata led us in the Star Spangled Banner. Two more speakers, one of them the mayor of Cloverdale, talked about the campaign and encouraged everyone to make the next four days count.

When Arizona’s Raúl Grijalva, the first member of Congress to endorse Bernie, introduced him, he came walking down the field from his car in the north, flanked by Secret Service, and holding his grandson’s hand. They were accompanied by his wife Jane, and their daughter and granddaughter, all of whom he introduced from the podium – saying, “This is my family, who just flew in from Vermont.”

This may have been one of his smaller rallies to date, and as he said, it’s probably the first time a presidential candidate has come to Cloverdale. Explaining that he hadn’t mistaken where he was, he said he loved rural America and felt it was important to get out to rural parts of the state.

In a bit over an hour, Bernie hit on all of his issues, in some cases drawing on the differences between him and Secy. Clinton. When he took on Donald Trump, the crowd booed, as they did when he laid out the problems faced by various sectors of our society. The crowd responded when he spoke of the need for “social justice, economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice,” saying it was “too late for status quo politics and status quo economics”, adding “we need real change in this country.”

He ending by talking about the primary on Tuesday, June 7th. “From my experience, if there’s a large voter turnout, we will win. If there is a very large voter turnout, we will win with a big margin. But let’s be honest. If there’s a low voter turnout, we will lose. That’s just the facts. I’m asking all of you to do everything you can.” Then he asked us to take our aunt, our uncle, our parents, our children, anyone we could think of to the polls on Tuesday. “California, tell the World you’re in the Political Revolution.”

Since May 9, Sanders has held 30 rallies in California, pledging to reach a quarter-million Californians before the primary; he said that so far his campaign had reached nearly 1.4 million people. Campaigning right up until election day, his Get-Out-the-Vote concert on June 6th may draw as many as 100,000 people to Crissy Field in San Francisco.

The mainstream media is finally beginning to notice Sen. Sanders’ campaign. This small (for Sanders) rally was mentioned not just in the local Press Democrat, but also in the Guardian, the Daily Mail, and on KCBS in San Francisco. One wonders what this campaign would have been like if the media had paid more attention earlier to Bernie Sanders, instead of focusing so much on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Because reporting of his rallies and speeches has been so limited, I am summarizing his speech here for those who want to know more about this once-in-a-lifetime candidate (yes, full disclosure – I am prejudiced, as I not only believe he is the best candidate, but the only one who can beat Donald Trump, a person whose election I feel would be truly disastrous for our country, the world and the planet, and the future.)

Synopsis of Bernie Sanders’ Speech in Cloverdale

During his speech, he talked about overturning Citizen’s United; our broken criminal justice system and demilitarizing police forces; the war on drugs and the need to remove marijuana from the same category as heroin; and reforming our mental health system, especially in regards to the need to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue. He advocated raising the minimum wage to $15 and hour, not $12; gender pay equity; and quality affordable child care. He discussed how the GOP’s “family values” was a distortion of same and directly abridged women’s rights; and the rights of same-sex couples to marry. He said a society is judged by how we treat our most fragile and vulnerable people and spoke of the need to expand Social Security. He said we needed to support our youth and develop the best educated work force in the world by having free public education extend through college – “this is what America is supposed to be about.” 

To loud cheers, he spoke about Latinos and how undocumented people were exploited, promising that if Congress did not pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, he would use the executive powers of the presidency to “do all I can.” Again cheers accompanied his talking about African-Americans and what their lives were like, as he had seen it in places such as Flint, MI and Baltimore. He added that we need to change our national priorities so that people in pockets of poverty aren’t dying younger than their parents did. “Instead of spending trillions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq, and rebuilding communities in Afghanistan, we need to rebuild our inner cities and rural communities here in America,” he said, as the crowd cheered. 

He spoke of his meeting an hour and a half earlier with Native American leaders here in California. Wild cheering broke out when he said, “They have so enriched our culture. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay.” He went on to talk about the Native American’s lesson that as human beings we are part of nature, saying, “If we continue to destroy nature…we will ultimately destroy the human species.” He promised that “together we will fundamentally change the relationship of the Federal Government to the Native American people.”

Then he got to what for me is the most important issue in this election: Climate Change. “It is real; it is caused by human action; it is already causing devastating problems. We have a moral responsibility as custodians to leave this Earth in a way that is healthy and habitable for my grandchildren and for future generations.” To do this we must take on the fossil fuel industry and let them know that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the world; he added that we are going to lead the world in the transition to renewable energy. “We can and must do more – more solar, more wind.” He talked about the ways in which the GOP is tied to the fossil fuel industry, saying that this was another way in which corrupt campaign financing hurt us and suggesting that these politicians, “Forget about your campaign contributions. Worry about the future of this planet.”

Of course, he spoke about health care, saying that the Affordable Care Act made some gains, “but we still have a long way to go.” He especially indicted the greed of the Pharmaceutical Industry. Because many Americans are still uninsured or underinsured or have no money for copays, he said every year 40,000 Americans die because they don’t get to a doctor when they should. The answer to this is Medicare for All, a single payer system such as every other major country has.

Saying that “real change never takes place from the top down – always from the bottom up,” he talked about times in American history when people stood up for their rights. When people fought against slavery, when they fought for workers’ rights and trade unions, when women fought for the vote and other rights, even just ten years ago when LGBT people fought for the right to marry, change came about because people were willing to stand up and fight for it. He quoted Frederick Douglass, “Nobody gives you freedom, you have to stand up and fight for it.”

He wrapped up by talking about how many people the campaign, once thought to be a “fringe” campaign, had reached – nearly 1.4 million! and the profound questions that we have begun asking ourselves. How over the last 30 years the middle class has been shrinking? Why have we the highest rate of childhood poverty of most any country? Why is our infrastructure is collapsing? Why do we have no paid family leave? Why corporations making billions of profits stash them in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and pay no taxes? Why hedge fund managers pay an effective tax rate less than police officers or firefighters? Why do we have huge student debt? Why our health care is so expensive? Why we aren’t taking on the fossil fuel industry?

Then he reiterated that it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. “We need a political revolution. We need to stand up and fight back and demand that government present all of us and not just the 1%.”

From his experience he told us, “If there’s a large voter turnout, we will win. If there is a very large voter turnout, we will win with a big margin. But let’s be honest. If there’s a low voter turnout, we will lose. That’s just the facts. I’m asking all of you to do everything you can.” Then he asked us to take our aunt, our uncle, our parents, our children, anyone we could think of to the polls on Tuesday. “California, tell the World you’re in the Political Revolution.”


© Tish Levee, 2015