Bernie Sanders came to town for a campaign rally today. We had to go. My daughters are big fans.
While I’m still a strong supporter of Hillary (and at least one of my daughters is now, too), I agree with them. There’s a lot to like about Bernie.
For one, I love how he’s bringing our young people into the political process. We need them, our youth. We need their ideas and enthusiasm. We need their time and energy. And we need them to vote, in much bigger numbers than they traditionally do. For this alone, there’s a lot to be thankful for in Bernie’s candidacy.
It’s not only young people who support Bernie. In progressive Seattle, his support is much broader. People like his authenticity, his energy and his steadfast beliefs. He has ideas and policies that are further left of Hillary’s and that many Americans support, including free college, a single payer health system, breaking up the big banks, wealth and income equality, criminal justice reform and climate change solutions.
While it’s looking unlikely that Bernie will amass enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, there’s no denying his message is having a big impact nationwide. He’s certainly made Hillary a stronger candidate. They have engaged in substantive and largely respectful debates – and provided a huuuge contrast to how the other side has behaved in this election cycle. No matter which candidate comes out on top the choice is crystal clear: we must vote Democrat for president.
I knew we’d have to go early if we wanted to see Bernie. He wasn’t expected to speak until 5, but by the time we arrived at 11:30 there were already thousands of people queued up. It was going to be a long wait, but we didn’t hesitate. We got in line and waited – for four hours.
It was a festive atmosphere for the most part. Bernie staff and volunteers by the dozens came by with do’s and don’ts from the Secret Service: no backpacks or bags bigger than 14 inches, no food, no water bottles, no signs with sticks, and no pocket knives – like anyone would think that was OK.
Bernie staff and volunteers by the dozens came by asking us to caucus for Bernie and sign a commitment card. (I’ve already signed one for Hillary, but I didn’t tell them that.)
Signature gatherers by the dozens came by asking us to support a gradual increase in the state minimum wage, to $13.50 an hour by 2020, and guaranteed paid sick leave. I signed because I support Bernie’s (and Hillary’s) belief that no one working full time in America should be living in poverty.
Seattle bicycle police came by the dozens, and they just watched. In the whole time we were in line, I didn’t see any skirmishes, not even when staff closed down the end of the line and some of those folks tried to cut the front of the line. Even then, while there were some disagreements, there was no fighting and no physical violence. I also didn’t see any counter protesters, which I thought was a bit unusual.
Parents brought their children and children brought their parents. People came alone and with large groups of friends. We were all part of a respectful and massive line, of over 15,000 by official estimates. We watched as it stretched all the way around the Seattle Center (the equivalent of blocks and blocks) and all the way to the Space Needle.
My daughter had a good laugh when one woman behind us announced she was going to eat a snack. “Does anyone have a peanut allergy?” she yelled.
I cringed at the man handing out copies of a Communist newsletter. He wasn’t doing Bernie any favors by being there. Bernie is no Communist. Fortunately, I saw only a few takers.
A video and speaker system carried a live feed of the musicians entertaining the crowd inside who were lucky enough to get in early. The rest of us inched our way along, patiently waiting for our turn to go through one of two metal detectors and a handful of Secret Service agents at the doors.
When it started to rain we put our hoods up and still we waited with no complaints.
When we finally did get inside it felt like we won the lottery. It was worth every minute we spent in line when Bernie took the stage and I saw my daughters’ smiles. They were huuuge and it was cool.
How often do you get to be part of something bigger than yourselves? How often do you get to be part of crowd so energized for good?
And lastly, how often do parents of teenagers get to spend a whole peaceful afternoon together?
It was awesome.
Go Bernie, go.
(Note: This post as originally private. I changed it to public in May 2016.)