Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles

August 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


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Senator Bernie Sanders brought his politics to Los Angeles and I joined some 30,000 other people to hear him shout.

Running as Presidential Candidate for 2016, Bernie rolled into town as part of his countrywide travels to speak with ordinary folk, only to find enormous crowds turning out to every engagement.  With total refusal for corporate backing, Bernie is surprising many by filling out giant sports venues with passionate supporters every week.  

Here in LA the line went all the way around the block to get in, and had the buzzing atmosphere of a sold-out rock concert with people sporting Bernie t-shirts, vans hand-painted with ‘Feel the Bern’ slogans, and plenty of new friends to be made whilst we waited a whole two hours to get in.  And of course the entrepreneurial spirit of America is never too far away, with locals retailing home made Bernie pin badges and ‘left-wing Lemonade' for $5 whilst crying out "support the working man, buy my stuff".

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A common introductory question from said new friends was “what group are you with?”, referring to Bernie’s call for a grassroots movement of self-organizing campaign teams across the country.  “We are with Freaks 4 Bernie", we would say, explaining our beloved collection of artist/weirdo/drop-out/queer/freegan/hipster/biker friends assembling just across town in a Los Angeles commune .  I can’t remember the names of the groups we encountered, but lets just pretend it was “College Geek Bernie Fanboys 4 Bernie”, “Hispanic Mothers + Kids 4 Bernie”, and “Mature Lesbian Schoolteachers 4 Bernie”.  

We met plenty of young people who had never voted and until recently saw politics as as closed shop.  We chatted about globalization, post-capitalism and the attempt to positively define ‘socialism’ to a reluctant America.  We met lots of people seizing opportunity for various other progressive causes, sporting clipboards and stickers and wanting signatures for petitions on fracking et al.  The line felt like a temporary community and spirits were high.

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Once inside we picked a spot on the arena floor right in front of the podium.  Bernie was prefaced by speakers from unions, nurses and a climate change expert.  Oh and Sarah Silverman came out for the complimentary celeb touch.  Then the good ol’guy himself came out to Uprising by Muse and rapturous applause from a crowd pumped on ideas and dreams and hope and spirit.  Bernie signs were waved and a million camera phones directed towards him.  Then he spoke for a whole hour on his agenda, his potent Brooklyn NY drawl laying out the plan to fix pretty much everything, each faithful sentiment punctuated by screams and whoops and cheers and more sign waving from his allegiant audience.  Bright pixels forming star spangled banners draped across giant video screens behind him.  It felt properly American and I was totally taken by the vibe.  I decided it was like how politics probably should present itself; big and loud and frenzied, even if you are preaching to the converted.  The crowding and poor ventilation created a thick, sweltering air, furthering the resemblance of Bernie as more rock star than state senator.  The kids love him.  My wife loves him.  I think I might love him too, so our house gives Bernie Sanders our full confidence and support!


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Bernie Sanders introduced by comedian Sarah Silverman

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In case you don’t keep up with the brash circus of American politics, Bernie is a wispy old white guy running for the 2016 presidential nomination on the Democrat ticket.  Currently an independent in the US Senate, at 73 has done everything from town mayor to governor God-knows-what-else in public servitude.  He’s a real old-fashioned leftie, a self-proclaimed "Democratic Socialist”, a union man who talks loudly with sleeves rolled up and a defiant fist in the air about equal rights, fairness and other useful human values that the rest of the political shit show seems to have abandoned.  He marched next to MLK in the 60’s, he rallied for pro-abortion in the 70’s, he was there for gay rights in the 80’s when nobody else was, and for the past few years he’s been dedicated to major issues like income inequality, slumping wages, criminal justice reform and welfare cuts.  He sat on the board that grilled Ben Bernanke and the psycho bankers after the recession.  He’s also the only American politician saying anything coherent against big money and corporate power in politics (which has grown exponentially over the past 5 years and is now unlimited by law - see Citizens United), and in fact his presidential campaign is proudly straplined with “not paid for by Billionaires”.  He cannot be bought and there are plenty of people that are finding his approach very refreshing indeed.

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Of course, we know from history that the ideas are anything but fresh: progressive politics of the far left have always been appealing for working people at times of mass political and economic disruption (I’ve learned recently there were some bright leftie candidates here in the US during post-Vietnam 70’s decline of industry, much like the aggression against Thatcher back home in England, and in neither case did things work out any better for common people).

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But still, there is something attractive and at the very least well timed about Bernie’s rise to mainstream popularity.  We young supporters have grown up with deeply entrenched cynical attitudes towards politics and its efficacy; it is the norm to feel distrust of representatives and utter disenfranchisement from the political process.  I have always been politically conscious, and yet for the most part I find politics to be a non-discussion, something to be avoided at dinner parties and ignored with friends not because it is divisive but because we all know, regardless of opinion or persuasion, that the system is terminally broken.  In my adult lifetime, I have not encountered a single politician I could back for even a handful of their policy ideas, and thats before you get into the more intuitive judgement of things like character and personal values (they’re mostly slithering, fawning shills to our lizard overlords, right?!)

And yet here is this man, this old white man from white-bred and leafy Vermont, standing up and speaking his mind on critical issues, upholding decent virtues of human life such as fairness and justice and helping the needy.  Heck, he even has a reasonable agenda for hot potatoes like immigration and the de trop “defense” budget.  He and his ideas might not be new, but it is this sense of integrity, of realness, that is gaining him considerable ground on his Democrat adversary Hillary Clinton (current polls put HillBilly as a certainty for the D-nomination), and is proving very attractive to young people tickled by that old fashioned feeling that “we can change the world”.

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And my wife - a girl otherwise occupied by more immediately personal endeavors - has been flourishing in Bernie mania.  

Indeed, life may well have passed her thus far without much thought to voter turnout and electoral colleges and ‘Purple states’ (and thats ok because, well, its all very boring stuff really), but now there is this sense of urgency that, actually, we might just be able to make things better for more of society, and its all prompted by Bernie Sanders.  Her unrelenting hunger for more information brings into focus big issues like tax evasion, GMO crops, foreign policy, the gender pay gap, and every day she’s educating herself via news and articles and documentaries.  She’s like Johnny 5 in Short Circuit when he reads a book in seconds (INNNNPUT!), and honestly i’m struggling to keep up.  There’s hardly anything else to talk about right now.  Nothing seems relevant or even interesting.  Kelsey regularly turns to social media and specifically her immense Instagram following to challenge people and create dialogue.  The feedback is mostly positive although I know she’s butted heads with some conservative goons along the way, and also tussled with ample of that leftie apathy (“I agree but its still not worth voting”), which is arguably much more frustrating.  Flirting between despair (Kelsey: “argh, everything is bad and poisonous and we’re all gonna die") and conviction (Kelsey: “we can do this!  I believe!”), she is demonstrating a wave of passionate critical thinking I have not seen before now*, and it is a truly beautiful thing.  This is a powerful new journey for us in our marriage; together we talk the tough stuff, we explore ideas, we can even watch political satire such as Bill Maher and enjoy the in-jokes and the snide mockery together - oh, what joy!  I finally have a side-kick!

Of course, I attempt to keep some balance with a mix of encouragement (Me: “This is really happening and I believe in you!”) and a sense of grounding (Me: “be sure to check the opposition, oh and don’t swing all the way to the left: you will lose friends and alienate people!”), but i’m also trying not to get in the way.  We are learning together, and it gives new, exciting purpose to each day.

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I think she's into this: my very smart and incredible wife at Bernie's rally

*FOOTNOTE: on reading this my wife says I come off as a little condescending, and although it may be pointless to defend myself against this opinion I'd like to say that Kelsey has always been interested in dignity, personal values, the world around her, and is in her words "moved by nice things happening to nice people".  In that sense she has always been deeply political.  She is not, nor has she ever been, stupid!  Sorry Kelsey.



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