Support For Bernie Sanders In Conservative Arizona Was Off The Charts Saturday Night (OP-ED)

Phoenicians felt the ‘Bern’ last night and it wasn’t the hundred degree weather for a change

I spent my Saturday night with the charismatic U.S. Senator from Vermont, who spoke at the Phoenix Convention Center (PCC) as part of his campaign tour. For an old man, he’s a rock star. The energy was high in the center.

The Democratic candidate settled on the PCC after changing locations because the original location, Comerica stadium in Tempe, AZ (Max Cap. 5,000), wasn’t large enough to hold the crowd that RSVP’d to the event online. The PCC has a max occupancy of 10,000, but can be expanded to hold around 12,000 and it was jam-packed last night.

The first thing Sanders said when he took the stage was:

We’ve had large turnouts in Wisconsin and Colorado, but this, is the largest turnout!

Somebody told me Arizona is a conservative state. Somebody told me the people here are giving up on the political process. That’s not what I see here tonight!

It’s reported that a record 12.6k people attended the event. In a red state. A state where Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, showing that support may have shifted. The center was jam-packed with a diverse bunch of liberals from virtually every walk of life — from millennials to the elderly, the disabled, veterans, students, parents, hipsters, hippies, and environmental types of every race and gender. I suspect some were even Republicans.

When Trump visited Arizona last weekend, he hosted his event at the same location in Phoenix and only 4,200 doughy, and mostly white supporters with angry scowls showed up. In a border state who adores Sheriff Joe Arpaio and enjoyed former Gov. Jan Brewer’s finger wagging in President Obama’s face, the turnout for the two events is a bit reversed given a majority of voters align more closely with Trump’s anti-immigration stances.

I’m not complaining.


A sad attempt at diversity. Via YouTube (Screen Capture)

The Sanders rally gave me some hope. See, I’m a Phoenix native and the political climate here can be stifling. I can’t talk to most acquaintances, neighbors, friends and family about this stuff because we don’t agree politically and sometimes it feels like I’m all alone in my party here in this red state. Last night was the Night of the Living Liberals.

I went to Sanders’ event with two questions on my mind:

1. Is Bernie Sanders electable?

I have a lot of political conversations online and a recurring theme this week was, “Bernie Sanders isn’t electable, he’s just too extreme/unlikable/socialist. Hillary Clinton is the safe bet.”

Let me preface this by saying, I’m not anti-Clinton and see the reasons people support her as valid and she may seem like a safe bet, but she comes with her own election obstacles too — it’s always a gamble. She’s qualified, she’s capable, she comes with a former President at her side, and she has the chops. I’m not bashing her, Bernie Sanders is just playing my song. The Republicans may have A LOT of choices, but Democrats have good choices.

Is Sen. Sanders electable? I wasn’t sure and confess I have my doubts. He’s a different sort of fellow. Old school. Outspoken. Unapologetic but compassionate as the day is long. Genuine. But, then I think about the fact that half the country thought Jim Inhofe (R-OK) throwing a snowball in the Senate to prove climate change wasn’t real was a good argument, and I feel panicked that maybe Bernie is too good for us.

Saturday night was like seeing your favorite rock band live for the first time. Sanders is a force — a rare bird. He may not be a candidate who can easily win, but, in my humble opinion, he is the President America needs most.

The Vermont Senator talked about breaking up the big banks, an issue both Republicans and Democrats should agree needs to happen so that banks that are still too big to fail don’t cause another recession or require another bailout.

He talked about healthcare and education as a right to all Americans. An issue that affects both Republicans and Democrats, because families are having a hard time paying for-profit insurance and medical bills. Many young people have a hard time going to college because they can’t afford for-profit schooling.

He talked about taking care of war veterans — an issue both parties can agree is of major importance.

He talked about racial inequality and youth joblessness. He let us know that our social security was at stake should a Republican become President. He reaffirmed that the biggest threat to the world’s future was climate change citing super weather events destroying cities to food shortages and the conflicts those cause. Something every human being should care about.

Everything on his agenda spoke for Americans.

The audience ate it up. As for myself, he repeated everything I’ve been saying for the past decade and it was nice to hear a politician say it so unapologetically where most candidates would try to mince words. It was refreshing to say the least.

From what I saw Saturday night, and what other polls are showing, Sanders has a chance to turn the primaries around. If he goes to the national stage, he has a good chance of becoming President, given the defunct Red Team lineup who can’t stop insulting every single demographic aside from wealthy white males. Despite what protesters say now, when the Democrats agree on someone, we can get them elected. When we circle our wagons we can accomplish whatever we want to. And one thing remains certain, a right wing Congress, a Republican Presidential administration and Supreme Court Justice seats possibly opening up for more conservatives is not a world I want to live in.

2. Will his lack of campaign money make a huge difference?

The other debate that was prevalent over the past few weeks has been, “Bernie doesn’t have the funds to back him, and won’t take money, and it will be problematic for his campaign.”

I think it’s the best thing about Sanders. The stadium full of liberals seemed to agree on this point. He’s a politician who won’t be bought, he isn’t a sell-out, he isn’t a puppet and he isn’t sorry about it. Even if he loses because of it, he has proven the point that money shouldn’t decide outcomes of political races. If he wins, it will prove money isn’t necessary when you have good ideas.

While Bernie does have major support from his base, his supporters are the peasants, and we’re broke, which is why we need Sanders in the first place, but we aren’t going to be matching the Koch’s campaign donations any time soon.

The Koch’s are throwing almost one billion dollars into the election — which as Sanders said is more money than the Republican party and the Democratic party is putting into the election combined.

Sanders said of Citizens United:

The American Political system has been totally corrupted and the foundations of American democracy are being left behind.

Citing that the Supreme Court had allowed the wealthiest Americans to buy democracy with the Citizens United ruling.

The second-wealthiest family in America, being the Koch brothers, will try to buy the election, Sanders said:

That is not democracy, that is oligarchy!

And the crowd went wild.

The money the Koch’s and RNC are bringing to the table is nothing to shrug off. Sanders will have less political ads and he outright refuses to run attack ads on his opponents, which is a first for a Presidential campaign in recent history, but could prove problematic come election time. But Sanders’ no-attack strategy has worked out well for him in the past, having never lost an election and having never attacked an opponent.

I was impressed by Sanders and suggest you go see him if he comes to your state. Whether he wins the nomination or not, he’s lighting a fire under Americans asses and #IfeeltheBern .

Because as Bernie says, “Enough is enough!”

Featured Image via AZCentral (Screen Capture)

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