Yesterday evening, my 15-year old son William and I drove out to Manassas, VA, to see and hear Bernie Sanders. The rally began at 7:30 officially with Sanders due to appear at about 8. Here are my thoughts and experiences as they occurred.
1) The police did an outstanding job herding thousands of vehicles and people onto the Prince William County fairgrounds. Although people kept arriving during the first 15 minutes of Bernie’s speech, they kept cars moving through the one entrance and to designated parking areas remarkably efficiently.
2) The crowd size was significant but not extraordinary. There were several sections of bleachers that had been erected and were filled. Also, the area in front of the podium was jammed when we arrived at about 8:05. Sanders took the podium soon after.
3) Most of the folks there were white gen Xers or younger.
4) Bernie opened his remarks with a call for unity. “We will win when we all stand together – black and white, gay and straight, poor and working and middle class.”
5) Sanders built the case for his Presidency like an indefatigable beaver building a dam. He spent a few minutes on each topic then moved on. His calls for free higher education at state universities and colleges, a living wage, and more jobs resonated especially strongly with the mostly younger crowd.
6) Sanders hit all the progressive high notes. Beyond the economic justice issues highlighted above, he also said the first obligation of the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military is to do everything possible not to use it. He called out the Walton and Koch families by name as controlling far too much wealth and using it to corrupt the system. He said that anybody he nominated to the Supreme Court would have to have demonstrated a commitment to overturn Citizens United. He bemoaned the fact that most Americans are getting relatively poorer.
7) Given that Sanders needs support from Democrats of color, he waited too long to address racial justice issues but the 10-15 minutes he devoted to them were the most powerful of his speech. Here are the pertinent tweets I sent out in real time:
“Bernie sez end police militarization.”
“Bernie sez no more private for profit prisons.”
“Bernie sez police forces must look like communities they police.”
“Bernie sez police who break the law must be prosecuted.”
“Bernie sez rethink drug war.”
“Bernie sez we need pathway from prison society to free society.”
8) Bernie ended the speech by calling for a comprehensive immigration policy that includes a pathway to citizenship.
9) I was amazed at how much energy 73 year-old Bernie showed during the one hour he was under the kliegs. His passion never flagged and he stayed right on point. What made this especially impressive is that earlier in the day Bernie had spent several hours at an event at Liberty University a nearly three hour drive south of Manassas.
10) After Bernie spoke, I asked several police officers for their estimate of the crowd size. The sergeant said he thought about 2,700. This seemed precisely right to me although I have no experience determining crowd size by eyeball. Interestingly the write-up in today’s Washington Post notes the crowd was “an estimated 8,000 people” and snarled traffic around the fairgrounds. I can certainly confirm the accuracy of the latter statement.
11) Bernie Sanders is a highly intelligent articulate progressive. He champions the issues that are most important to me as no other candidate in this race does. He may not possess the charisma of Barack Obama or the bankroll of Donald Trump or the fundraising prowess of Hillary Clinton, but I am cautiously optimistic that his message can see him through to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.