The biggest news about the Bernie Sanders rally in Portland is that we couldn’t get in. My husband, teenage son and I arrived at the Moda Center fifteen minutes before the rally was to begin and joined a long snaking line that expanded geometrically. We finally entered the auditorium only to be told it was at capacity (22,000) and that we would have to listen to Sanders on loudspeaker outside. The Moda Center is Portland’s largest arena, home to the Portland Trailblazers and Bruce Springsteen concerts. But it wasn’t big enough for Bernie Sanders.
Sanders barely addresses some issues that are closest to my heart: our misguided foreign policy; organic agriculture and genetically modified food; gun control; the erosion of civil liberties and the Patriot Act. But economic inequality and corporate power–his passion–is the issue that hits home every day, the issue that binds disparate groups together, the issue that will win him the election. Even there I question his naïve faith in education as a path to economic security. The call for a $15 minimum wage, which he supports, overlooks the fact that many college graduates, not just burger flippers, earn less than $15 an hour. Perhaps the rot in this country is more pervasive than even Sanders realizes.
Times are tough and the tepid sound bites of McCandidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush (two sides of the same coin) aren’t going to cut it. Passion is needed. The Republicans are arousing an ugly kind of passion, racist, sexist, xenophobic. Bernie Sanders arouses finer emotions and a decent, inclusive vision of America supported by well thought out policy proposals. He wears his socialist label proudly. He is not an opportunist. He has been fighting for these ideals for the last fifty years. He is the only Democrat with the guts to take on the status quo.
But can he win, you ask? Sure, Hillary has the money. But while money stacks the deck, it’s we the voters who play the game. Ultimately elections are decided not by the pocketbook but by the ballot. Social media, which Sanders manipulates well, eliminates the need to buy expensive television ads and the like. Clinton’s campaign, bloated with professional staffers and focus groups, reminds me of a staid corporation with layers of overhead, ready to be “disrupted” (to use a trendy buzzword) by a spunky startup. But there’s a big IF here. For Sanders to win, people have to exercise their right to vote. They need to talk to their friends, put lawn signs in front of their houses, bumper stickers on their cars, write letters to the editor or Facebook or whatever, just get the word out there. I am hoping against hope that the large crowds showing up for Sanders rallies indicate that our zombified nation is awakening from its post 9/11 stupor. We can reclaim our democracy but only if enough people have the will to do so.
They also must have the will not to sell the Sanders campaign short. I hear a lot of statements to the effect of “well he can’t win but maybe we can change the dialogue.” “Changing the dialogue” isn’t going to do a damn thing, sorry. That simply means that Clinton will pander to the left as she lies. We need to change the nominee.