If you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve still probably heard about the potential Democratic candidate for POTUS, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The true grassroots politician with shocking support from the internet, the champion of livable wages and the 99%, the venerable underdog!
But this post isn’t to glorify Sanders. To be honest, I’m not very politically educated. And – le gasp – I’ve never voted (keeping in mind that there has only been one presidential election since I became of voting age). I feel awful about being so ignorant sometimes about “the issues,” but I also feel that focusing on individual issues won’t really help in the long run. Radical system-wide changes are necessary – but that’s a discussion for another post.
What I want to share are some of the thoughts I had before, during, and after the Sanders rally that took place Sunday August 9th, 2015 in Portland.
My partner Moose had been having a rapidly growing interest in Sanders as a serious candidate. For the first time in his life, Moose actually liked almost everything a mainstream political figure was saying. Sanders was rekindling the activist in the big Moose. So, when I heard Sanders was going to have a rally in Portland, I couldn’t not take him – and on top of that, I made it a surprise. He doesn’t keep up with local events very much, so he wouldn’t know Sanders would be coming to town.
Doors to the Rose Garden – ahem, I mean Moda Center – were set to open at 6:00 PM, according to the notification e-mail. When I had registered, the event was set to take place across the way at the Memorial Coliseum, which has a capacity of about 13,000. However, a day or two before the event, I was sent notice that the rally had moved to the Rose Garden because registration had exceeded 20,000. Pretty impressive, I thought.
Little did I know what 20,000 people in a 20,000 person capacity stadium would actually feel like. Arriving a little after 6:00 PM, all entrances to the Rose Garden were swarming with people. We were probably standing in a crowd of a thousand people at the SW entrance. And that wasn’t even the craziest part. Standing in a swarm that didn’t seem to be even inching into the stadium, we were hearing rumors that the stadium was already at capacity. People had been filing in since 5:00 PM and the stadium was likely already full by 6:00 PM! People were antsy and there was a good deal of tension – not a particularly dangerous tension, just that hold-your-breath feeling in preparation of big disappointment. So much for my surprise for Moose.
But, after waiting around for 30-40 minutes, there was a wave of cheering coming from the other side of the crowd. The tension and excitement suddenly burst and we stampeded into the opening doors. The energy was so high. People were frantically grabbing one another and zooming off to find open seats. We walked toward aisle numbers that a volunteer had been shouting out. All the lower level seats were taken. The upper levels were very quickly filling up – it was clear that what had delayed our entrance was concern over whether or not the upper levels could seat the rest of us lined up outside. There was plenty of floor space around the stage in the arena, so we took to the floor.
Being in that crowd and looking around at the stadium, packed with more people than I had ever seen in the Rose Garden, I felt like a voyeur. So many people in the stadium were hardcore Bernie supporters. I wondered how many were like me, casual followers of politics with little investment in political discourse and process. The energy and the number of people were boggling my mind. It was as if a super pop star were about to take the stage. But no, it’s a presidential candidate. I couldn’t help being swept up in the energy.
I won’t give a play-by-play of what happened, but I’ll link to a couple sources here:
- Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at Portland rally | OregonLive.com
- “Bringing People Together” is Campaign’s Core | Bernie 2016
- Bernie Sanders Draws 28,000 people in Portland | Washington Post
“Portland, you have done it better than anyone else – 20,000 people!” Bernie Sanders applauded us and we roared with pride and delight. It wasn’t until later that I learned 20,000 only counted the people inside the stadium. According to the estimates of the Rose Garden people, there were an additional 9,000 people outside the stadium (I’m assuming watching from screens outside?) 28-29,000 people were there to support Sanders.
Moving toward actual points discussed at the rally, I found the campaign’s Black Lives Matter rhetoric rather impressive – not necessarily just impressive on its own, but because of its context. The previous day, Sanders’s rally in Seattle was disrupted by an activist decrying Sanders lack of outright support for Black Lives Matter and his lacking platform concerning racial injustices. So it was no coincidence that the MC of the Portland rally the day after was Symone Sanders, a black woman, and Black Lives Matter was actually addressed. It was a marked move as August 9th is the anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. The political maneuvering, for me, did not take away from the poignancy of the message. Symone’s speech in tribute of the high profile and unsung victims of police brutality in the last year was powerful. It seemingly came out of nowhere, but I almost started to cry. I had no idea it would affect me that much.
And on that note, hearing the stadium cheer for “Black Lives Matter” was heartwarming. But I also felt a mental clash at the situation. However progressive and cool and non-bigoted the crowd might be, the gathering was still glaringly predominately white. Emphasis on glaringly. It’s great that everyone there is in support of a revolution for racial equality, but there’s something… off about it. As I said before, I’m not very politically minded and I am very undecided about a lot of social justice issues. All movements require allies, but there is a fundamental difference between a white person shouting “Black Lives Matter” and a black person shouting “Black Lives Matter.” What the nuances of the difference are I cannot describe as of yet.
This post was a soup of ramblings. The thoughts weren’t tied together very well, so I apologize. If you made it through all that, I wish I could give you a cookie, but I can’t so I’ll just settle with a “Thank you.” All in all, that rally actually gave me this weird feeling of hope. I know, icky, right? Livable wages, free public education, 12 weeks paid maternity leave, fuck the billionaires? It’s almost too good to be true. Am I just getting swept up in a mega crowd pleasing ad campaign? Or might this Sanders guy actually be capable of doing some good? Because if even 1 or 2 of the policies and changes he proposes actually comes to fruition, that would be pretty freaking phenomenal. Nevertheless, this presidential cycle is going to be a fun one. (Trump 2016 😉 )
Finally, here are a couple other crappy pictures I took of the event:
So what do you think of this Sanders character? Any chance in hell he’ll make it past the primaries? What’s your view on this “democracy” business anyhow?