Sanders Explains Why He Keeps Going and May Just Win California on Tuesday
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The "journey with Bernie" isn't over.
By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet
June 3, 2016
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Photo Credit: Steven Rosenfeld
Late last week in the snazzy lobby of the National Nurses United headquarters, NNU director Rose Ann DeMoro stood with her senior staff and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and took stock of the risks they had taken to side with Bernie Sanders for president.
The nurses were the first big national union to endorse Sanders, who surprised everyone in the Democratic Party by coming to a photo-finish with Hillary Clinton in Iowa’s caucuses (the Iowa party never released the vote totals). Shortly thereafter, Gabbard stunned political insiders when she resigned as Democratic National Committee’s vice-chair to campaign for Sanders, who had worked with her on veterans issues in Congress.
“We’ve all been on the journey with Bernie,” said DeMoro, flanked by nurses who have crossed the country to help an insurgent campaign that was now on the verge of the most improbable finish yet—a strong likelihood that Sanders could win the most delegate-rich state on Tuesday, as the latest polls show him virtually tied with Clinton across California.
But other states also will be voting Tuesday and DeMoro warned about the coming media spin. “There will be a narrative, a lie that comes out on June 7,” DeMoro said. “She will not have the pledged delegates. You have to sound the alarm. This is not over. We are going to win California.”
Statements like that are baffling to Clinton supporters. They don’t understand the fervor behind Sanders. They say there’s no way superdelegates—elected officials, party leaders and allies who comprise 15 percent of the national convention delegates who will pick the 2016 nominee—are about to drop their overwhelming and longstanding support of Clinton.
DeMoro’s words are also baffling to many in the media, who are expected to announce Tuesday before polls close in California, that Clinton has clinched it based on the results elsewhere, namely New Jersey, even though by night's end neither candidate will have won a majority of all convention delegates, and won’t until superdelegates vote in July. That’s the “lie” DeMoro is warning about.
Sanders, for his part, has kept campaigning aggressively across California and telling the tens of thousands of people who have flocked to his rallies that they can win, and that he will bring fundamental change as president. His supporters believe he represents a rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime chance, to change America and the political system for the better.
What Drives Bernie Sanders
After a Memorial Day rally in Oakland, Sanders sat down with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and reflected on the campaign. Days before, Reich had written on his popular blog that both Sanders and Clinton backers faced a tough reckoning if the party was to unite and beat Donald Trump. MoveOn.org videotaped their talk and posted a short produced segment on Facebook.
“Another day at the office,” says a laughing Sanders in the opening frame as the two sit down in a City Hall conference room. The video backtracks and shows Sanders at the podium before thousands recounting the campaign’s improbable successes. They've won primaries and caucuses in 20 states, more than 9 million votes, and all because of a populist economic message that party insiders never expected to catch fire. Sanders turns to Reich and explains, “Look, you are out there working two or three jobs, you’re worried to death about your kid, and you see all the income and wealth going to the top 1 percent. You know what, you’re not a happy camper.”
But how did you know that this was the time, the year and the race, Reich asks.
“So I look around, and maybe my main motive is I have seven grandkids, beautiful children,” Sanders replies, “and we’ve got to deal with climate change. We’ve got to deal with health care. We’ve got to deal with higher education. We’ve got to rebuild our infrastructure. We’ve got to guarantee health care to all people. And who’s going to do it?”
The footage cuts back to the podium with Sanders saying his campaign has raised almost 8 million donations that average $27. Reich turns to Sanders, “You have shown that the old excuse that Democrats used, ‘I can’t possibly just rely on donors. I have to have a super PAC—I believe in campaign fundraising reform, and campaign finance reform, but I am not going to do it with one hand tied behind my back.' You have shown that that is absolute bullshit.”
“That’s right,” Sanders whispers. “That’s right. But what goes with it is that people are not going to contribute—we have over 2 million contributors, 8 million individual contributions—unless you stand for something.” Footage follows showing Sanders pledging to tilt the economy back toward working “for all of us, not just the 1 percent,” prompting cheers. “And I’ll tell you, maybe on a personal level, Bob, I grew up in a family—my family did not have any money,” he said. “My father worked all the time. We weren’t poor. We just didn’t have any money. So I come, if you like, from the white working class of this country.”
The footage cuts to Sanders’ Oakland speech saying there has been a massive redistribution of money from the middle class upward, “and for a start we’re going to redistribute that wealth back down to working families," as people cheer.
“And it profoundly disturbs me,” Sanders tells Reich, “to see white working-class people, whose jobs are going to China, who can’t afford to send their kids to college, who have inadequate health care, voting for a Republican Party that wants to make a bad situation even worse. That personally bothers me very, very deeply. And I am trying my best to communicate with those people, to understand that if they are angry, they should be angry. But get angry at the right people, not at some, you know, Mexican who’s working for seven bucks an hour. That guy is not your enemy.”
The footage then shifts to the podium with Sanders saying that the message of this campaign “is to bring people together,” as he acknowledges the crowd’s diversity and says “we will never allow the Trumps of the world to divide us up.”
It is from here that Sanders begins to say why he has kept on running in state after state, why he and his supporters are defying naysayers who simply want him to step aside and endorse Hillary Clinton, who, to be fair, shares the majority of his goals but embraces more incremental steps forward.
“But here’s the good news, and I am very optimistic, and I always mention this in my speeches,” Sanders tell Reich. “We’re winning the overwhelming majority of voters who are 45 years of age or younger. The future is with our ideas. We’ve got to open the damn doors. We’ve got to figure out a mechanism. Social media, by the way, can play an enormously important role. But there are other ways that we can do it. I don’t have all the answers now. But somehow we’ve got to galvanize and mobilize and educate and bring these people together, and when we do that, we change America. And is maybe the most profound lesson of this campaign so far.”
Back at the podium in downtown Oakland, Sanders says, “My point is that what seems impossible today, in fact happens when millions of people demand that it happens… So on June 7th, let us together create the largest voter turnout in Democratic primary history in California. And let this great state, one of the most progressive states in the country, go on record as saying, Yes, let’s go forward with the political revolution.”
Sanders and his supporters know they have not just defied expectations with their caucus and primary victories, message of economic justice, and grassroots fundraising and organizing, but that they have altered and shaped the national political narrative in 2016. They know they are heading to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in unprecedented numbers—with 40-something percent or more of the pledged delegates and most of the under-45 vote, representing the party’s and the nation’s future.
The final chapters of the nominating process have yet to be written and that’s why they are not stopping, but pushing harder than ever to end this phase of the 2016 election as they began in Iowa—in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton or a victory in the largest and most diverse state.