It was Bernie’s Night

by Karikalan –

Bernie’s Night …

sanders dnc convention

Democratic National Convention started off rocky.  Early in the evening, some Bernie supporters booed loudly.  Al Franken, disarmed the crowd with his trademark humor.  Sarah Silverman, called out the ‘Bernie or Bust’ crowd with a friendly but firm rebuke, “You are being ridiculous”, that only a strong Bernie supporter could deliver.  Paul Simon serenaded the crowd.  This is the first time that I have seen Corey Booker speak.  He gave an impassioned speech with memorable lines such as “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far you have to go together”.  By the time he was finished, the mood in the stadium changed from petulant to forward looking.  Then Michelle Obama gave a fantastic, forward looking, uplifting speech that implicitly condemned the divisiveness of the Republican nominee.  Elizabeth Warren, needled Trump with characteristic precision, and passion.  Between all of them, they painted a vision for America that was not based on fear but based on optimism, that emphasized the need for level playing field for all Americans, and was full of specific policy prescriptions, from increasing the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, right to protect women’s right to choose, enacting immigration reform, etc.  But for all the impressive rhetoric by these speakers, the night belonged to Bernie Sanders, at an emotional level.

I first heard Bernie Sanders, the candidate on a hot July Houston summer day in 2015.  Just a year ago, Bernie was relatively little known outside the progressive circles, and I did not have high hopes when I went to hear  him at the University of Houston.  I was surprised by two things.

First, UH stadium was filled with energetic young people.  Bernie’s speech was not filled with rhetorical flourishes, was not delivered with a preacher’s cadence.  He spoke simply, directly, and from his heart.  He quoted boring percentages, one tenth of one percent, twenty percent of this, thirty six percent of that, etc. and I was astounded that the young crowd went wild hearing those statistics.  I could not believe it.   He touched on subjects that were long considered impossible by the regular politicos.  He questioned with his characteristic finger waving, “Why can’t college tuition be free as it is in so many other western industrialized nations? “.  He wondered out loud, “Why can’t we have universal healthcare, when our next door neighbor, Canada, has one? like many other industrialized nations?”.  Young people believed him, because he was not only sincere, but they knew that he has spent a lifetime studying these issues, and his conviction stemmed from the consistent, life-long commitment to a cohesive philosophy.

The second thing that surprised me was this.  The next day, in the local TV and newspapers, there was hardly any mention of Bernie Sanders, except for a brief mention.  I had never seen a more energetic crowd.  I was one of the many who contributed to Bernie right after hearing him.
Bernie, energized one college town after another with an unabashed progressive message.  He also set fund raising records via small donations, and nearly matched Clinton’s fundraising dollar for dollar.  In the end, he fell short, not because of any favoritism (which was there), but because he could not convince older liberals of his agenda.  Poll after poll showed that while Clinton was far behind Sanders when it came to young voters, she held her own with a broad coalition of older voters, blacks, and Latinos.  At the end of the day, by any objective measure, Hillary Clinton won more votes, won more states, won more pledged delegates, and became the nominee of the Democratic party for the office of the President.

Despite losing, Bernie, to his credit, pushed hard and succeeded in making Democratic party platform the most progressive in history.  It was Bernie’s night.  He received a standing ovation and he was loved by everyone in the stadium.  Bernie’s supporters had tears.  Hillary’s team made sure that he had a rousing welcome, and gave him his due.  He gave a graceful, forceful, endorsement of Hillary Clinton.   These are two campaigns that any democrat can be proud of.  What a sharp contrast to what happened between Ted Cruz and Trump at the republican convention?
If Bernie creates a political institution to train at least some of the millions of young people that he inspired to organize locally in their communities, to contest local elections, to become advocates for social justice, then he truly would have accomplished his political revolution.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos