On Monday, Clif and I went to Portland—the Babylon of Maine—to hear Bernie Sanders speak. (Sanders, although an Independent, is running for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming presidential primaries.) Both my husband and I are liberal Democrats, and we were keen to hear what this very liberal candidate would have to say.
The night was lovely and warm, and the lines were long. As we waited to get in to the Civic Center, the atmosphere had an almost carnival quality to it. A group of men and women, with banjos and guitars, went by playing bluegrass. There were young people with petitions for fair wages and to legalize pot. The crowd was happy and laughing.
A young man selling Bernie Sanders buttons walked by. Clif, who has a collection of political buttons, just had to buy one.
Many people outside meant many people inside, and the event had to start ten minutes late to accommodate the crowd. The official estimate was that between 7,500 to 8,000 people came to hear Sanders speak. This can only be considered an extraordinary turnout in a small state such as Maine.
The crowd consisted mainly of Baby Boomers—the gray hairs—and Millennials—the young ‘uns.
Getting to the Civic Center early, Shannon and Mike had saved seats for us, and after I sat down, I said to Mike, “I really have a soft spot for the Millennials. With their love of tiny houses and concern about food and the environment, I think they’re a pretty cool bunch.”
Mike laughed. “I’m not surprised. There has been a lot written about how the Boomers and the Millennials have a connection with each other. So much so that Generation X feels left out.”
Mike, I might add, is a Millennial. He slid in just under the wire. Shannon, a couple of years older, belongs to Generation X, that middle group ranging in age from thirty-four to forty-nine.
Perhaps it’s no accident that at the Sanders rally, Mike was interviewed by the AP and had his picture taken. I have to say, with his beard and his dark-rimmed glasses, Mike looks pretty cool. (Shannon, of course, is always lovely. I don’t want to slight one of my own special Generation Xers.)
Therefore, if they already haven’t, pollsters and pundits should take note: Sanders is popular with both Millennials and Boomers, two of the largest generations in this country. If Hillary Clinton isn’t worried, then she should be.
And what did Sanders say that frequently fired up the crowd to wild cheering and chanting?
Basically, Sanders spoke about how today, despite the fact that America is the wealthiest country in the world, it’s not apparent because most of the money is in the hands of the few. It is the great economical and political issue of our time. In addition, this “grotesque level of inequality is immoral and an economic disaster.”
His message to the billionaires: “You can’t have it all. You can’t have huge tax breaks when children in the America go hungry. Your greed is going to end, and we are going to end it for you.”
Naturally, there was loud cheering after this statement.
Sanders also said something that few politicians say. That is, “if we want real change, then it’s not just electing someone. No one can do it alone. We need a grassroots movement for progress and change.”
He went on to give examples of progressive change brought about by grassroots movements—workers’ rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights.
Sanders spoke of the need for affordable higher education; the need for millions of decent-paying jobs if the middle class is to thrive; paid family and maternity leave; and single-payer health care. Then he said something that warmed my green-bean heart: “Brothers and sisters, the debate is over. Climate change is real, and it’s caused by human activity.” (This drew wild, wild cheering.)
He concluded, “We are in a difficult moment in American history. Despite progress in some issues—women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights—we are falling behind in economic fairness. Don’t think small. The debate should revolve around that we are the wealthiest country in the world. There is nothing we can’t accomplish if we don’t allow ourselves to be divided by race, gender, and nationality.”
My final thoughts: Sanders has what might called fire in his belly. Despite his “rumpled appearance,” he is a passionate, eloquent speaker who can stir large crowds, and he speaks frankly about the great issues of our time.
Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one who should be worried.
Please note: Next week Wordless Wednesday will return to its regularly scheduled time.