We Burn for Bernie: A Pre-Primary Party with Senator Bernie Sanders | News

We Burn for Bernie: A Pre-Primary Party with Senator Bernie Sanders



Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh - JEREMY LANGE
  • Jeremy Lange
  • Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh

11:04: Happy Friday everyone! We’re here at Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh with the rest of everyone in downtown Raleigh, waiting to feel the Bern! The line to get in was half a mile long, and there are only 2,500 seats in this old theater, so we are packed in like sardines. It’s cool! We’re all friends here and the atmosphere is downright festive.

11:07: The wireless connection is super slow though, and just keeps timing out. So, while this was going to be a live blog, apologies for it not being in real time.

11:08: The last political rally I was at was Trump’s back in December. I would be too afraid for my safety to attend a Trump rally nowadays, but here are some comparative observations about the Bernie crowd vs. a Trump Crowd:

11:09: Bernie’s crowd is much more racially diverse, as well as way, way friendlier. My compadres in the press section happily squeezed me into the limited seating there is. We bonded over a shared slip of paper containing the Wi-Fi password, and we commiserated over how slow the connection is.

11:12: People guided me to the press section and I didn’t have to sit on the floor. No one appears to be protesting. No one has yet been punched. Just some random chants of “Bernie,” “Feel the Bern” and “We are the 99 percent.” If this is socialism, sign me up!

11:14: So the crowd’s still filing in. I’m sitting center of the stage, which is draped in a massive American flag, about 20 rows back. There are two crystal chandeliers above me on either side. Real dim lighting in here. All in all, this feels a lot more presidential than the fluorescent lights of Dorton arena, though Bernie’s press guy was lamenting that they couldn’t get a bigger space on short notice.

11:19: So there are a lot of young people here—college students, high school students, elementary school classrooms-full of students. Some older hippies here too, dudes with long beards, ladies in Birkenstock . Overall the mood is happy and excited, rather than hostile and angry. It’s like a music festival dedicated to artists of the 90’s, rather than what I would imagine resembles a subdued Klan rally.

11:29: Lots of random, sporadic applause. Memorial is almost full.

11:34: Ok, people are clapping and whistling and holding up their signs, chanting Bernie’s name. But he hasn’t come out yet.

11:36: Yes! Disco Inferno by the Trammps is playing. “Burn baby burn!” Followed by Janelle Monae and Big Boi’s song “Tightrope.” Bernie def. has the better music out of he and Trump. I really wonder what Ted Cruz plays at his rallies. Marco Rubio too, for that matter. Did Ben Carson even hold rallies? I don’t even want to think about what gets his supporters jazzed up.

11:41: A Bernie campaign worker is rallying the people sitting on bleachers behind where Bernie will be standing.

11:50: Still no Bernie. Guess we’re shooting for noon.

11:54: We’ve got some vegans for Bernie holding up signs stage right. “Meat=Global Warming,” noted. The music has transitioned to Motown.

11:57: Ok, so what I think is a soccer chant that you hear around the World Cup season has been adopted as a cheer by this crowd; it sounds like “Bernaayyyy, Bernaaayyyy, Bernaaayyy-oh-whey-oh-whey-oh-whey.”

12:03: No sign of the Senator but we’ve got a speaker. Crowd's going wild. A Puerto Rican-named man (don't worry, he says he is originally from Puerto Rico) is speaking (I will not butcher his name here). He’s had serving, power tools-using and farm jobs and is a “very open member of the LGBT community.” He says he’s been called a fairy and wetback and other deplorable insults meant to tear him down rather than build him up. But, LOL, he’s from Hickory, North Carolina.

12:06: He just voted for Bernie a few days ago because Bernie has been fighting for his rights ever since he was old enough to know what that meant. Bernie never said “marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman, we all know who said that,” he says. (Hillary burn bern?) “Bernie’s never called anyone a "super-predator." (Hillary bern). "He’s seen our black brothers and sisters be beaten and discriminated against; he chained himself to a black woman who was being arrested.”

12:08: Big banks have not paid off their debts to the American people and Bernie believes we should educate rather than imprison our children." Re. presidential race, "we cannot continue the climate change debate while it is looming over our heads. We need a revolution, not an evolution. And we will not continue to be bought.”

12:10: He just introduced the Sanders campaign state director (I believe) who is feeling the Bern. She is reminding folks to vote. Go vote people! “I’m not too proud to beg,” she says of asking people to campaign for Bernie these next few days. “They said it couldn’t be done but we’re still here! We won Michigan! If we turn out our voters, we can win!” Hold tight, she says Bernie ia up soon. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, vice chair of the DNC, who stepped down because she endorsed, Bernie is here to introduce him.

12:13: Aw, Sen. Sanders is outside talking to the overflow crowd. Estimated at 5,400 according to a campaign worker. Facebook says Bob Geary, formerly of the INDY, is out there. Bernie's campaign volunteer, who worked on the farm, is improvising…Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii is here. Aloha! She says.

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12:18: "Aloha, the word, has a deep meaning," she says.. “When I aloha you, I’m sharing respect and coming to you with an open heart. We stand together on equal ground regardless of differences. We stand together as one with the aloha. We’re all in this together and that’s what this campaign is all about,” she says. Shouts out to the veterans. She checks a sign that says “Military brats for Bernie.”

12:20: “No one knows the value of peace more than the one who have experienced war firsthand,” she says. She served in a medical unit in Iraq. She’s been stared in the face by the cost of war. “We must have a commander in chief who exercises good judgment, exercises foresight and knows when and when not to use our military power.”

12:21: Knowing how to use our military doesn’t mean going around trying to look and act tough, throwing around words about dropping bombs on the middle east. (Ahem, Cruz bern). She endorsed Bernie because of Hilary’s actions in Libya. “Bernie will put a stop to the costly, interventious, unnecessary regime-change wars,” she says. “Bernie will invest in our communities right here.”

12:25: North Carolina, a military friendly state, owes it to ourselves to vote for a commander in chief who will keep us safe and invest in our fortune and prosperity at home,” I *think* she said.

12:26: Here’s Bernie!! Lots of cheering, standing ovations, people taking pics and video on their phones, chanting Bernie. I cannot even see him yet. “Sorry for starting late," he says, "but we’ve got a few thousand people outside.”

12:27: Now I can see him! He looks just like he does on TV. (Warning: this blog post is long, and it helps if you read it in Bernie's accent).

12:28: “Let me start by talking about what many people don’t understand, what the real cost of war is and how we cannot get involved in perpetual warfare,” he says. “Media said ten months ago Bernie is an interesting guy, a nice guy, he combs his hair and is a GQ kind of dresser, but not really a serious candidate for president,” he says. “But we have now won nine state primaries! Almost all by very large margins."

12:29: Last Tuesday everyone thought Hillary was going to win Michigan by 20 points (true). Well It didn’t quite happen that way. If we can generate a large voter turnout, stand up, fight back and show that our government belongs to all of us, not just a handful of paid contributors, we are gonna win here in North Carolina, and in the other states as well.

12:30: He's echoing the ups to the veterans in North Carolina, asks them to “defend the vote, come out on Tuesday” Bernie says. People randomly shouting out “we love you!” Lol.

12:31: He says he grew up in a poor family in Brooklyn. His family, parents, brother and he lived in 3.5 rent-controlled room in Brooklyn. "Every purchase decision had to be thought through. So many families working long hours for low wages, I am familiar with that experience,” he says.

12:32: Differences he has with Clinton: "I hope everyone in this room knows today we have a corrupt campaign finance system undermining our democracy," he says. Democracy to him is one person, one vote. “When you have horrendous super PACS, the Koch brother and their friends spending $900 million in this campaign cycle to elect candidates who represent the rich and powerful, that is not democracy, that is called oligarchy. Together, we are going to end that cancer on American democracy, overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections."


12:34: "The sad truth is, to run for president in 2016, it costs hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars," he says. "We decided on Day 1, we would not have a Super PAC. We do not represent Wall Street, or the drug companies, fossil fuels, or the billionaire class. We don’t want their money."

“Bernie Sanders has our back,” people chant in the front. Bernie calls them a great chorus

12:36: "Hillary Clinton does not just have one super PAC, she has many Super PACs. She raised $15 million from Wall Street, and substantial money form drug and fossil fuel companies. People boo. “You don’t have to have a PhD in political science to understand that you can't be an agent for change when you take yuge amounts of money from outside interests. We have chosen to do it very differently. I would never have dreamed I would stand before you and tell you we received over $5 million individual campaign contributions. More than any candidate in American history at this point in time." 

12:37: He asks the audience if anyone knows what the average contribution is? "$27 dollars," the audience shouts, is the going rate. "Hillary is receiving millions from companies," while he is receiving millions of $27- a- piece donations. "The next piece, which is of yuuuge consequence…"yuuuuge" the audience choruses. Bernies says he’s going to take yuge out of his vocabulary.

12:38: "The issue of trade is not sexy", he says. "Our disastrous trade policies have had a horrendous impact on the lives of millions of working Americans. It's true all across the country, in Vermont, and even truer in states like North Carolina." He says he saw NAFTA for what it was back in the 90's. "It’s just a way to pay people worse in other countries, and take away jobs from working Americans, like those North Carolina. We have lost millions of decent paying jobs in this country," he says. "People have to get other jobs that pay 50-60% of what they previously earned. We lost almost 60,000 factories in the U.S., that's millions of jobs." 

12:41: I understood what these trade agreements were about and led efforts against them. Hillary Clinton supported virtually all these disastrous trade relations. (Bern).

12:42: Story time: Bernie went to a  Mequil Doro (sp?) region in Mexico   Maquiladora near the U.S. border where they give tax breaks to corporations who settle there. One major U.S. factory after another was there. European companies were there, too. These were state-of-the-art, beautiful factories. He met with some of the Mexican workers employed in the factories. He could not meet with them in their homes because, ugh, they did not have homes because they made 25 cents an hour working in the factories. "It has changed since," he says "but we need a trade policy that s fair, not unfettered free trade. American workers should not be forced to compete against desperate people who make pennies an hour."

12:44: "Our job is to do everything we can to alleviate poverty in countries around the world," says Bernie. "We can do that without destroying the middle class of this country. This campaign is doing well because we don’t have to listen to billionaire campaign contributor,s but we can listen to the American people. Workers who tell us people cannot make it on nine or ten dollars an hour. $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour!!," he sasy. YUGE APPLAUSE. “It’s not a radical idea to suggest someone who works 40 or 50 hours a week should not live in poverty in this country,” he says.

12:46: "This campaign is listening to seniors and disabled veterans. They can’t make it on $11-12,000 a year social security. No one can. Many of my Republican colleagues in congress want to cut Social Security benefits. “We are not going to cut SS benefits, we are going to expand social security benefits."

12:47: Next with young people. "This campaign is listening to young people. They say, why should they leave school $50-80,000 in debt? This campaign is thinking outside the stats quo, thinking outside the choices the media give you. Education and learning is inherent in being a human being. Everybody here understands we live in a competitive global economy and if our country is to succeed economically, we need the best- educated workforce in the world. We once did have that, and it’s not the case right now."

12:48: "People understand today a college degree is the equivalent of what a HS degree was 50 years ago," Bernie says. Free education was K-12 and 50 years ago, you could get a good job with a high school degree but today's economy requires more education. When we talk about public education, colleges and universities must be tuition free!!!"

BIG applause.

12:50: "This is not a radical idea. It exists in Germany, Scandinavia, already in countries around the world. It's an idea that used to exist here. Number two, we have millions of people in this country, some young, some not, being crushed economically by student debt. Paying 50% of their incomes in debt, paying back loans. Decade after decade. I think that is absolutely crazy. We should not be punishing people for getting an education, we should be rewarding them."

12:51: "I will introduce legislation to allow people with student debts to refinance their debt at the lowest possible interest rates they can find," he says. "It would significantly reduce student debt. My critics say 'you’re Santa Claus, you’re a nice guy giving a way all this free stuff. How you gonna pay for it?'”

12:52: Bernie has a plan. "Don’t accept what establishment people tell you," he says. "It’s considered normal for people in this room to have $50,000 in debt. But when Wall Street greed drives this country into the worst depression in history, it’s normal for congress to bail out the most powerful, greedy group of people in the world?" Ok, but what's the plan? 

12:53: "Given the enormous profits in the financial industry it is absolutely appropriate to place a tax on Wall Street speculation and that would bring in more than enough money for free tuition to pay for college and universities," Bernie says. (There's the plan!) "Wall Street was bailed out by congress, now it’s their turn to help out the middle class. Helping the middle class, making sure college is affordable, is a radical and crazy idea. But bailing out crooks on Wall Street who destroyed the economy is not such a radical idea. Some people have their priorities backward," he says.

12:54: Next up: women. "This campaign is listening to women." A lot of women here are cheering! "Women are telling me, why do they make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men? Frankly, the answer is because it is part of old-fashioned sexism, and together we are going to end that. I hope that every man in this room stands with the women in the fight for pay equity." (Me too, Bernie, me too.)

12:55: Next up: Minorities. "This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters from the African American community. They are asking us how does it happen in the richest country in history of the world, we have more people in jail than any other country on earth? There are 2.2 million people in jail, and they are disproportionately African American, Latinos and Native American," he says. "How does it happen that we spend $80 billion a year, some going to private penitentiaries, which I oppose? How does it happen?"

12:56: "Today if we do not change this, and we must, that a black male baby boy stands a 1 in 4 chance of ending up in jail because of the broken criminal justice system?"

12:57: "All of us are tired of watching videos of unarmed African Americans be killed," he says. "The vast majority of police officers are honest, hardworking and have a difficult job. It’s not easy being a cop but when an officer breaks the law, like any other public official, they must be held accountable. We must demilitarize local police departments. They need to look like the diversity of the communities they serve. We must take a very hard look at the war on drugs." Speaking of which:

  • Jeremy Lange

12:59: "We have a major heroin crisis in Vermont and New Hampshire," Bernie says." It is a very serious issue. We have got to look at addiction and substance abuse as a healthcare issue, not a criminal issue. We’ve gt to understand that marijuana is a Class 1 drug according to the federal government, right next to heroin. You can argue the pluses and minuses of marijuana, but no sane person thinks it is an equivalent to a killer drug like heroin. I have introduced legislation that would take marijuana out of that federal classification," he says.

1:01: "Whether it becomes legal is the states' decision but it should not be a federal crime. There is a racial component on this too. Whites and blacks use marijuana at the same rate, but blacks are four times more likely to be arrested." 

1:02: "This campaign is listening to our Latino brothers and sisters. They say they are tired of living in the shadows, tired of being exploited. They want equality in eyes of the law and a path toward citizenship. This campaign is listening to one of the most exploited groups in the history of our country, our native American brothers and sisters."

1:03: "You know how much we owe to the first Americans from a cultural and environmental perspective. They knew about the relationship of people to the earth and about environmental concerns hundreds of years before we did. Over the years, they have been lied to and exploited. If I'm elected president, we are going to change that."

1:04: Next up: Veterans."This campaign is listening to the veterans' community. The want and are entitled to the highest quality healthcare and benefits that will bring. I’m a member of the U.S. Senate committee on the Environment. I have talked to scientist all over the world: the debate is over, climate change is real. It’s caused by human activity, it is causing devastating problems in this country and around the world. This is very serious stuff."

1:05: "Scientists say we have a small window of opportunity to prevent a  bad situation from becoming much worse," he says. "If we do not act boldly and aggressively this planet will be 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. That is unbelievable. It will mean more drought, flood, extreme weather disturbances, destruction of the ocean. I was in Miami Beach yesterday and they frequently have floods which makes streets impassable. Coastal communities around the word will be under water. People will fight for limited natural resources if we do not get our act together. We have got to get our act together."

1:07: "The good news is we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. We know what has to be done but Republicans lack the political will to do it." (Republicans bern). "There is a reason why not one Republican candidate for president and few in congress will tell us what scientists agree to: how does it happen that congressional controlling arty has no members saying climate change is dangerous?"

1:08 You know the answer: "Because the day a Republican candidate says climate change is real, he loses campaign finances from the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel industry people. I say to my Republican colleagues, worry more about the future of the planet you are leaving your grandchildren than about your campaign."

More applause.

Next up: Family values. "Republican politicians talk about family values, they love families, especially very wealthy ones that can make campaign contributions.

1:09: "When they talk about family values, what it means is no woman in the country should have the right to control her body. I disagree," he says. Applause and boos on this one; some Rand Paul defectors maybe? "They mean our gay brothers and sisters should not have the right to be married. I disagree. When my wife and I talk about family values, ours are just a little different. (How much would you love to sit down with Bernie and Mrs. Sanders to talk family values? I would love it a lot.) "We talk about ending the international embarrassment of the U.S. being one of the only major countries in the world that does not guarantee paid family and medical leave."

1:11: "No woman in America giving birth today to a beautiful baby should be forced to go back to work in a week or two because she needs the income," Bernie says. "We are going to pass legislation calling for 3 months paid family leave. I’ve been criticized for thinking too big…""Fuhgeddahboutit," someone yells. "I have long ago forgotten about that," Bernie says.

1:12: "When they say, do you really think people should be able to go to college regardless of their income? What a radical idea, to demand Wall Street start paying its fair share of taxes, what a radical idea to say someone who works 40 hours a week shouldn't be living poverty. What a radical idea it is to say we shod rebuild our crumbling infrastructure," Bernie says. "Last week I was in Flint, Michigan. The water system there is poisoning the children, but it is not the only…in Vermont our bridges are in disrepair, our roads in bad shape, the rail system that used to lead the world is now behind several other countries. We can put 13 million people to work rebuilding all these things." 

1:14: And here's how: "We pay for that by closing a loophole, by letting corporations stash their money in the Caribbean and in the Cayman islands and not pay a dollar in taxes. Opponent say my ideas are to big, too radical. Imagine thr American people having clean drinking water, what a radical idea that is. Imagine demanding profitable corporations that make billions actually pay in taxes. How radical can you be. There is one area I have been criticized more than others, I want to repeat my position so my critics understand."

1:15: Back to health care: "Every major country on earth guarantees health care to all their people. Only the U.S. does not. I helped write the Affordable Care Act and it has been very good for us. And I thank President Obama for his leadership in fighting for it. The ACA has ended this obscenity called pre-existing conditions. It has added 7 million to the ranks of the insured. It has done away with discrimination against women forced to pay higher premiums because they were women. All of that is a step in the right direction."

1:16: BUT. "But despite the gains, 29 million Americans have no health insurance. Many more are under-insured with high deductibles and co-pays. We are being ripped off in an unconscionable way by the drug companies who charge us the highest prices. You want to hear crazy, here; crazy: 1 in 5 Americans cannot afford to fulfill the prescriptions their doctors write. The other side is, the three largest drug companies last year made $45 billion in profit."

1:18: "Healthcare is a right of all people," Bernie says. "That’s why we must move to a Medicare for all health care policy." 

1:19: "The history of our country is understanding that real change takes place from the bottom up, never the top down. Real change took place when workers formed unions and engaged in collective bargaining. Real change took place when African Americans and white allies said America is not about racism or discrimination. 100 years ago today women in America did not have the right to vote, could not go to schools or do the jobs they wanted. Women and male allies said no women in America will be treated as second class citizens. They went to jail and went on hunger strikes in fight to end sexism."

1:21: "Ten years ago if someone had said in ten years, gay marriage would be legal, the person next to him would have said, what are you smoking. Which raises another issue that’s being addressed now. In America people should have the right to love whoever they want."

1:22: Here's another ten-years-ago scenario: "Nobody would go for $15 an hour. I met fast food workers in that fight here in North Carolina last year. They could not make it at $7.25, $8 an hour. We need a union. So states started passing $15 minimum wage. My point is, when people have the courage to stand up and fight back there is nothing we cannot accomplish. That is how change always is. That means looking at stats quo and saying this is wrong. Racism, sexism, homophobia, exploitation of workers is wrong, and we are going to change it."

1:24: "We see the proliferation of millionaires and billionaires but we have one of highest child poverty rates," he says. "The climate change crisis, where the President is trying to do the right thing but is stopped every day buy Republicans and the fossil fuel industry. Millions of children are getting an inadequate education and our childcare system is literally dysfunctional. That is the status quo and we have got to recognize that and that we cannot cannot have have a government that day after day passes legislation that represents the interests of the rich and powerful. while we ignore the needs of working families."

1:26: Next up: more criticism. "Another criticism leveled at me: "you're a nice guy, Bernie, but you can't win a general election. Virtually every poll against Donald Trump has me winning, by double digits in most cases. An NBC poll the other day had us up by 15 points. We do better than Trump in almost every instance over Secretary Clinton. The reason we will defeat Trump or whoever the republicans bring forward is in my view Americans will not support a president who insults Mexicans , Muslims and women women virtually every day. I want all of you not to forget that Donald Trump was one of the leaders of the birther movement trying to de-legitimize President Barack Obama and I have always found it interesting that Barack Obama’s father was born in Kenya. Mine was born in Poland but somehow, no one has asked me about my birth certificate." (Because, white).

1:28: We will win this election because the American people understand that bringing people together, working together trumps dividing us up. The American people understand that and that the community helping each other trumps selfishness. Most importantly, American people understand every major religion has taught that love trumps hatred."

Bernie chant! I think it's winding down. 

1:29: "We win and do very well when there are large voter turnouts and lose when they are small. On Tuesday lets have North Carolina help lead this country to a political revolution. Lets have a yuuuuge turnout!!

People applauding wildly, chanting “Bernie.” Fin. Congratulations if you made it to the end!

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