Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Politicians: Bernie Sanders

After photographing Donald Trump's rally in Fayetteville, NC, I decided to scope out who else was going to be in the area. Lo and behold, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had planned events in Raleigh. I just missed the deadline for applying for press credentials to Clinton's town hall event, but managed to get credentials for Bernie Sanders' afternoon rally.  Just have John Lennon's Power to the People playing in the background for this blog post, and you'll get the feeling of the crowd gathered at the Memorial Auditorium. As I walked in, a Sanders volunteer told me, "Welcome! Feel the Bern!" People were dancing in line, and the chanting started before they were even allowed in the auditorium. Not everyone who showed up was able to fit into the venue that holds  2,300 people, so before he addressed the attendees, Sanders went outside and spoke to those who couldn't find a seat inside. 

The crowd inside was extremely vocal. The doors opened two hours before Sanders was scheduled to speak, and the crowd spent that entire time singing, doing the wave, cheering, and chanting back and forth to each other. "We are the 99%!" and "Not me, us!" were popular refrains. While the cheers and chants were from a friendly crowd, one could still feel the seething, deep anger emanating. These people have felt disenfranchised, and were willing to let it be known. Disco Inferno played over the loudspeakers before U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the former vice chair of the DNC who stepped down to throw her support behind Bernie, came on stage to introduce the Vermont senator. 

The crowd exploded when Bernie Sanders came on the stage, but quickly sat down to hear him speak.  He talked for over an hour, and the crowd often gave him standing ovations to his points. He touched on student debt, health care, the environment, war, and women's and minority issues. He spent time going over campaign finance reform. He ended the rally urging people to get out and vote in North Carolina in their Tuesday primary. "At the end of the day, love trumps hate." The crowd responded with the largest cheer yet as Sanders shook supporters hands and left the stage. 

For my part, I didn't feel as flabbergasted as I did at Trump's rally. No one was punched, no protesters were jeered at, and the press were allowed to photograph from some pretty cool spots. The press weren't part of the show, we weren't jeered at, we didn't have to worry about people losing their cool at us. We weren't confined to a corral. It felt much more how I had always envisioned a political rally would feel. I get it, Trump's rallies are much more "fun" to watch. They remind one of a reality TV show. He gets more play time with the media because of that. He knows how to bring out the anger in a crowd. Bernie knows how to rile up a crowd too, but they were cheering because of policy, not because of an endorsement for water boarding. I know this is completely coming across as biased, because it is. Bernie may not be the perfect choice for president, but he sure showed me by his actions on Friday that he knows what it means to be president, and I really appreciate that.  

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