Over the weekend I was out of town, soaking up March Madness in Las Vegas. When I got back on Monday my millennial daughter called to make sure I knew about the big Bernie Sanders rally scheduled for Tuesday night at the San Diego Convention Center. Space was filling up quickly in Halls D and E. And like many a panel at Comic-Con, interest in the free Sanders event was outpacing the number of seats available (10,000).
My daughter registered to attend. I was proud and pleasantly surprised that this 19-year-old showed as much interest in securing admission to a Sanders political rally as she did in getting tickets to the Leon Bridges show at Observatory North Park.
I’d always brought my daughter along to my polling places over the years. Now, this is her first year being eligible to vote. She plans to cast a ballot for the crotchety, gray-haired senator from Vermont. He may look like comedian Larry David, but curbed enthusiasm is not the issue here—just the opposite.
It’s a plus that the late-in-the-game California primary election (June 7) will include some drama, even if more focus will be on the circus tent housing the Republicans and the delegate race for the Orange Yapper. Reserving judgment on whether The Bern can still overtake Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead in the Democratic race (superdelegate issue notwithstanding) I’m satisfied that Sanders’ candidacy has spurred political awakenings in millennials all over the country. His positions on income inequality, free college and universal health care have resonated with youth—as well as with older demographics, though not to such a dramatic degree.
I’m glad Sanders’ substance matches the style I’d want young people to think could be the norm for political discourse. Time and again during Democratic political debates, Bernie Sanders refused to take the low road. He talked about issues, not about personalities or half-baked rumors. He didn’t call any opponents or voter blocs derogatory names, didn’t try to lead by alienation and didn’t attempt to gain leverage through fear.
He wasn’t supported by big money. Recall Larry David’s spot-on spoof of Sanders on Saturday Night Live: “I don’t have a Super PAC, I don’t even have a backpack. I carry my stuff around loose in my arms, like a professor…I own one pair of underwear, that’s it. Some of these billionaires they got three, four pairs…”
There are Clinton supporters in the Senate, including Barbara Boxer, who are calling on Sanders to “do the right thing” for the party and drop out of the race. “The writing is on the wall,” Boxer said, according to Politico. That writing on the wall is contrary to the cash still coming in the door, though. Politico also reported that in February Sanders raised more money than Clinton ($43 million to $30 million).
In the end, even if The Bern falls short, Sanders will still have made his points and his advocacy will not have been for naught. His time on the national stage allowed his progressive voice to be heard. And he most certainly forced Clinton to lean to the left.
Hopefully that will translate into a more liberal Clinton presidency. Once in the White House, Clinton will most assuredly have to maintain a relationship with the Berner base.
And those young people, like my daughter, who Sanders brought into his campaign? They may be disappointed, and some might stay home rather than vote for Clinton. But they’ve been initiated into the process and are now engaged by politics. The Sanders campaign has been the formative experience of their coming of age in the political arena. It could influence how they think about politics over the course of their voting life.
Sanders despises the trivialization of politics. Still, I give the last word to Larry David doing Sanders on SNL: “So who do you want as president? One of these Washington insiders or a guy who has one pair of clean underwear that he dries on a radiator?”