As the California primaries fast approach, Bernie Sanders is barnstorming the Bay Area with a series of appearances throughout Northern California.
On Memorial Day, Sanders led a procession of veterans during an unannounced stop at the former Presidio military base in San Francisco before crossing the Bay Bridge for a pair of scheduled events in neighboring Oakland. There, he first spoke at Allen Temple Baptist Church, focusing on economic, racial and educational inequality before heading to Frank Ogawa Plaza—known among local activists as Oscar Grant Plaza—to address a large and energized crowd gathered in front of City Hall. He even made a surprise halftime appearance at Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Finals as the Golden State Warriors advanced to the championship round for the second straight season.
At the City Hall rally, Sanders was introduced by University of California, Berkeley economist and former Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, who lauded Bernie’s “courage to stand up to the establishment” and said he agreed with the candidate’s assessment that the current “concentration of income, wealth and political power is undermining our economy and eroding our democracy.”
Sanders said that concentration of power has led to a situation in which America “can invest trillions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq we should have never gotten into” while “we don’t have the funds to rebuild our crumbling cities.”
“No to more wars,” thundered Sanders to roaring applause. “No to more tax breaks for millionaires and corporations. Yes to investing in depressed inner cities and poverty-stricken rural communities!”
“I’ve been to Flint and talked to parents whose children’s water was poisoned by lead,” said Sanders. “I’ve been to Detroit, where the public school system is on the verge of collapse. I’ve been to Baltimore, where tens of thousands of people are addicted to heroin and can’t get treatment.”
Sanders mentioned Native Americans, who have been “cheated and lied to” and who have long realized that “as humans we are part of nature and we must live with nature—when we destroy nature we are destroying the human species.”
“After years of intense study, Donald Trump has concluded that there is no drought in California and climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese,” Sanders deadpanned. “I’m surprised he doesn’t think it was the Mexicans or the Muslims!”
Around 20,000 people lined up for many blocks to hear the 74-year-old democratic socialist speak. This Kossack was there and interviewed numerous Sanders supporters.
“I have an immune disorder and am willing to be ill in this sun and heat to see this wonderful man speak,” said 57-year-old artist Carey Caccavo Wheaton, who traveled 60 miles from Sebastopol to volunteer at the event. “I love Bernie because he truly cares about all of us; he’s a true FDR Democrat with the values this country needs to recover from its ills—vast income inequality, corruption in our elections, a lack of caring for ordinary citizens, worship of money and power and a corrupt media that won’t even fairly represent an election.”
It was a refrain heard over and over again—that Bernie just cares more than any other candidate about ordinary people.
“He keeps his word and he cares about people who don’t have a lot of money and wants to raise the minimum wage so they can live better,” local 6th grader Audrey Brocchini explained.
“I like Bernie because he supports having college free for everybody and because he wants to raise the minimum wage to $15,” Brocchini’s friend, 10-year-old Elodie Chinn, added. “People cannot survive on the minimum wage the way it is now.”
“I think it’s ridiculous that the cost of education is so high,” said Chinn’s 12-year-old sister Sophie. “Without education we couldn’t have a lot of the things that we need like developments in science and medicine.”
Elodie also had some thoughts to share about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“He’s very rude and he says a lot of stupid things without really thinking about it,” the 4th grader said. “It really shocks me how he can have those ideas in his mind. He speaks his mind and that’s not always a good thing, especially when you’ve got a twisted mind.”
People from all over the world were drawn to see Sanders speak, many of them from countries where the democratic socialist policies and actions he advocates have been implemented with great success. Chief among these is universal healthcare.
“Having healthcare means people don’t have to worry about going bankrupt if they get ill. They also know that doctors aren’t giving them services to make money but to heal them,” said 62-year-old Canadian Lenora Swan, who hails from Saskatchewan, home of former premier Tommy Douglas, who introduced universal healthcare to Canada decades ago and was voted “Greatest Canadian” of all time in a national poll. Swan said it’s just a matter of time before Americans come around to viewing healthcare as a basic human right and not a privilege.
“Everyone deserves healthcare; everyone benefits from it. I couldn’t imagine going back to a time when we didn’t have it,” she said, reflecting a widespread belief in countries which have implemented universal healthcare.
As the June 7 California Democratic primary approaches, most polls show a close contest between frontrunner Clinton and Sanders. According to a recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, the two are locked in a statistical dead heat. At Monday’s rally, many Sanders supporters said they believe Bernie can still win the nomination.
”I think he has a chance,” said Kevin Meade, 50, of Marin County. “I think whether he makes it or not it’s important to push all the way to the convention and make sure his ideas get on the platform.”
Sanders will continue his California barnstorming over the coming days. He is scheduled to give a news conference Tuesday morning on health care at the Hyatt House in Emeryville before heading south to Santa Cruz, then to Monterey and on Wednesday, back north to Palo Alto.