On a day when 11 people were slaughtered in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and President Trump suggested the “results would have been different” if they had some sort of protection, Sen. Bernie Sanders came to Berkeley to deliver a different kind of message: We must reject the hate of Trump and the best way to do that is to vote on Nov. 6.
Sanders, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and garnered 13 million primary votes, spoke to an adoring crowd of about 3,500 at the Berkeley Community Theater. He was there ostensibly to get out the vote and support Rep. Barbara Lee, who is up for re-election, but his speech sounded a lot like a presidential oratory.
In fact, there were a few shouts of “Bernie 2020,” from the crowd, many of whom wore their old “Bernie for President T-shirts.”
“I am here for one reason only,” Sanders told the audience. “We must end one-party reactionary rule in Washington.”
The stop in Berkeley was the last of Sanders’ swing through nine states, he told the audience. He didn’t confirm that he would run again in 2020, but he didn’t deny it either.
The voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest in the country’s history and it ushered in Republican control of the Congress and of many statehouses, he said.
“In 2018, we must have the highest voter turnout,” said Sanders. “It is imperative that you come out and vote. I know the World Series is important, but this midterm election is 1,000 times more important. Tell your friends to turn off the television and come to fight for democracy.”
Lee introduced Sanders to the crowd and welcomed him to “the most progressive and woke congressional district in the nation.”
Sanders had kind words for Lee, who has overwhelming support at the polls. He said they have been working hand in hand in the fight for progressive causes.
“What Barbara Lee has been fighting for is a change in our national priorities,” said Sanders. “Instead of giving a tax break to millionaires, instead of feeding the military-industrial complex, we are going to make sure public schools are the best in the world.”
Jovanka Beckles, a Richmond City Councilwoman who is running for Assembly District 15, was the only public official on the stage besides Sanders and Lee. Some local observers had predicted that Sanders would endorse her at the rally, but he did not. He did not even mention her name.
Lee and Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who introduced the rally, did, however, and the crowd shouted “Jovanka, Jovanka,” with a loud, sustained cheer. Beckles’ campaign had set tables up in the courtyard of Berkeley High and as people exited the theater they were asked if they wanted to come canvass right away.
But the day mostly belonged to Sanders, who talked about income inequality, the unaffordability of housing, the need for health care for all, the urgency of climate change, and the deleterious effects of Citizens United and the influx of dark money into campaign. He pointed out that many of the ideas he had championed in 2016, which had seemed long off at the time, now are mainstream and have been implemented around the country, such as a $15 minimum wage. He excoriated Trump many times.
“It’s hard to keep track of Trump’s lies,” said Sanders. “They come so frequently and fast.”
Sanders’ message was like a balm for many of those who turned out to see him. Noah Godby, 21, and Rosa Perez, 22, a UC Berkeley exchange student from Mexico, were the first in line to see Sanders. They got there at 6 a.m. By 9 a.m., the line snaked around Berkeley High.
“I think he’s a progressive voice we need,” said Godby. “He’s one of the few honest politicians.”
Josh Kornbluth, a monologist and filmmaker, came to the rally with Sara Sato, his wife. Sato was passing out voting-related patches she had made on linoleum blocks.
“I’m super excited to see Bernie,” said Kornbluth. “Of all the Jewish socialists from New York who have a credible presidential campaign, he’s my favorite. Bernie gives me hope. The movement he has been part of instigating gives me hope. We’re not just fighting fascism; we’re fighting for democracy.”