Senator Bernie Sanders had his first rally after his stent procedure last Saturday, October 19, 2019, in Queens, New York. The turnout was massive, as has been the case for the majority of his rallies so far. The speakers that took the stage before Senator Sanders included prominent activists, elected officials, and public servants. Based on the massive crowd turnout alone, it seems that the mainstream media’s under-representation of the support for Bernie Sanders is a hollow narrative.
Jane Sanders opened up the rally with remarks about the diversity of the swelling crowd that had amassed in Queens, New York to hear Bernie speak. She remarked that her family came to the United States to escape the famine and poverty so widespread in Ireland at the time, while Bernie’s came from Poland to escape rampant antisemitism and poverty. Both of their families came to the United States in order to provide themselves and their children with a better life. However, Jane noted that this American Dream has gradually been eroded in the U.S. over the past forty years. She spoke highly of her husband’s political and personal life, in which he has fought tirelessly for the rights and interests of the American people, especially those of the working-class. She also spoke highly of the next featured speaker, documentary filmmaker and author Michael Moore, whose work has been centered on globalization and capitalism.
Michael Moore began by recalling how he was sought out by Bernie in 1990 to give a speech for a rally, and admitted that he wasn’t really well-known at the time. Moore highlighted the fact that Senator Sanders holds the record for most Congressional terms served as an Independent. He relayed to the crowd that he once asked Bernie what exactly a Democratic Socialist was, to which Sanders replied, “It’s very simple, it’s what the Democratic Party used to be.” This subtle and important truth hearkens back to those great American heroes that gave us widely beloved programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, and the free public education system.
“The powers that be are very unhappy that you’re here.” Moore spoke to the crowd. He declared that the mainstream media and political pundits continue to sling whatever tropes they can at Sanders and his campaign, hoping that some of it will stick if they repeat it enough. “Bernie is too old” they say. Moore retorted that no, the Electoral College, the $7.25 minimum wage, the gender pay gap, the student debt crisis, outrageous healthcare costs, super-delegates, & the fossil fuel industry are too old.
He moved on to another trope that mainstream media pundits have been using, Bernie’s health. “Oh, but what about his health?” Moore roared to the crowd, “What about the health of this planet?!” to which the crowd erupted in chants of “Green New Deal!”
Moore moved on to ask about the health of Flint, Michigan, or the 40 million Americans living in poverty, or the health of a young black male that was shot in the back by police. The crowd reacted to those comments with another chant: “Black Lives Matter!”
The next pundit trope Moore decided to rip apart was the old, “Bernie can’t win!” to which he and the crowd laughed. Eight terms in the house, two terms in the Senate, & 22 states in the 2016 election suggest otherwise. In 2016, Bernie won 10 of the 11 states that border Canada, 4 of the 5 states that touch the Pacific Ocean, 4 of the 6 states in New England, and even West Virginia.
We should also keep in mind just how close Sanders came in 2016 to winning even more states. In Iowa, he was only behind in the popular vote by less than half a percentage point. He narrowly missed Nevada by less than 5%, Massachusetts by less than 2%, Nebraska by less than 7%, Illinois by less than 2%, Missouri by less than .5%, Connecticut by less than 6%, Kentucky by less than .5%, New Mexico by less than 4%, and South Dakota by less than 3%. In each of these states Bernie earned roughly 45-49% of the popular vote. He even earned 51% of the popular vote in West Virginia, however the delegates narrowly chose Clinton instead.
If Sanders was that close of a contender in 2016, one can only imagine that his popularity and support has continued to expand over the past three years. Indeed, the magnitude of his campaign and its massive volunteer force and fundraising records speak volumes for the growth of the political movement Sanders ignited in 2016.
Where is Bernie today in terms of political standings? Moore noted that in recent polls Sanders has been #1 in Nevada, tied or nearly tied in Iowa, and #1 in New Hampshire. Sanders has raised more money from more donors with a smaller average of contributions than any other candidate.
He then lamented how adamant fellow Democrats were in their attempts to attack Medicare for All in the most recent debate and wondered what Franklin Roosevelt would think of those so-called “Democrats.” He noted that the mainstream media tends to spout, “Oh we can’t afford it!” Yet every other industrialized nation on this planet has figured out how to afford universal healthcare, but somehow we haven’t. The truth is that the current system in the United States reaps enormous profits, especially for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries in particular.
Taxes will go up, that is a fact that Bernie always mentions. However, net costs will go down drastically for working-class Americans. Moore cited some illuminating statistics about the average costs that many Americans incur, which would be eliminated under President Sanders. Moore noted that, on average, Americans spend $12,000 a year on childcare, $4,000 annually towards student loans, and another $6,000 a year on deductibles, co-pays, & insurance premiums. With these statistics in mind, the rhetoric of the mainstream media falls apart. The American people have so much more to gain from a Sanders Presidency than they do under any other candidate in the running.
In closing, Michael Moore reiterated a point that Senator Sanders routinely makes: this campaign and political movement is not just about defeating Trump, it is about defeating that which gave us Trump.
Carmen Cruz, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the next speaker to take the stage at the Bernie’s Back Rally. Mayor Cruz began her statements to the crowd by recalling the humanitarian crisis that Puerto Rico experienced at the hands of mother nature and condemning the inefficiency of President Trump to send adequate aid. However, there was one man who came to visit her in the midst of the crisis. He brought no camera, no show, just a big heart and compassion. That man was Senator Bernie Sanders.
Mayor Cruz admitted that she was not a Bernie supporter in 2016, but that she started to feel the Bern when he came to Puerto Rico in the midst of their most dire moment to show his support and lend helping hands. Cruz praised Bernie for his consistency, courage, and commitment to changing the lives of every American.
Next to take the stage was former Ohio State Senator and campaign co-chair, Nina Turner. As always, her message was passionate and precise. She declared that what the people want is very simple. The American people want clean water, clean air, & clean food. We also want to finally have a justice system that doesn’t gun down black folks in their homes. We need to have some truth and reconciliation about the ravages of racism in America. We want a healthcare system that is not commodified. We must take care of mother Earth right now. That’s it, and that’s all.
Turner reminded the crowd that being similar is not being the same. Obviously, this was her taking a shot at the other Democratic candidates that have gradually moved further left in order to align themselves more with Senator Sanders’ platform. In particular, this criticism is directly aimed at Elizabeth Warren, who seems to be the candidate most supported by the media and Democratic Party establishment, outside of Joe Biden.
The next speaker was Queens-born progressive activist and former candidate for District Attorney, Tiffany Cabán. Cabán identifies as a queer, Latina, activist who has fought her entire adult life for justice for working Americans. She echoed the issues that the other speakers and the Sanders campaign regularly talk about, but then moved on to getting involved in politics. Specifically, her remarks were tailored towards how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez inspired her to run for political office. She declared that, “You don’t need the political machine. You don’t need the Democratic establishment. You just need the people.” Tiffany Cabán argued that we only win when working people lead this movement.
Cabán closed her remarks by introducing the next speaker to take the stage, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez opened up by asking the crowd to thank all of the volunteers, organizers, and activists who have put in the time and hard-work to make this political movement possible. During her speech she remarked that, “It wasn’t until I heard of a man by the name of Bernie Sanders that I began to question and assert and recognize my inherent value as a human being that deserves healthcare, housing, education, and a living wage.”
Alexandria then went on to enlighten the crowd about just how long Senator Sanders had been fighting for the rights of working-class families. She told the crowd that when she was a baby and her family relied on Planned Parenthood for care, Bernie fought for her then. When she was a child and education was being gutted for children in the so-called “wrong zip codes,” Bernie fought for us. When she was a child and had to rely on CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) to see a doctor, Bernie Sanders fought for a single-payer system. When the federal government sought to abandon her queer friends and family, Bernie Sanders put his career on the line to support the LGBT community. When she was graduating college, Bernie Sanders was one of the only one’s to decry that no American should be burdened with life-crushing debt at the start of their professional lives.
Ocasio-Cortez remarked that, “Bernie Sanders did not do these things because they were popular…he fought for these aims and these ends when they came at the highest political cost in America.”
She further declared that in 2016, Sanders and his campaign fundamentally changed the political landscape in the United States. She noted that we have the best field of presidential candidates in a generation and that much of the credit for that goes to Senator Sanders’ campaign in 2016 and the work he has done throughout his entire political life. After she spoke further about the systemic injustices the American people face, she closed her speech with remarks of how we all relate to Bernie in some way or another before she introduced the Senator to the stage.
Bernie took the stage to resounding applause and chants of “Bernie’s Back!” from the crowd. His opened his remarks with an apology that the permit they secured was only for 20,000 people, as thousands of supporters could not fit into the space they reserved. He further joked about how “Huge” the crowd was, obviously alluding to Trump’s cycled rhetoric about the crowd size, or lack thereof, at his inauguration and political rallies.
Bernie, of course, followed this with a heartfelt thanks to all in attendance, his wife and family, volunteers, activists, and the various speakers that took the stage before him. He gave particular thanks to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for inspiring millions of Americans to get more involved in the political process. Bernie also extended a personal thanks to all of the support that he and his family received from the public regarding his recent stent procedure.
He then moved into his political vision for the United States of America. He characterized the current Trump administration as being divisive and declared to the crowd that when he is in the White House, his goal will be to do the exact opposite. His goal is and will be to bring together the American people, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or religion, in order to fight together against every last vestige of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or religious bigotry in the United States.
He touched on the price-fixing and political bribery that takes place in the pharmaceutical industry, among other issues such as wealth and wage inequality, systemic poverty, Medicare for All, climate change, protecting unions and the rights of laborers, student debt, and grassroots political involvement. Sanders also discussed immigration reform, ending the War on Drugs, legalizing cannabis, and fixing the broken criminal justice system.
Below are some of Senator Sanders’ quotes from his speech:
- “Brothers and sisters, I have no doubt that the political revolution is going to sweep this country, sweep Donald Trump out of office, and bring the change that this country has long needed.”
- “For 45 years there has been a class war waged against the working families of this country by the billionaire class and the corporate elite. Well we got some bad news for them.”
- “Justice, long overdue, is coming to the United States of America.”
- “We believe that education is a human right which enriches us all and enables us to get the good-paying jobs we need in a competitive global economy.”
- “What we believe in is equal justice under the law, whether you are rich or poor.”
- Speaking on the crowd itself Bernie said that, “We are a reflection of the diversity and the strength of the movement that we have created.
You can watch the full rally on C-SPAN here.
If you are unfamiliar with Senator Bernie Sanders or his platform, you can read more here.
While watching the live-stream of the Bernie’s Back Rally in Queens, New York last Saturday, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. We often become so jaded and desensitized to the realities of the world that it becomes exceedingly difficult to find hope. However, Senator Bernie Sanders and the political movement that he ignited provides a great deal of solace. Listening to the impassioned speeches of Michael Moore, Nina Turner, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez I started to think that maybe, just maybe, our democracy can be saved.
That is not to say that those are necessarily the people to save it. That power and responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of the American people as a whole. We must not let the mainstream media do all of our thinking for us. We must remember that it is entirely okay, encouraged even, to trust experts of a particular field more than a news anchor on Fox or CNN. When in doubt, do your own research, seek out media like The Political Historian that is not beholden to stockholders, lobbyists, politicians, or anyone. We must not let divisive political rhetoric muddy our message or pollute our purpose.