Senator Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd of more than 200 in San Francisco’s Mission District, the ZIP code that has raised the most money for the presidential hopeful’s campaign nationwide, one day before the California primary election on June 7.
In his remarks at the City College of San Francisco’s Mission campus, the Vermont senator addressed some of his main campaign points, including concerns over the influence of big banks and financial firms on politics, global warming and the need for environmental protections, accessible higher education and political engagement. But he dismissed the notion that these are radical ideals.
“Our ideas are as mainstream as motherhood and apple pie,” he said.
He also stressed that his chances in the California primary hinged largely on voter turnout – with high voter turnout, he predicted, he would succeed in California, but the chances of a win are slim with low voter turnout. A recent poll had the candidates within two points of one another.
“Tomorrow is the most important primary,” he said. “Because of the work you have done and the work you are doing right now, I think we have an excellent chance to win this tomorrow. Two years ago in the midterm elections, 63 percent of people didn’t vote. Things are beginning to change.”
Hours after his speech, however, news agencies began reporting that Hillary Clinton had reached the necessary number of superdelegates to win the Democratic nomination, which was met with significant blowback. Sanders is not giving up, saying neither candidate would have enough pledged delegates to win the nomination, leaving the decision up to superdelegates, who have yet to actually vote.
Nonetheless, many in the crowd were motivated primarily by Sanders’ commitment to his values and enthusiasm.
“He was very energetic and inspiring,” said Angela Blackwell, who works at the college. “It’s like he’s never given up on the dream, he’s very committed and sure of his message…It’s good to see that in person.”
Another attendee, Rick Pohl, said the movement around Sanders reminded him of progressive hopes in the 1970s.
“Hearing it in person made it seem more real, that I believe him more, how committed he is to his principles,” Pohl said.
Mission resident Mariana Vela is enthusiastic about Sanders’ ideals, and also studied at the city college, so both the venue and Sanders’ promises to make higher education more accessible appealed to her.
“He would dramatically, dramatically change the route and the lives of hardworking immigrants,” Vela said.
Glory Rubio had dropped her other plans for the afternoon to join her sister Hosanna in line to attend the rally.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Glory said. “It’s pretty symbolic considering everything that’s happening in this city.”
She was referring to the recent ouster of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, the Black Lives Matter movement, and gentrification, she said.
“This event being public, giving everyone the opportunity to kind of feel what he stands for, it’s more inclusive than I think the other candidates are,” Glory said.
“It’s important to have it in the Mission, the neighborhood that’s dealing with gentrification on a very aggressive level,” added Hosanna Rubio. She also pointed to the significance of holding the event at a public college given Sanders’ stance on affordability of education.
Among the Sanders supporters stood at least one person who, despite enthusiasm for Sanders, preferred Hillary Clinton – but didn’t want to miss the Sanders rally.
“These things are electric,” said Russell Ginsberg. “If Donald Trump were speaking here, I would get in the line too, because it’s 2016…Win or lose, it’s Trump’s year…For the rest of us, it’s Bernie’s year. He’s changed the Democratic party.”
The Democratic Party at the local level was another draw for some at the event. To Hene Kelly, who currently serves on the Democratic County Central Committee, the local arm of the national party, Presidential primaries are extremely significant at the local level – as DCCC members are only elected in primary years.
“We run every four years. Nobody knows our names, we only get blamed when things go wrong,” Kelly said. Her aim is to bring more progressives into the committee, citing corporate influence: “[In DCCC] the first C stands for corporate,” she said.
Another candidate for DCCC attended the rally. While she, too, focuses on progressive issues like inequality at the local level, she had a broader goal.
“In San Francisco, there’s this wide division between individuals,” said Pratima Gupta, a doctor and candidate for San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee. But overall? “The main thing is we need to defeat Donald Trump.”
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This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the situation regarding the Democratic nomination.