CONCORD, N.H. – At the rally here tonight to celebrate the Sanders’ campaign victory in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary today, the crowd chanted “This is what democracy looks like,” a slogan from the Occupy Movement.
The state’s primary was the first in the nation to be held for the 2016 presidential election. There had been a record turnout. Sanders won 60 percent of the votes.
However, participants in the victory rally, held in a high school gym, didn’t see the election results as a win for Sanders as an individual. They saw it as a step forward in a “political revolution” they are building together.
They got a big kick out of observing something never before seen: United States Secret Service agents vigilantly protecting a socialist. They interpreted Bernie’s body guards as symbolic confirmation that their movement has entered the mainstream of American politics.
“The American people are showing that they will no longer accept a political system bought and paid for by the billionaire class,” Sanders said in his victory speech. “They will no longer put up with an economic system rigged against working people in which wages are going down and wealth goes to the top one percent.”
The crowd roared approval when Sanders said, “Whether or not I win the nomination, we all must work together to unite the Democratic Party. We must come together to assure that the right wing does not capture the White House.
“The last time they did, they brought our economy to its knees. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs. Families lost their entire life’s savings. We have not yet recovered from the impact of their greed.”
“We’re much more than Bernie,” a rally participant said. “We’re a huge movement to take back our government.”
“The whole campaign is … about coming together, taking away the ego and creating a democratic socialist society in the sense that it’s not about me being better than you. … It’s about people coming together and building a movement.”
The day before the primary, Sanders held a rally in the Palace Theater in Manchester, New Hampshire’s biggest city. The joy and excitement were palpable. It was less like a political rally and more like a meeting of people working together for something big.
It was different from the rallies or “town hall meetings” held by other candidates. At those affairs, participants were either skeptical or were there to worship their heroes. There were long lines of political celebrities and talk show hosts singing the praises of the candidate before the main speech.
More often than not, there were mesmerizing videos and canned music blasting from high tech sound systems.
Not at the Sanders rally. There were no shows or videos. There were no warm-up acts before he spoke. There was, however, an interpreter for the deaf.
After a brief introduction, and with no fanfare, Sanders went to the podium.
During his talk, there were a lot of back-and-forth exchanges between Sanders and people in the seats. Young people got up and told about their heavy burdens of school debts.
Sanders repeated what he’s said over and over again “No one person, not even the President of the United States, can get our government to serve the people instead of the billionaire class. The corporations, Wall Street and the corporate media are too strong and their control is too tight and too deep.
“The only way to bring about real change in America,” Sanders said, “is for millions of people to stand together and take back our government.”
That’s what makes the Sander campaign different from every other one in either party.
In their speeches, every other candidate says something like “vote for me, and I’ll [fill in the blank] …. .” They say “hire me to do the job, then sit back and relax.”
On the other hand, the slogan of the Sanders campaign is “Join the Political Revolution.”
Sanders’ appeal is working. At the rallies here, he has reported that his campaign has received contributions from 3.5 million individuals, more than any other political campaign in the history of the U.S. The average contribution is $27.
Sanders is one of only two presidential nominee candidates who have no super PAC. The other is Donald Trump, who is his own super PAC.
Sanders refuses to take corporate money, yet last quarter he raised more than Hillary Clinton.
In his speeches, he says very little about himself and a lot about the need for universal healthcare and a raise in the minimum wage. He talks about expanding Social Security and disability benefit. He says the U.S. should cap the cost of pharmaceuticals and create free public colleges and universities.
Furthermore, Sanders insists that the federal government could create millions of high paid jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and railroad lines.
He says the nation could afford all this and more by putting a tax on Wall Street speculations, preventing companies from moving offshore to avoid taxes and by requiring the superrich to pay their fair share of taxes.
Sanders describes these proposals as being well within the American tradition of politics, stretching from Teddy Roosevelt the trust-buster to Franklin Roosevelt the New Dealer.
He also stresses that they are elements of democratic socialism, American-style.
Photo: Jenny Kenny