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In the Fight to Rein In Drug Prices, Bernie Sanders Shows He’s Still Got It

Posted on Oct 16, 2016

By Bill Boyarsky

  Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Los Angeles on Friday as AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein looks on. They were at a rally urging Californians to vote yes on Proposition 61, a ballot measure to lower drug prices in the state. (Dan Sternberg / AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Though the 400 to 500 women and men awaiting Bernie Sanders in the parking lot of the American Federation of Musicians in Hollywood represented a fraction of the numbers greeting him during the primary election, the turnout still was impressive—evidence of his continued popularity and support for the cause he was advocating.

For me, listening to him and talking to activists in the audience before he spoke was like stepping into a clear, clean lake after wading through the putrid muck of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton. I wondered where all these decent people come from, these folks I never see on television? Was I dreaming?

Sanders was in Hollywood Friday afternoon to speak on behalf of California Proposition 61, which seeks to reduce the exorbitant prices that drug companies are charging for pharmaceuticals. “The pharmacy industry is one of the most powerful forces in Washington,” he said. “They are getting nervous. And you are making them very nervous.”

His oratorical style was as compelling as it was the last time I heard him. That was in May before a crowd that covered much of the football field at Santa Monica High School.

Those in the audience in the Hollywood parking lot were enthused. Sanders seemed to make them feel as though they were part of an inspiring cause bigger than themselves, just as he did during the campaign. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, she doesn’t have that skill. She is workmanlike, too cautious to dig into her inner self for the words and emotions that would send people away from her appearances ready to crusade.

What Sanders didn’t do was mention Clinton—a notable oversight, whether accidental or deliberate. That doesn’t matter much in California, a solid Clinton state. But hopefully he urges a vote for his former rival when he’s speaking in battleground states, where Trump wants to suppress the Democratic vote. There, Clinton needs a big turnout.

I heard a yearning for Bernie as I walked through the crowd talking to people before his speech. I also found a new willingness to vote for Clinton as a way of voting against Trump.

Mike Wong, a server with day and night jobs at two restaurants, said Sanders’ loss was hard for him to take.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Wong, a Sanders volunteer during the primary. “But it’s heartening to see Bernie endorsing causes and candidates. That’s why I’m here. The primary was painful. You invest so much into something you feel so deeply about.”

Wong, now for Clinton, had not decided what to do until a month after the Democratic National Convention. “I weighed whether to sit it out,” he said. He didn’t think Green candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson was viable, “and I don’t want Trump to be president.” In the end, he said he hopes he and the other Bernie backers “will hold [Clinton] accountable for Bernie’s platform.”

I encountered John Cromshaw, who hosts a program, “Politics or Pedagogy,” on progressive radio station KPFK. “I’ve never been a fan of Hillary,” he said. ”She has corporate sponsors. … I’m concerned about her militarism.” But on the plus side, he said, “she’s a typical politician who can be swayed with people who influence her. Bernie Sanders shows he is someone who can influence the course of politics.”

Not a ringing endorsement, but Cromshaw will be pitching for Clinton and against Trump on his program at the end of October, to be built around the theme “eight days, eight years—eight days to elect Hillary, eight years to keep her responsible.”

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