Before a crowd, Bernie Sanders is a terrific orator, a master of the nearly lost art of public speaking.
His skill at rousing large numbers of people with inspiring words puts him in the ranks of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. In the era of sound bites and Twitter, it was remarkable to see the old orator hold a crowd of several thousand spellbound with a speech that lasted well over an hour at the Santa Monica High School football field Monday night.
Although a substantial number of older people attended, most of the crowd were young members of the short-attention-span generation.
And most were still there when he reached his peroration, an old-fashioned word meaning “the rousing end of a speech”: “If we win California, we will march to the convention with momentum, and we will march out with the presidential nomination.”
The crowd, and the days of hard work by the grass roots that built it, show why Sanders, trailing in public opinion polls, could possibly win the June 7 California primary, dealing a blow to Hillary Clinton.
See Photos and Videos From Bernie Sanders’ “A Future to Believe In” Rally in Santa Monica
I’ve been following Sanders volunteers for months. They range from college students to older people learning the technical details of maneuvering their laptops through the computerized Sanders get-out-the-vote system.
At first, there were just a few. They contacted friends and relatives and people on prospective-voter lists assembled by the national Sanders headquarters in Burlington, Vt.
Their numbers grew into a large organization that connected through email, Facebook, other social media and barnstorms—small rallies that brought Bernie fans together.
The technology is good, but personal contact, making friends at barnstorms and forming small campaign groups are also important. So is bringing in grass-roots groups that have been campaigning for a better health care system and against climate change, fracking and trade deals. These groups gave the Sanders organization many experienced and motivated volunteers.
Among them is National Nurses United, with a membership of almost 185,000. The organization is dedicated to creating Medicare for all, improving staffing at hospitals and initiating other positive changes in health care. On Monday, members worked their way through Los Angeles in their red #Bernie Bus, signing up voters on the final day of registration.
At Monday’s rally, I talked with three nurses—Valerie Ewald of UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica; Patricia Joubert of Santa Monica’s St. John’s Health Center; and Valerie Selden of Southern California Hospital in Culver City.
They were insistent that Sanders stay in the race against Hillary Clinton. “We haven’t had our primary yet,” Ewald said. “It should all count,” echoed Selden. “I think he should stay. He has to. The only people who want him to stop are the big corporations.”
I also interviewed Ken Yamazeki, a security officer who patrols West Hollywood on a bicycle. Like the nurses, he wants Sanders to remain in the race through the California primary because, he says, the competition helps the Democratic Party. And if Sanders loses to Clinton? “I shall base my move on what he (Sanders) does,” he said.
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Thousands of people attended the Bernie Sanders rally in Santa Monica. (bigd_310 / Instagram)
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