It had to do with the American Dream

10/03/15 – MBTA Green Line, Fenway – 3:29 p.m. The Fenway platform is the last stop on the inbound Green Line that is both above ground and outside. Early October is a confusing time in metro Boston, clothing-wise, because the weather is starting to dip below 50ºF, but some people insist on pretending that this is not the case. The only other person here is a bald man across the platform. He is onto his second homemade cigarette in eight minutes.

Why I am documenting my experience of attending a Bernie Sanders rally for the Northeastern Political Review remains a bit of a mystery at present. Let me specify: It is clear why my university’s student-run political magazine would want a recap of Bernie’s rally at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center tonight, seeing how he is the most exciting Democratic presidential candidate currently running for office[1]. The part where it gets hazy is the Why Me component, as my experience with political event coverage is close whatever the opposite word is to “robust”. One of the editors saw via Facebook that I was attending the event already as an interested citizen, and contacted me about covering it, so I imagine this to be sort of a two birds situation.

When you are asked to cover a large political event for a non-profit student publication, it is important to remember that you are not technically considered Press. This is to say, don’t expect a laminated credential or like a Hello[2]. Going to an event credential-less basically means that you are not allowed to stand up on the raised media stage at event crowd center to snap photos or gather video or chatter into a Bluetooth headset with two fingers over your ear and your shirt tucked in, etc.

The man across the tracks pulls slowly at his cigarette, which has stopped burning evenly across the lit end’s perimeter, and now requires some mild acrobatics on the part of him. He sees me watching and sends one of those chin-down nods of benign acknowledgement, and I reciprocate what I hope is the facial version of “how about this weather?”, or something.

One reason that I am nervous about this is because I am not sure how much will have to be cut out for length and relevance purposes (I am sure quite a bit), or what you yourself as a politically minded reader are interested in hearing. I have one of those tiny leather bound reporter journals, a Canon DSLR 7D strapped tight around my neck, hanging, the camera, and in my canvas backpack is a certain number of pens[3].

The few trees’ leaves are streaked with tips of orange and red across the dulling green. Some version of outerwear is officially recommended. There are goose pimples on the exposed arms of those who choose not abide. A strong sense of pre-winter denial is apparent in lifelong New Englanders during this time of year. It is as if our grimaces and under-dressing will somehow prolong the inevitable.

My friend has yet to arrive. The next inbound train will be here in 10 minutes.

10/03/15 – MBTA Green Line, Inbound – 3:40 p.m. A substantial inbound crowd has grown quickly over the past several minutes, and now a Green Line train approaches, bell dinging. There is clustered chatter that sounds friendly and multi-lingual. Fifteen people are on smart phones. An Asian girl is wearing a blue Bernie Sanders t-shirt, and my West Coast Compadre[4] wonders out loud how many of these people are probably going to the same place we are.

What I know about Bernie Sanders is as follows: He advocates primarily for removing big money from politics, establishing a living minimum wage, doing something about widespread income inequality, making public education more affordable, bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, protecting women’s healthcare rights, regulating the military industrial complex, and reforming Wall Street. I also know that all of these points seem to be, in the eyes of the GOP candidates and electorate, war tactics of the anti-Christ itself.

We step onto the Green Line and show our respective passes to the conductor. WCC is a fan of Bernie Sanders. He tells me about how he (Compadre) was extremely sick the day before, and hydrated and rested and turned down numerous social obligations to put himself in the best position for a speedy recovery.

“I couldn’t miss this, man.” He says to me. His voice has the permanently relaxed imprint of a SoCal upbringing combined with that sort of nasally resistant sound of histaminic recovery. “Bernie’s a fucking rock star.”

“Something to tell the grandkids,” I say. | “A classic ‘I was there’ story.” | “Can’t have enough of those, it seems.” | “’I’m a cool dad. Please love me.’”

I laugh. I am glad that WCC is coming along with me to the rally. There is never any offense taken by him by my extended periods of scribbling or tapping a capped pen against my incisors, forehead wrinkling and un-. He has the ability to maintain an intelligent monologue pretty much at all times, and I am able to pick and choose when to respond.

10/03/15 – Underground escalators, beneath intersection of Atlantic Ave and Summer Street in Dewey Square, Boston – Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center [5] – Approaching MBTA Silver Line – 4:00 p.m. The event doors open in an hour, and Senator Sanders comes on stage around six p.m. We are already at South Station, heading for the Silver Line bus connection that will shuttle us out to the Convention Center, making solid time. The Red Line stop at South Station is underground, and we have to ride an escalator to a higher level to reach the Silver Line shuttle. As soon as we are escalated into view of the chilly bus platform, it right away becomes clear that we are a part of something much larger, now.

I see hats with #FeelTheBern[6] buttons pinned on them in multiple places, various Bernie Sanders t-shirts displayed over hoodies, Bernie patches stitched onto backpacks and tote bags, Bernie wristbands and necklaces and even some circular stickers stapled onto thick flannel shirts, potential adhesion redundancy be damned.

A middle-aged man with wide shoulders and a handlebar mustache has a Bernie Sanders bandana wrapped around his forehead, with a plastic button of the Vermont senator’s spectacled mug pinned to the exact center like the dental light you pretty much only see in cartoons. He looks like the kind of person who does not even pretend to own a motorcycle helmet.

The Bernie accessories do not end with clothing or headgear. There are signs, both handmade and machine printed. One of the signs reads “Bernie is my Pope” in a magic marker variation of red, white and blue. The sign is drawn on the back of a Lisa’s Pizza Restaurant lid carried by an Indian man with a Boston University sweater on and a thick black combover so intensely gelled that I can see myself in its gleam.

There are other signs that are more platform specific. One is red and has a checked box next to the words “Sensible Gun Voter”. One says “My Body, My Choice” with nothing else, not that anything else would really be necessary.

An empty Silver Line bus arrives after about a minute or so of waiting, but only about half of the crowd can fit, so WCC and I decide to wait for the next one.

I am now beginning to experience the sort of anxiety that comes with non-fiction writing of any sort. Minor journalistic experience indicates that I should probably scan the crowded bus platform for any noticeable trends that might indicate the type of person who is attracted to an event like this. Who is the Bernie Sanders supporter, what do they want, et cetera. Call it an “angle”.

A girl about our age in a black leather jacket above a colorful flannel suddenly appears behind us through the crowd of which we are now at the front. She is with a guy who is tall and wearing a gray cardigan. It seems that she and WCC had previously been acquainted at some point – you will notice a theme – and I gather that her name is Sarah.

I am told that the tall guy’s name is Kevin, and we exchange the requisite handshakes and polite nods that are all but obligatory between two peripheral members of second-degree friendship. I say something like Sweet Cardigan, or whatever, and then we just sort of stand there and go through all different ways to blow air out of our noses.

Sarah and Kevin drove here from Cape Cod to see Bernie speak tonight. I ask her how she found out about the rally. She told me that if it weren’t for the Facebook event organized by the Bernie Sanders campaign, she would have had no idea. Apparently the event was mentioned nowhere in any of the major Boston media sources, except for a single Tweet posted by the Globe a day prior[7]. Kevin’s slow nodding is consistent throughout.

10/03/15 – Seated on shuttle – Next up: World Trade Center, MBTA Silver Line – En route to Boston Convention & Exhibition Center – 4:16 p.m. Something I have been keeping tabs on leading up to this, and I will admit one of the reasons I’d already been planning to attend this rally in a non-journalistic capacity, is the alleged black-out of Bernie Sanders by the mainstream television and print media. It was actually my dad who first clued me in on this trend in August, when Sanders (still at that point considered a long shot candidate) generated a crowd of 27,000 supporters at a rally in Los Angeles, and only two local media vans were present[8].

Bernie has continued to generate massive excitement and large rallies ever since, and has been surging in nationwide polls. Despite this, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump still receive the lion’s share of coverage from large corporate media on both sides of the political spectrum, for reasons relatively graspable when considering the way Big Media operates in this country. It seems to be a very simple case of not biting the hand that feeds. Bernie Sanders has made it loud and clear that he is refusing to accept any Super-PAC money, which is unprecedented in the modern political era.

The blind-side is probably most obvious with the New York Times presidential coverage, which purports an overwhelmingly pro-Clinton-no-matter-what agenda[9]. You can check this out for yourself. Though there is not a single mention of Sanders under the “Politics” sub-header at nytimes.com, some articles do appear after a quick search. A majority of these articles use heavily calculated language that attempts to dismiss him as a nobody, an outsider, a radical fringe candidate with the approximate political chances of a snowball in someplace warm.

Someone from behind: “When everyone else gets off, that’s when we’re getting off.”

To the casual news consumer who receives his or her information primarily through television and major newspapers, Bernie is still pretty much invisible. However, and what is particularly remarkable to me, is that, despite all of these facts, he is surging in the polls.

This reality is indicative of a few things. For one, we are seeing a radical paradigm shift in the way Americans are receiving their information. The U.S. television market is past its prime, and aging poorly. There is a mass user exodus from cable and DirecTV to high speed Internet and media streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. In this regard, broadcast television news is losing its influence over mass popular opinion from a sheer numbers standpoint.

Then there is the element of trust. Television is more and more at the mercy of corporate sponsorship and ad revenue as we migrate online. Another aspect of the Bernie Sanders surge is that it is revealing a massive distrust between the population and corporate broadcast news. It no longer seems that Bernie is popular in spite of Big Media’s blind eye, but rather because of it. As if the 24/7 news industry blackout of Sanders is a de facto endorsement amongst those in the know, and drawing even more attention to his campaign online, where it really thrives in the first place.

I wonder if this campaign will be the camel-paralyzing straw with respect to ad value on broadcast news – i.e. if Facebook/YouTube will become the new mecca of ad revenue and political campaign future in the second half of the 2010s. If that is the case, it will be hard to say that the Bernie Sanders campaign did not have a heavy hand in that change. Some of the most prudent demographers and financial minds in this corner of the Milky Way work in U.S. advertising, and fund the networks who air our news. If a candidate can defeat being completely ignored and intentionally misrepresented by the country’s biggest TV networks and newspapers (something that would completely cripple a campaign in the pre-Internet age), that means that the number of people who still receive their news from television is becoming so low that it is hardly worth investing money in, because clearly the eyeballs are flocking online.

Fortify the ad block extension on your web browser, is what I’m saying.

We arrive at the World Trade Center Silver Line MBTA station, which is one block north of the Exhibition Center, near the South Boston Waterfront on Summer Street, where the rally will be taking place. I scan the bus as we depart, still eyeing for demographics or trends. This social experiment is proving more difficult than I originally thought; it’s time to sharpen my eye, seems like. The doors open in half an hour.

10/03/15 – South Boston, Waterfront – Approaching BCEC – 4:32 p.m. South Boston. The wet hiss of steady traffic. Air is cooling off. Wind is blowing into our faces. Hard. Crossing to Summer Street. Weather folks say Hurricane Joaquin has missed us. WCC asks me if I want him to shut up. I say no. “Allegedly” missed us. A certain wool beanie is at max capacity for cranial stuffage. Ninety-five percent sure that we could lean forward and not fall over, I mean. Excitement for us both. I’ve been to one primary speech before[12], and this will be his first. I am basically scribbling notes amid a slight jog. WCC is my eyes. I narrowly avoid colliding with a standalone street advertisement in the middle of the sidewalk. Black and white. Jennifer Aniston. Smart Water. Simplicity is Delicious. WCC warns, Watch out for Jennifer Aniston. I sidestep the sign. A smile in his direction. Something to the effect of, Always Do.

10/03/15 – Summer Street, BCEC entrance – 4:40 p.m. The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is one of the largest of its kind in the Northeastern United States, with 516,000 total square feet of floor space in its lower show room where Bernie will be addressing the crowd in just over an hour. It is the home of events that are deemed too large to be held at the smaller Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay. Police are waving off cars and sending the herd of supporters across the four-lane Summer Street in waves.

The media parking area has one van in it. WCVB, Boston’s local ABC affiliate. So far, no national news. Fifteen thousand people signed up for this event on Facebook; I cannot count fast enough to either confirm or deny.

A man and his young daughter are in front of me. It is not a guarantee that she (the daughter) can see over fire hydrants. She has a impossibly small white shirt on that says “Join the Political Revolution” with Bernie Sanders’s handwritten signature across the shirt’s back’s top center.

BCEC’s north entrance is essentially a gigantic glass wall with multiple bays of revolving doors in constant use. There are peddlers outside with huge cardboard sleeves of Bernie Sanders buttons and t-shirt stands on wheels. One sort of bland looking guy with greasy hair and horn-rimmed glasses is selling koozies in both blue and white that say Feel The Bern – which I get but still is sort of an ironic message to have emblazoned across a device designed specifically for cold-beer insulation. I decide this may not be worth further investigative headache. His first rodeo in the nuanced underbelly of political merchandise-peddling, this is not.

Being part of a triple-digit group of people pouring into a building at the same time is incredible, and a first. From an aerial view the doors probably look like the wheels of a bicycle coasting down a long hill. WCC has to use the facilities. Someone from behind calls out re: free pamphlets.

10/03/15 –BCEC, North Lobby facilities – Obliging my West Coast Compadre – 4:43 p.m. A large reptilian man with a tremendous belly that his American flag suspenders are working overtime to hold on to and a mustache so vivid and bushy that it appears to have recently been alive asks me what the fuck I am doing taking notes in the bathroom.

10/03/15 – BCEC, North Lobby – Something resembling a line – 4:48 p.m. We are part of a massive group now, moving with that invisible community obedience that you feel in an amusement park or a high school hallway between classes. WCC has bumped into another friend, this one from Northeastern, one of us. They had a class together last semester. His name is N- and he has on a white Feel the Bern tank top.

I comment on the commitment it takes to wear a tank top in early October. He tells me that he’s from Massachusetts, and that this is no big deal, and I think once again of the weather denial that we are both under and I don’t mention the shirt anymore.

There is one of those motion-sense Purell dispensers that is bone dry and has pumped out gasps of mechanical air to three, four, five people in a row as we’re shuttled on by. Imagine if a robot could burp.

N- sees me taking notes and asks if I knew that Sanders had just blown Obama’s campaign donation record out of the water, reaching a million individual donations several months faster than our current president had in 2008. I say something like Huh and Wow, so that he will keep talking.

“25 million dollars in private donations.” He tells me how the mainstream media makes sure to point out how Bernie’s fundraising is dwarfed by Clinton’s, but never talks about the difference in how those funds are generated. Hillary Clinton’s campaign donations come from upscale fundraisers ($2700 per ticket) and super PACs. N- uses his iPhone to show me a video that he found Twitter explaining this further. Bernie’s average campaign contribution is just under $30. N-’s brown hair is pulled back into one of those cosmopolitan half-pony tails of recent popularity.

“It feels good to be a part of it, of that statistic,” he says. “It’s exciting.” Left-handers look particularly bat shit when we scribble. This line offers little in the way of elbow room, I will add.

Approaching escalators. Below us is Hall C West. Some sort of order of people. The line swells by the escalator’s peak. N- has never donated to a politician before this campaign. He has a tattoo on the inside of his right bicep that says Buddy, his favorite Willie Nelson song.

WCC, N- and I get to about 25 feet away from the massive escalators before the contagious roar from down below begins to leak into our crowd. A sort of caller-response situation is beginning to develop between the folks up here and the people who have already arrived below.

I say to N- how these numbers are hard to believe. The excitement surrounding this candidate has officially been under-represented by the mainstream media. This is no longer a hunch.

To N- I say “This is not what they’ve been showing us on TV.” His bearded chin pivots as far to the left as any neck that knew what was good for it would allow, and then as far back to the right. “Newspaper either, seems like. This is a totally new thing.”

We hear the dimetric chants – Ber-nie, Ber-nie, Ber-nie – before we can see them.

From N-, three slow and thoughtful nods. “This is an American movement,” he says, though he could have said nothing at all and it would have been the same. His eyes are looking way out at something that isn’t there.

10/03/15 – BCEC Hall C West – Waiting for doors – 4:55 p.m. Todd is a volunteer with a clipboard and a practiced smile of polite optimism often found in young people who willingly sign up to hold a clipboard for several hours at a time for free. He has a laminated credential – ouch – that says “Let’s Start a Political Revolution Today”. Todd says that he is a freshman computer science major at Tufts University, and I like him fine.

He gives us each a sticker that says “Bernie” and underneath, in smaller font: “for President”. The name is stylized in blue serif block font that is underlined with a low amplitude sinusoid of flowing red. The lowercase “i” is dotted with a five-point star. Stickers are all-purpose and rarely turned down at most venues. Mine goes straight into the back cover of the leather bound journal out of respect for journalistic integrity[13], or whatever.

This waiting area is the length of 12 massive support columns each separated by about 50 feet. Unarmed security guards are patrolling the group, ensuring that we abide by the several hundred black TensaBarriers[14] that form a pretty easy maze when this place is empty, probably, or the building maintenance crew just takes them down.

Compadre points something out that is almost so obvious that I’d stopped paying attention and forgotten. People aren’t even trying to cut in line. No one has tried to duck under any of the seatbelted barricades. WCC points out how Bernie’s Populist message of common good and group cooperation must resonate with people on a real essential level.

The Compadre observes how ready and willing these people are to work together with complete strangers in a massive hot, crowded room, and how that is a testament to something genuinely like ideally American about this campaign. WCC has that extraordinary kind of personal intuition that makes him highly susceptible to the quote obvious.

“It’s amazing how down with Bernie everyone is.” | “Yeah, and excited, too. For the togetherness.” | “Right?” | “Almost like eager for some self-sacrifice.” | “And these are random line-strangers, too.” | “A hard to please contingent of stranger.” | “Dude. The worst.”

The central figure in a group of three student-looking young men ask us if we are from Northeastern. I ask if they could tell by our sweaters, which both say Northeastern across the front, coincidentally. Up in the air as to whether or not they understand that I am joking. These guys are from the Harvard Students for Bernie, which is a student group of 73 people. All members of HS4B – stylized this way across the hemmed rectangular stitching of their gray t-shirts’ front pockets – are in attendance tonight. The group has been growing every single week.

The guy feeding me this information is standing on the opposite end of the dividing TBarrier, a silent peer at both his flanks, and asks that I don’t quote or describe him at all. Once again I curse my being w/o prestige or credential – but he does tell me that BU, BC, Tufts[15], Brandeis, and Brown University all have student groups here, so I write that down, making sure to tilt my journal forward so that if he wants he can read that none of what I am scribbling is regarding him or his appearance, and he does.

10/03/15 – Center of BCEC showroom – Awaiting Bernie  5:03 p.m. The floor is big and scuffed up and gray. It reminds me of like the TD Garden, post-buzzer, when the Celtics go home, and the parquet floor is removed, and everything all of a sudden feels somehow under water again. A tunnel of volunteers preface the entrance to the showroom. Laminated credentials, professional optimism, etc. I tell three separate people with clipboards that I am not registered to vote in Massachusetts. N- tries again at a slow clap, but no dice. He has this thing where he likes to say “Bernard”[16].

A bald man with circular wire glasses frames and a gray mustache is wearing a black shirt that mimics the aesthetic of those Dunkin Donuts ads and says “America runs on immigration.” I see an interracial couple. The guy wears a green fleece headband that pushes his dreadlocks out straight behind him. The girl is shorter than he and has at least four Bernie stickers attached to each layer. There is a felt American flag top hat, limp. I see clean-cut combovers, tie dye shirts varying in age and saturation, khakis, acid washed jeans, earrings, fancy clothing. There is an elderly man in front of me. The back of his gray shirt has a red cartoon price tag against with the words NOT FOR SALE. John Phillips Sousa’s Semper Fidelis is playing on distant speakers. There are hair colors altered by external intervention. There is a tall black woman with a tattoo of a cross on the back of her hand, between thumb and forefinger, the cross. I see jackets tied around waists.

10/03/15 – Center of BCEC showroom – Same – 5:58 p.m. The press box at the floor’s center has eight video cameras facing the brightly lit blue backdrop on stage, which itself has a massive rectangular sign displaying Bernie’s website in white letters. I can see an event organizer in a black suit escorting people to the four-level aluminum bleacher behind the podium. I know from my experience at Barack Obama’s rally in 2008 that these are the people who will appear on television behind the podium. My family and I were behind Obama’s podium way back then in Bangor. I recall the aviators, again, this time with a slight cringe.

The media reps are mostly young. There is an extremely good-looking girl in high-waist jeans with a DSLR hanging around her neck, too. She is taking pictures of the massive crowd with her iPhone, presumably for instant access to social media. A family takes a selfie and posts it to Twitter – this per N-’s observation. He has been sharp and helpful for this thing. The N- stands for Noah.

The “Bernie Sanders for President” signs blanket my view of the stage. Smart phones are stretched out overhead, above the relentless throng, like second eyes, positioned in landscape, waiting. Hanging along the far right wall there is the largest American flag I have ever seen.

10/03/15 – Center of BCEC showroom – 6:08 p.m. Bernie Sanders is on stage. I can’t yet tell if he is well lit or not. My ears are ringing. You’ve probably heard left handed people complain about the inked smears they get across the meat of writing palm’s edge. And to think I once whined about elbow room. WCC and I are neither close nor far from the stage. The “fucking rock star” assessment from earlier is looking to be not very far off. The floor undulates. In this moment we may as well be outside, in terms of quote seeing the Bern unquote. A fractured line of sight comes and goes through the fluttering gaps in the oak-stock mosaic, and in these snippets I see a black blazer and gentle wave, a head of hair that’s white enough to make a dentist’s knees quiver, and a shirt so light blue it’s kind of tough to see the point.

10/03/15 – Center of BCEC showroom – 6:25 p.m. Fifteen minutes into Bernie Sanders’ speech now. The building is close to capacity. I am wondering if I have another blue pen, as this one may have just crossed it’s last “t”. N- has been lost in to the crowd in front of us after trying to get a better Snapchat vantage point, like ten minutes ago. It is officially crystal how much carpal-pizzaz this is going to take on the part of me. A scratch, an inkless ravine in the page, so a pen switch, the spent shell tucked behind left ear.

WCC, extremely active and loyal in caller-response type crowd situations, and perhaps less-than-self-aware, volume-wise, because the beanie is still down over one ear, lets out an explosive Ye-ah!!! when the Vermont Senator succinctly reviews the way politics operate in this country.

“We have got to end the apathy,” Bernie says, voice shot – sort of a trademark at this point, and folks are laughing, but it’s that real genuine With Him laughing – but not at all exacerbated or insincere, his voice.

“If people don’t vote, Republicans win. But if we stand together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish!” Here, the Ye-ah!!! from WCC, and an unattributed Woo! from someplace.

While Bernie doesn’t talk about his Democratic opponents at all, there is not an ounce of lost love between he and the Republican party candidates, which he describes as suffering from a diagnosable lapse in memory. He says something like Hey now don’t laugh or applaud because amnesia is a serious illness, which generates both laughter and applause.

“Somehow, every problem under the sun is Barack Obama’s fault,” he says. “If it’s hot outside, if it’s cold outside, if there’s a mosquito in the room, it is Barack Obama’s fault.”

Republicans can’t remember the way things were seven years ago, Bernie says, when the Bush administration left us trillions of dollars in debt and the economy was bleeding to the effect of 800,000 jobs per month.

He then turns his speech toward the red-hot issue of campaign finance, which is the point in which he and Hillary Clinton diverge most significantly. “I don’t have a super-PAC, I don’t want a super-PAC, and I don’t need a super-PAC!”

The room explodes. This line works so well that you might as well be here.

A hand launches toward me out from between shoulders and smacks my chest. It is N-, his hand, and then his face, he has returned, and his forefinger is jabbing at the stage so aggressively he is denting the air. I hear, Dude dude dude, Listen!

“They may have more money, but we have something they don’t.” Bernie is shorter than I imagined. Humble energy radiates off of his words in sheets. “Look around this room -” a wide armed gesture from wall to wall, heads sort of follow, a sly public speaking maneuver, getting us all to look at each other like that, I note.

This… is… what we have!

I feel the floor in my knees. If you close your eyes and hold your breath, the room is like a thousand waterfalls crashing onto you at the same time.

10/03/15 – Center of BCEC showroom – 7:30 p.m. The crowd has been steadily growing throughout the rally. N- disappeared again, this time it seems like for good. My West Coast Compadre and I have sort of wedged ourselves through bodies – sorry, sorry, excuse me, sorry, pardon us, etc. – and have relocated to the northwest segment. I now have been on my feet for over three hours.

Our new spot allows for a truly great view of Sanders, bathed in spotlight, his background entirely blackened in silhouetted. He is currently riding a spectatorial wave sparked by his speech’s transition to global climate change, a hot topic. There are eco-friendly liberals in this crowd, for sure. (These the folks who carry NPR tote bags and occupy high-traffic bridges and hold picket signs even during the winter, more than one of whom I am sure have recipes for homemade granola that they no longer have to read.) This is not snotty, this analysis. My parents are within the contingent. Point here not being snot, but rather to point out that I know many of these types personally, and they vote.

An older gentlemen behind me who is wearing a Patagonia vest and balding like it’s no one’s business is shouting audible support when Bernie says, “This is the only planet we have,”, and, “It is an international embarrassment that we have a major political party who rejects science.”

On the topic of voting, I don’t know if I see anybody in here who doesn’t look ready to walk out and go cast their ballot right now. The Bernie Sanders excitement statistic mentioned earlier is not to be understated. These are not people who are still making up their minds. The trusting admiration in this room is palpable and a little bit inspiring; these are Bernie Sanders voters.

There is one other candidate in the current presidential arena who generates energy and commitment even close to this, and he has some things to say about immigration, and he is positioned somewhere to our collective and immediate Right. I have learned that there are serious consistencies amongst the people who support Donald Trump. Call these consistencies demographical “trends”.

Trump voters are a people united in their loathing of political correctness. The Donald is seen by his beloved crowds as a pioneer for the conservative battle against the national menace of PC speech. He speaks his mind, they say, his supporters, a quality so rare on the political stage. Basic human kindness be damned when he labels undocumented immigrants as “killers and rapists”, or when he says that he has a “great relationship with the blacks” or when he openly Tweets his outrage with “the thugs of Baltimore”.

Here there is a disturbing truth that is revealed about Trump’s camp, it seems. Their ravenous support begs the following question: Is it the fact that he speaks his mind that makes him so appealing, or rather the fact that his shameless, prejudiced bile provides validation for angry (white) people throughout America who have felt their I.D. become pressured in this radical new age of social acceptance?

In this sense I see Trump as less of a hero, and more as a dangerous icon for the type of ignorant white nationalists who use caps lock and often know at least one taxidermist personally. He is the social pariah for people who post things like “We Need to bring GOD back into AMERICA!!!” on just about every online comment board, topic independent, and whose political concerns can usually be summed up on the back of a truck bumper, people who wear those kind of t-shirts with jokes on them, and who have a whole lot to say about home security, and who chew gum real loudly in airports.

If there is any reason why Trump appeals to the U.S. contingent whose faces are red more often than not, I would argue that it is fear. There is tremendous anxiety of change that is prevalent within today’s conservative party, and outsourcing this anxiety on immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, atheists, Obama, etc. has become a very potent political strategy. There is a longing amongst the Trumpers for a nation that no longer exists. “Make America Great Again” say the red hats.

The question that Trump supporters never ask themselves, though, is why exactly America is no longer the way it was, when women couldn’t vote, and skin color dictated quality of education and public bathroomand the government locked Japanese-Americans away into concentration camps on our own soil.

Make no mistake, the Bernie supporters to my left and right are also angry, and also inspired, and also demanding change. However, there is a key difference in the style of desire present. These people are seeking national progression rather than regression, and, though there is anger, lots of it, there is very little sense of fear. Tonight, 20,000 people came to the South Boston Waterfront, trudging through massive winds and chilling October air, to do something that the mainstream media will not – listen to a 73 year old self-proclaimed socialist speak his mind, a mind whose honesty is much less socially alarming than Trump’s. There is something going on in here that is real.

10/03/15 – Outside – D Street  BCEC Showroom receding behind us – 8:15 p.m. The air outside is cold. The guy with the pamphlets is back. I still can’t see him. Faces are lit up from smart phone screens, and it is easy to see how Bernie Sanders dominates social media.

Behind the BCEC on D Street there is this really big urban interactive space called the Lawn on D. It has huge circular swings of hard translucent plastic with colorful lightbulbs inside them, the lawns primary source of light. The bulbs are shut off, now, so it is hard to make out much of anything, but we can see the outline of a crowd of people gathering around a tiny stage on the southeast side of the cool muddy grass. I almost can’t believe what I am seeing until WCC, the day’s eyes, still, points and says

“It’s Bernie.”

The Senator is there all right, on the tiny stage, wireless microphone in hand and security nowhere in sight, just talking. There is no podium, no note cards, and no spotlights of any kind. There are no video cameras or media, and it’s pretty much impossible to get a good photo on the dark lawn.

“So you’re the real supporters, huh?” He jokes to thunderous applause. The acoustics are different out here, less stilted by echo, more conversational and real. “Thank you for coming out!”

There are those whistling sounds that require fingers. The Compadre and I are sort of in awe from this unexpected appearance. Sanders graciously thanks everyone over and over, and then delivers the mic-dropper:”Together, we can start a political revolution!” and vanishes behind the stage.

“Who does that? Who does that, man?” I tell the Compadre that I Do Not Know. My ears are still ringing, and I remember that the Bernie sticker is still tucked between my journal’s back cover and last page.

I was wrong. There is a Bernie Sanders type. This type does fulfill a demographic, just not one that falls within the cosmetic categories I was looking for. I saw many ages and races, classes, aesthetics, orientations, genders, and styles of hat. There were ethnic and socio-economic groups represented here tonight. Ages, genders, sexual orientations. Plural.

I see the Type, now. The Bernie Sanders voter is an excited and engaged American citizen. Engagement over enragement, or something. For as long as I can remember, as far as politics or social stances are concerned, citizens of this country have only been allowed to fall within Thought Type 1 or 2, regardless of the situation. Bernie Sanders supporters, however, do not fit within this binary.

We are on the sidewalk now, crossing over the bridge, returning into the city. WCC proposes the idea of dinner in Chinatown. Images of warm tea and noodles in the old melon, and that is that.

As peel off my sticker and slap it onto my chest, I consider that the only identifiable thread in there, the only Type that connected every single one of those people tonight, all 20,000 of them, is that they are Americans, and they care about the fate of their country in a real and true way. Maybe that is the whole point.

The cold air blowing in off the harbor really means it now. A shiver, hard sniff, a burst of warm air into my own cupped hands. Those tiny black cat turds of dead skin from palms rubbed intensely together. No flames or embers, though. An elbow to the ribs from WCC, probably related to all the times I’ve made fun of him for being cold. The electric red of brake lights up the street bleeds into everything at once. Together, the damp whir of tires and spiraling gusts from behind are meeting here in the middle with one long shhhh, sort of gentle and fading out, like the acoustic sum of everyone who’s ever raised a finger to their lips and suggested that you keep it down.


A published piece of journalism was crafted from this experience, somehow. It is featured on the Northeastern University Political Review, and can be read on their website.


Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.19.40 PM

Aren Robinson LeBrun is a student journalist, writer & award winning amateur filmmaker currently in pursuit of semi-adulthood in Boston, Massachusetts. Originally he hails from a tiny town in the Great White North of rural Maine. He loves (in no particular order of importance) basketball, black coffee, movies, writing, kayaking, hiking, Hawaiian shirts, a good beer, and Nintendo 64. He has never had a Lunchable.


Some notes. 

[1] Sanders currently holds a 10-point lead over Hillary Clinton in Iowa. He is garnering 52 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, according to a recent poll conducted by YouGov. Seventy-eight percent of Sanders voters have expressed “enthusiastic support,” for his campaign, compared to a mere 39 percent of Clinton voters.

[2] Let’s clarify that Press can be something that you call and ask for with pretty limited resistance, I have since discovered.

[3] Unsure if too many or not enough (pens)

[4] In Los Angeles, a day of sub-50ºF is apparently like apocalyptic, and it shows. My WCC suffers exactly nil from cold-weather denial. A black jacket covers a thick hooded sweatshirt which itself covers a layer or so underneath, and a good majority of his head is stuffed into a wool knit beanie. This marks the third time that he has cupped his hands together and blown.

[5] This is the actual official name of “South Station”, believe it or not.

[6] This is the most popular Sanders campaign slogan that originated virally online, narrowly edging out #BernNotice and #BernDownForWhat in the court of popular opinion.

[7] This fact about the Tweet is per my own online research during and after the event took place.

[8] This is according to WCC, who says he did not attend the rally himself but whose authority I still trust on matters pertaining to local LA news.

[9] The Times is considered to be the “Paper of Record” in this country, but I would argue that this is no longer the case. It is not a personal knock at the NYT, but rather a symptom of a greater point that there is no paper (or any sponsored media source) of record in America. This opinion is explored further in William Boardman’s opinion piece for RSN, titled “Bernie Sanders Blindsided by the New York Times Blackout” (16-July-2015).

[10] For the record, Joe Biden still hasn’t announced his candidacy, yet he is still included on all of the national polls that I have seen. It would be interesting to know whether or not this is precedent.

[11] An official apology was released Sept 5, stating that “a mention of the challenge posed by the Sanders campaign would have been appropriate.” Would have been appropriate. End quote. Five massive corporations donate over one million dollars each to NPR, including General Electric, Prudential Insurance, and Northwestern Mutual.

[12] Barack Obama, 2008. I was in 8th grade and I went to see him speak in Bangor, ME with my parents and older brother. Two things that I remember about that time: 1) Obama was considered a fringe candidate with little to no shot of defeating Hillary Clinton, and 2) aviator sunglasses were approaching peak coolness, and a sharp decline was on the horizon, to all who were in the know.

[13] I make sure to hammer on the integrity piece to the Toddster when he sees me tucking away my sticker, due to my fear that I am somehow hurting his feelings. He insists twice that it is Fine.

[14] Those three-foot tall pole things with like seatbelt material connecting them used to organize large crowds, common at airport check-ins and the DMV.

[15] The alma mater of the old Todder, who has since vanished, clipboard in hand, Bic uncapped and in tow, shouldering himself an avenue through the fray.

[16] N-‘s second Go at a slow clap garners only a tiny a bit more traction than his first, and the lackluster increase per attempt makes a third Go seem rather unlikely.

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