On Saturday night I got to be a part of history. I went to see Bernie Sanders speak at the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion here in Seattle. It was a seminal moment. Socialism has never been a strong movement in this country, but it does tend to surge when the upper classes begin to behave more abominably. So it’s surging now.
I arrived a couple hours early, and still the line was a half mile long, wrapping around Husky Stadium next door. You could feel the electricity in the air. The crowd around me was discussing the fact that Sanders’ afternoon speech was disrupted by the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ll write more about that tomorrow.
People were walking up and down the line asking us to sign petitions. I signed one to put something on the state ballot to address electoral reform. (Would that I could have signed it twice.) Others were handing out flyers. One was by Kshama Sawant, our city council member who is a member of the Socialist Alternative party (God, how I love Seattle) and it was very supportive of Sanders. Another was by the Freedom Socialist party, and it was very critical of him, which seems counterproductive. I mean, yes, he hardly toes the party line, but at least he’s a step in the right direction.
And of course, there were protesters. One group was rallying for rent control (yeah, buddy!) and another was pro Palestine. As I stood there, gazing at all these people with their valid causes, I was feeling grateful that we live in a country were these opinions can be voiced.
Finally we got inside, and I was relegated to the nosebleed section, but I was just glad to be there. I saved two seats for some friends who weren’t allowed in after all, and they wound up being the only two empty seats in the entire arena. 12,000 people packed it, and another 3,000 people listened from outside while I sat next to my two empty seats feeling sheepish.
There were about 5 speakers before Bernie, each promoting him or herself and whipping up enthusiasm for the main attraction. I didn’t even get their names, frankly. I couldn’t be bothered. They were just filler, and I got the sense that the crowd viewed them as a waste of time. I know I did. It was hot in there and we were impatient.
Then out came Bernie Sanders. This sloppy little man looks exactly like that neighbor you used to have who would shout at kids for playing on his front lawn, and confiscate all the balls that flew into his back yard. You know the one. And the crowd erupted in deafening cheers.
When he spoke, calling us brothers and sisters, he said all the right things. He said he had more individual donors than any other campaign. (To add yourself to this extremely wonderful group of individuals, go here.) He railed against big money and corporate greed. He talked about racism and income inequality. He said that the billionaire class needs to pay its fair share of taxes. He supported marriage equality, and glory, glory hallelujah, he acknowledged the fact of global climate change. He discussed the need for prison reform and a minimum wage increase. He laughed at the Republican concept of family values with its obvious disdain for women’s rights.
I have to admit that I was swept up in the enthusiasm. I had never before been in such a large group of people who think like I do. I never experienced this in all my years mired in the ignorant cultural backwater that is Florida.
But then something came over me. Maybe it was the heat and the crowd. Maybe it was the fact that I had walked a mile and a half to get there because parking in this town absolutely sucks. Maybe it was the fact that I’d worked all day and then had to kill about 3 hours of time before entering the arena, and had not been able to convince anyone to go with me. Or maybe it was the fact that the creepy guy behind me kept “accidentally” stroking my hair.
Suddenly I looked around and realized there was a distinct lack of faces of color in the crowd, despite all the cheering for immigration reform and an end to racism. I also kind of got a bitter taste in my mouth, knowing that these people, who were enthusiastically supporting Bernie’s bashing of the Billionaire class, were going to go home to their million dollar houses in downtown Seattle, and that I’d never ever afford to become one of their neighbors. It must be a lot easier to sit up there and support the causes that may or may not help the people sitting down here.
I support Bernie Sanders because I have to. He’s the only candidate for president who seems to give a shit about me and my situation. He seems to be the only one who cares enough to try to make my life better. I’ll vote for him in the democratic primary to send a message that I’m sick and tired of the way the political system is going in this country. I’m fed up. I’ve had it. Maybe my vote will make the Democratic Party blink, and realize that we are sick of the moderation.
But I don’t think he’ll win. Not in a million years. There are too many ignorant voters out there who buy into the paid political advertising.
And if by some miracle he does manage to win, we’ve already seen what happens to presidents who have absolutely no support. We’d be treated to a 4 year long filibuster. As hard as he’d try, and as much as we’d want him to succeed, nothing would happen.
So I left early. Bernie had me at hello and he made no promises, which is admirable in a politician. He’s got my vote. But I just couldn’t sit there anymore and listen to a view of utopia that I long for with all my heart and soul, but am fairly certain I will never get to experience.