by Brian Clarey
The line stretched along the pebbled concrete outside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh — ironic because one of the planks in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign invokes the damage inflicted by the fossil-fuel industry on the environment and the political process and almost completely circled the building in the hours before the candidate took the stage.
The group was overwhelmingly white, with nearly every faction of that demographic represented: seniors, parents, millennials, almost none of them wearing suits.
The theater held 2,300, with more than 2,000 outside in an overflow space where Sanders stopped to speak before entering the theater, just one day before the close of early voting and four before the primary.
Inside, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who notably left her post as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee so she could support Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton, made the introduction.
Gabbard served a tour in Iraq with her Hawaii National Guard troop, and made the case that Sanders is a the pro-military candidate.
“He exercises good judgment,” she said. “He has foresight. And he understands the military mindset — when not to use that power.”
Sanders took the podium comfortably, and emphasized his understanding of”the real cost of war” before reminding the faithful that his underdog campaign is not dead yet.
“We have now won nine state primaries,” he said to roars from the room. “Almost all of them by very large margins. Last Tuesday, everybody had agreed that Hillary Clinton was going to be the sure winner in Michigan — maybe by 20 points. Maybe by 30 points.
“Well it didn’t happen that way.”
He said his education in economics began while growing up in a household “that did not have a lot of money” in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, NY.
“My growing up [poor] is a lesson I’ve never forgotten,” he said. “It’s a lesson I will never forget.”
He called out GOP political donors the Koch brothers, naming the system to which they contribute an “oligarchy,” and pledged, if elected, to overturn Citizens United and institute publicly funded elections.
He blamed the nation’s loss of manufacturing jobs on the North American Free Trade Agreement, and told a story of a Senate visit to Mexico, where workers making 25 cents a day and living in cardboard shacks pulled shifts in state-of-the-art factories.
“American workers should not be forced to compete against desperate people who make pennies an hour,” he said.
He backed a $15/hour minimum wage, and reiterated his insistence that public colleges and universities be free, not just to eliminate the problem of student debt but also because the country “needs the best-educated workforce in the world.”
“By the way,” he said. “We once did have the best educated workforce in the world, 50 or 60 years ago…. This is not a radical idea.”
His “free stuff,” he said, would be paid for by “taxing Wall Street speculation.”
“Don’t accept what the establishment and other people tell you is ‘normal,'” he said.
He made an appeal to woman voters, citing equal pay, to great applause, which crescendoed when he said, “I hope every man in this room stands with these women.”
He appealed African-American voters with material on the criminal justice system and the militarization of municipal police forces, both of which he said disproportionately affect the community.
And he specifically addressed Native Americans, female military veterans, climate change, the Koch brothers, healthcare as a right and the importance of clean drinking water.
He noted that the polls show him faring better against Donald Drumpf in a national election — he does have a slight edge, according to realclearpolitics.com — that Drumpf “insults women virtually every day” and that he was a Birther.
“Obama’s father was born in Kenya,” Sanders said. “I find it interesting that my father was born in Poland, and nobody is asking me for my birth certificate.”
Sanders closed with an appeal for voters to remember him on Election Day, Tuesday, in a state where he is trailing Clinton in every poll conducted so far.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “love trumps hate.”