Sanders Takes Case to California

Despite calls from many pundits and pols for him to quit, Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to rally thousands of Americans to a program of profound social and economic change, reports Rick Sterling.

By Rick Sterling

Vallejo is geographically close but economically far from more affluent San Francisco Bay Area cities to the south. In 2008, the city of Vallejo filed for bankruptcy. On Wednesday, the Bernie Sanders campaign came to Vallejo.

The gathering was held in a huge grassy area alongside the water estuary. The area was enclosed with security fencing so that audience members all had to pass through metal detectors. Ninety minutes before Sanders’ speech, the line to go through the security screening was half a mile long. Yet spirits were high with a buzz in the air.

Crowd at Bernie Sanders's rally in Vallejo, California, on May 18, 2016. (Photo credit: Rick Sterling)

Crowd at Bernie Sanders’s rally in Vallejo, California, on May 18, 2016. (Photo credit: Rick Sterling)

The audience of 8,000 to 10,000 was mostly young, students or working class and ethnically diverse. Many had only learned Sanders was coming via Facebook that day or the day before. I chatted with people patiently waiting as the line slowly advanced. I asked two young African-American women why they supported Sanders.

The answer: “He seems real; he seems consistent; and because the others will take us to hell!”

I asked three Latino young adults why they support Sanders. The answer: “Bernie will help the working class. Because we need affordable education.” I noticed he said “working class,” not “middle class.” A young Hispanic couple responded simply “Why support Bernie? The future.” Other answers were “climate change,” “criminal justice,” “education” and “he’s got vision.”

As the event began, an African-American organizer from Oakland spoke, then the Filipina President of California Nurses Association, then San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim followed by organizers from the Bernie team advising the audience about voting in the California primary on June 7. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks revved up the crowd then Sanders took the stage.

Toward the front, the crowd was packed together with shorter people unable to see beyond their neighbors. let alone the stage. The sun was starting to set and a breeze came off the water. It had been an unusually hot day. Sanders spoke for nearly an hour. He recalled how the pundits had dismissed his campaign from the start, saying his ideas were “too bold and radical.” Sanders said he has won 46 percent of the pledged delegates to date, with six states remaining including the largest in the country.

Sanders delivered his speech saying:

–the campaign finance system is corrupt and undermining democracy

–the economy is “rigged” with the rich taking it all

–the infrastructure is collapsing with school children in Flint, Michigan, poisoned by tap water

–corporations have taken away good jobs by moving manufacturing outside the USA

–the criminal justice system is broken, with the government spending $80 billion locking up 2.2 million people

–police departments have been militarized

–graduating students are saddled with monstrous debts

–why does the government always have money for wars but not to rebuild inner cities?

–we are destroying the planet – what kind of legacy is that?

–healthcare should be a right not a privilege – we need Medicare for all

–workers needs a living wage which is $15 per hour minimum

–we need immigration reform and end to deportations

Sanders spoke of the need to “Stand up and fight back. … With unity of black, brown, gay, straight, male, female …. There is nothing we cannot accomplish. … We are going to the convention to win the nomination.”

Not Conciliatory

It did not sound like a conciliation or “let’s make up” speech to the Democratic Party establishment. Sanders said his message to the Democratic Convention is “We are the campaign to defeat Donald Trump.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)

Six months ago I was skeptical of Bernie Sanders campaign. Not anymore. He has been tremendously successful in showing the world there are huge numbers of Americans, especially youth, who want major changes in society and government policy. He has raised the consciousness of millions, sharply contrasting Wall Street’s wealth at the expense of working people.

He does not speak much on foreign policy, but what he does say indicates a significant improvement. In Vallejo, his only foreign policy comments were asking why we are rebuilding Afghanistan when we should be rebuilding inner cities at home. It’s a good point, which matches his overall position of stopping a foreign policy of aggression and “regime change.”

Will Bernie Sanders fold up his campaign, corral his supporters and cheer for the Democratic Establishment after they have made some token changes in their platform? It’s possible, but I doubt it. Why? Because I think what some of the young people said is likely true: He is consistent and he does have integrity.

His campaign has been based around the needs of working people versus a corrupt Establishment which the Democratic Party is part of. Sanders has highlighted the class nature of our economic system and media. He has focused a bright light on Wall Street and Hillary Clinton’s complicity. These lessons are not going to be forgotten or easily retracted.

For those on the Left who disparage Sanders, I say take another look. Listen to his words and more importantly talk with his crowds of supporters. They are the future and we should be working with them. Not preaching dogmatically, but listening. The thousands in Vallejo shouting “Bernie! Bernie!” seem to be doing so because they want the “bold and radical change” previously dismissed by pundits.

Rick Sterling has been an organizer and activist for about 45 years. He currently works with Task Force on the Americas, Mt Diablo Peace & Justice Center and Syria Solidarity Movement. The views expressed in this article are his own. He can be contacted at [email protected]


33 comments for “Sanders Takes Case to California

  1. Paul
    May 22, 2016 at 17:42

    What about the option of Jill Stein making Bernie her VP pick? She is already on the ballot in virtually every state. That would condense the two most mentioned options, vote Stein or write in Bernie, into a single option thus maximizing the vote. I have been thinking about this option for awhile, but have not seen it mentioned anywhere. I assume that this is something Jill Stein would be amenable to, as it would dramatically increase the number of votes she would receive, and assume Bernie would be willing given his constant statements that this is not about him but about a revolution. It would unite two progressive groups which have very much in common, and would give added publicity and some instant clout to the greens, which is somewhat lacking with the larger electorate. It would also provide Bernie the option to be the mouthpiece, idea man and inspirational motivator for the group, while putting a very well qualified and progressive woman in charge, and I don’t think she could get the necessary support to get there without his help. It seems like an obvious move if Bernie does not get the nomination, but maybe I am missing something.

  2. Don
    May 22, 2016 at 09:57

    I want so much to vote FOR rather than AGAINST! I just can not stomach voting for HRC. Then I think about SCOTUS. If Trump picks the next justice we are screwed forever. I want to go Green if the Dems don’t pick Bernie. I’m not sure I will have the courage when I get the ballot in hand. All my friends say I have to vote HRC if Bernie is not the nominee. Even Chomsky says we have to vote Democratic. If ALL the Bernie backers go for Dr. Stein do we have a chance of pulling off a YUUGE upset?
    BTW I am 74 and have been hoping Bernie would run for years.

    • Nancy
      May 22, 2016 at 12:09

      I know what you mean, but we really need change because the system is broken. We’ve “towed-the-line” many times. We are broken. Please vote for change.

  3. Nancy
    May 21, 2016 at 09:59

    Going Green Party is better than a “write-in.” “…I’m ok to go.”

  4. Nancy
    May 20, 2016 at 23:25

    The Democratic Party’s “wake-up” call was given many times. Calls for and beliefs in a strong domestic policy and economy were left unanswered. Calls for an end to foreign nation meddling continue to be ignored. The DNC machine took a hard “right” turn and has spun out of control.

    Voter concessions were made over and over for the sake of the Party, but promises were broken and abandoned. Now it is lies and deception.

    Giving Bernie Sanders a chance is to have faith in better America.

    Answering another call to support the failed DNC is a call I now choose not to answer.

    • Dennis Merwood
      May 21, 2016 at 01:16

      Right on Nancy.
      The Democratic party, and the corrupt DNC, no longer represents my views.
      I voted twice for “Hope and Change”.
      Nothing changed. More fool me.
      In fact things got worse. On all fronts, Domestically and with Foreign Regime Change.
      Obama turned about to be Bush II. Hillary will be Bush III on steroids.

      What do you guys think of Bernie splitting off and heading the Greens campaign?
      Viable…or a waste of time.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 21, 2016 at 01:53

      Nancy, Dennis, I’m all for going Green Party. Someone on this site, on another post, pointed out to me the benefit of promoting a third party. The Democrate, Republican models, are failing the majority of Americans, and the elite class doesn’t give a rats ashtray about it. The one percent hire the politician who is the most hungry for political success, and to the ends of this politicians exceptional policies we are all just canon fodder. This type of character in a politician, is what I see in Hillary. Trump is an unknown, but I sense that in a crisis he may not be the type to go fly off the handle. Better said, I don’t see him wanting to conquer the world, but I see this in Hillary. So, let’s go Green or Bernie write in, one of the two. What’s it gonna be? Keep me posted!

      • Dennis Merwood
        May 21, 2016 at 02:59

        Joe, its an uphill battle. The meme that disaffected people voting for Ralph Nader gave us W is very strong out there.

        It’s just not true. Al Gore ran a pathetic campaign. Didn’t even win his home state. Is that right? And then of course the SCOTUS gifted W Florida.

        We have just got to break this two-party oligarchy. It’s killing the whole concept of democracy our founding fathers dreamed of.

        We can’t give up. Oh, this isn’t the time to do it! YES IT IS.

        All the bullet points touched on by Bernie in his Vallejo speech are essentially the Green’s Platform.

        We have gotta’ do something. Why not this?

        • Brad Owen
          May 21, 2016 at 07:15

          We won’t be put off this time, by such specious arguments (ie. voting for the Good lets in The Evil. That’s pure BULL$#!T.The Evil INSISTS on coming through the door, regardless of what the people want).
          That’s the argument that the Establishment always makes…what they didn’t count on, THIS TIME, is the fact that We The People are gunning for the Establishment this time. THIS time they have no maneuver that’ll take them out of our “cross hairs”. Should Bernie turn on us & go all V.P. for HRC, WE WILL TURN AWAY FROM HIM, and go Green. Bernie had ALSO better go Green if he wants to stay active as a Statesman/Politician. He has obviously worn out his welcome with Brand-D, unless he caves & joins Team Clinton.

      • R McHewn
        May 21, 2016 at 21:33

        Since late last year there have been a few articles making the case for Bernie: one pitting his odds against all other contenders (with the assumption that he won the Democratic nomination) one at a time. In those polls the question asked was “In a presidential race with Bernie against (_____________), which one would you NOT vote for?” In that scenario, Bernie won (got the lowest score) except against John Kasich, where it was a tie.

        A rather recent article in Global Research dot ca titled “Why Bernie Sanders Should Stay in the Race: and How He Can Win” was one of the latest presenting the case of Jill Stein stepping aside, as late as August to facilitate Sanders run as Green with his name on the ballot in most, if not all of the states.

        It sure felt encouraging!

  5. Sojourner Truth
    May 20, 2016 at 22:57

    Sandersistas might want to evaluate this:

    Excerpt: . . . . Here’s my problem with Bernie Sanders. With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.

    I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.

    Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

    They weren’t. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. Burdened by the cross of his socialist crusade, he was a scold whose counter-culture moralizing appealed to the state’s liberal sensibilities as well as its conservatives, who embraced his gun ownership stance, his defense of individual rights, an antipathy toward big corporations and, generally speaking, his stick-it-to-them approach to politics.

    My most memorable encounter with Sanders was during an editorial board session during a period when the Vermont Progressive Party was reconstituting itself to challenge for more seats on the Burlington City Council.

    Sanders had been mayor of Burlington from 1981 until 1989, institutionalizing progressive government in the city and other Vermont enclaves. Although he has been in Washington since his election to the House of Representatives in 1991, he remained the titular head of the movement, yet refused to endorse a progressive slate seeking City Council seats or the new leadership orchestrating the campaigns.

    After discussing his favorite issues — corporations, government reform, health care and the like, I asked about his unwillingness to endorse his fellow progressives. He said it wasn’t his role. I suggested voters might expect him to weigh in. He disagreed, clearly annoyed at the persistent questioning. Finally I suggested that he had a larger moral responsibility to the progressive movement.

    At which point he jumped out of his seat, told me to go f*** myself and stormed out of the edit board meeting. OK, maybe my persistence bordered on hectoring. But I felt he ought to provide an honest answer. . . . .

    . . . . I’m not alone in my opinions about Sanders. Chris Graf, long-time Associated Press bureau chief in Vermont, in an article published Sept. 30 in, had this to say about the senator.

    “Bernie has no social skills, no sense of humor, and he’s quick to boil over. He’s the most unpolitical person in politics I’ve ever come across,” Graf said. Others who have covered Sanders agree.

    Seven Days, the lively alternative weekly in Burlington, is offering extensive coverage of the Sanders campaign, reporting framed by decades of coverage. A recent article by Paul Heintz titled “Anger Management” featured current and former staff who have experienced the dark side of Sanders.

    “They characterize the senator as rude, short-tempered and, occasionally, downright hostile. Though Sanders has spent much of his life fighting for working Vermonters, they say he mistreats the people working for him,” Heintz wrote. Among those he cited was Steve Rosenfeld, Sanders’ press secretary during his 1990 House campaign, and author of “In Making History in Vermont.”

    “At his best, Sanders is a skilled reader and manipulator of people and events,” Rosenfeld wrote in his account of the campaign. “At his worst, he falls prey to his own emotions, is unable to practice what he preaches (though he would believe otherwise) and exudes a contempt for those he derides, including his staff.”

    In the clubby media/political Vermont government bubble examples of Sanders’ sour temperament and moralizing abound. His response to my challenges was perhaps a bit extreme, but not by much. He is a polarizing politician and proud of it; as Woody Allen put it in “Annie Hall”: “But for the left.” . . . .

    • Brad Owen
      May 21, 2016 at 06:43

      It’s really NOT ABOUT SANDERS. He (perhaps unwittingly) woke up a sleeping, HUNGRY, Giant that WILL. NOT. STOP. And will not be lead away from satisfying Its’ appetite for CHANGE It can believe in. Don’t worry. The Establishment will NEVER let him in. Doesn’t matter. Sandernistas are gunning for the Establishment…if&WHEN Sanders falls, we’ll back the Greens.

  6. akech
    May 20, 2016 at 20:12

    The overt rigging of delegates in Nevada showed, in broad day light, what the Clintons’ Democratic establishment relationship with ordinary American voters is all about! The voters are needed to cast their votes and quietly go home!

    • Nancy
      May 20, 2016 at 23:40


      No we can’t. No we can’t.
      No we will not!

  7. David Smith
    May 20, 2016 at 18:10

    Sanders sends a fundraising letter that refers to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez as “a dead communist dictator” and everyone thinks he is for real? Sanders job is to get HRC elected. He says he has 46% of pledged delegates and he is going to the convention to win. He can’t win with 46%, he is doing worse than HRC did against Obama in 2008. So what next Bernie? Will he run as independent? Then Sanders will lose, HRC will lose, and Trump will win. But Sanders is bringing a big herd of chumps with him to the convention, who are ready and willing to vote for his phony name. So “Sanderize” the party platform(a wee bit), Sanders will assure you he will apply “tough love” from the awe-inspiring eminence of No.1 Observatory Place, and HRC’s sorry carcass will land with a splat in The White House thanks to Vice President Sanders(and his 46%).

      May 20, 2016 at 19:26

      “HRC’s sorry carcass will land with a splat in The White House” Sanders said he is going to the convention to win.’ My speculation is the Bernie is staying his course in the event that Hilliary will implode on her private server, foundation, or other gray area shenanigans.

      • David Smith
        May 20, 2016 at 22:26

        The Democratic ticket will be: HRC for President and Sanders for Vice-President. HRC without Sanders would lose to Trump. HRC/Sanders will win. I stand by my prediction.

        • Dennis Merwood
          May 20, 2016 at 22:38

          Please NO Dave. Bernie would be selling out to all his loyal supporters by becoming Hillary’s sidekick.
          And that’s all he would be.
          That’s not acceptable to me.
          There is no way a VP Sanders would have the same results as VP Darth Vader had.

          • Brad Owen
            May 21, 2016 at 07:38

            So true. VP Sanders will be a ribbon-cutting non-entity…and Prez HRC is just a way for The Deep State to get “Their Man” (Slick Willy the Cecil Rhodes scholar & student of Carroll Quigley) back-in-The-Game. And “The Game” is to enthrone the “Glorious” Robber Baron Era (1890s-to-1932) forever, and forestall the New Deal/New Frontier/Great Society Era (which just happens to be the Green Party Platform) forever.

        • Brad Owen
          May 21, 2016 at 06:38

          Yes, people think things shall go on as they always have…until things STOP going on as they always have. DISCONTINUITY (like SH!T) happens…

    • Brad Owen
      May 21, 2016 at 06:29

      And what the people here are saying is; WE are ready to turn AWAY from him the very instant HE turns-coat on US…Jill Stein and the Greens, when that happens ( it’ll put THEM on the political map…permanently. The Establish has run out the Clock, no over-time).

      • Brad Owen
        May 21, 2016 at 06:57

        “Establish” should read “Establishment”.

  8. M.
    May 20, 2016 at 16:57

    I am 61 and I support Bernie. I know many others in the same age range who do as well. I, too, am worried about his true foreign policy intentions. I hope that he has seen the Mark Crispin, Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern video found at Ray

  9. Sam
    May 20, 2016 at 15:15

    I have wondered what Bernie’s real endgame is. And what his supporters really want. It’s now very clear many of them are done with the Democratic Party and are on the verge of branching out, forging political ties with the Naderites and other disaffected progressives who have lost hope in the system of government we have.

    I understand this frustration. It’s very hard to maintain hope with so much corruption and with the system we have. This is the OWS movement’s effort to forge a new political path maybe even to the point of forging a new political party.

    The problem is if we go down this road, it virtually guarantees Trump wins in November, which is an unthinkable nightmare. Even if you only look at the one issue of climate change, a President Trump is a total disaster for the planet.

    I can’t see political space in our current system for a third progressive party. The stakes are too damn high.

    So, I come back to hoping that Bernie and his supporters throw the full weight of their support behind Hillary, then continue the fight in holding her feet to the fire on all these issues. Tough love is what I hope comes out of this. Anything less, and I think Trump wins.

    • Nancy
      May 20, 2016 at 15:44


      • Chuck
        May 20, 2016 at 22:23


      • Dennis Merwood
        May 20, 2016 at 22:24

        I agree Nancy. I will not vote for her.
        If Sam thinks President Trump will be a “disaster for the planet”, what does he think the Queen of Chaos will be?
        We progressives must hang in there till the bitter end to ensure neither HRC or Trump become President of the most dangerous nation in the world.
        The future of the world depends on this. Bernie must be our candidate.
        I’m 68. This meme that all Sanders supporters are kids is just not true.

    • Brad Owen
      May 21, 2016 at 06:08

      I respect your view, bro. I’ve played the lesser evil for the last time (I voted Obama BECAUSE he had the impeachable record, where Mitt didn’t, so could be thrown out immediately after the election…did no good). So many people are disaffected, that a third party can become the new, major, Peoples’ Party THIS time. We’ve come to our Fascist Moment, with EITHER establishment candidate…no lesser evil THIS time. It can no longer be put off….we must make our move NOW, for the GOOD to prevail. I’m 62 and remember the New Deal/New Frontier/Great Society Era. We MUST get back to it, not merely stall evil corporate Fascism with LESSER evil corporate Fascism.

      • Brad Owen
        May 21, 2016 at 06:26

        Please awaken, brother Sam. You may think that you owe the Establishment your loyalty, by writing the way you do. You don’t. All that has been happening, since leaving the New Deal/New Frontier/Great Society Era behind, is a most-wicked effort to revive the PREVIOUS Robber Baron Era (1890s-to-1932)…that is all.

  10. Kent Bott
    May 20, 2016 at 13:59

    Bernie is the only HOPE for CHANGE .. Obama simply didn’t get it done. I’m 67 and support Bernie Sanders!

  11. Nancy
    May 20, 2016 at 13:54

    Good article. “Bold Change” – it’s time has been a longtime coming and it is now. Another 4-years of sickening foreign policy and domestic poverty is asking too much.

    Most reports seem now to be defining Bernie supporters as young frst-time voters. This classification is likely bias and irrlevant. I’m 55 and support Bernie Sanders!

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 20, 2016 at 23:34

      I’m 66 years old.

  12. Joe Tedesky
    May 20, 2016 at 11:36

    I too, in the beginning had some reservations about Bernie Sanders, even though I have listened to him for years on the Thom Hartmann show, with Hartmann’s ‘Lunch with Bernie’ segment. After hearing Bernie out, I have come to believe that, if for no other reason, Bernie is a good start towards bringing about much needed change in America. The bigger problem for Sanders, is he is trying to do all this inside the terribly corrupt Clintonized Democrate Party. Now, if Bernie had decided to run as an independent from the get go, well then no one would have even have heard of him. (Ask your neighbor if they ever heard of Jill Stein). On the other hand, since Bernie has run as a Democrate, this has allowed him to get his name out there. What Bernie should do, now that we all know his name, is run as an independent. In any case, this November I will be voting for who ever that reliable independent turns out to be. In fact, Jill Stein may even fit my own political philosophy even more so than Sanders does. I hate to say this, but if it does come down to Hillary, and the Donald, I would be willing to take my chances with Trump over our beloved Queen of Chaos.

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